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The 21 Biggest College News Stories of 2016

While 2016 will surely be remembered as a year dominated by a brutal election cycle, college campuses were brimming with meaningful change for the future. Students showed up in droves to express their righteous anger over issues like gun rights, islamophobia and sexual assault on college campuses nation wide. We saw many universities finally stepping up and making necessary changes, but we also saw some disapointing behavior from them, as well as from some of their students. From Brock Turner only serving three months in jail to college students forming clown-hunting mobs, we can’t wait to brag to future generations how we survived this year.

1. Universities banned hoverboards over safety concerns

Students everywhere were just starting to live in “the future” when these nifty machines got to be a little too dangerous for college campuses. 

2. Brown University changed Columbus Day to Indigineous People’s Day

This change was an effort to recognize the people who were Americans way before Columbus ever came around. While Brown had been referring to this day as Fall Weekend since 2009, the group Native Americans at Brown called for this appropriate name change. Their main goal was to stop the celebration of an event that spawned genocide, torture and the slave trade and instead celebrate native groups for their contribution to society.

3. A professor left Wheaton College after comments on Islam

After Professor Larycia Hawkins said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, Wheaton, an evangelical Christian college, worried she might have some major doctrinal differences. At first, the school’s provost recommended she be fired, but later apologized and asked for forgiveness. However, Hawkins chose to leave Wheaton shortly thereafter. 

4. College applications became more inclusive

While high school students used to have to check male or female on their college apps, the Common Application and the Universal College Application allowed transgender and gender non-conforming applicants to self-identify. It was a major win for gender inclusivity.

5. Harvard punished members of final clubs, sororities and fraternities for being gender-exclusive

In an attempt to promote gender equality on campus, Harvard banned all members of single-sex organizations from campus leadership positions or opportunities to obtain reccomendations for post-graduate scholarships, starting with the class of 2020. These sanctions were imposed to encourage these organizations to open membership to all students.

6. Brock Turner was released from jail after only three months

Stanford rapist Brock Turner was supposed to be in jail for six months—already a much shorter sentence than many people would have been satisfied with. And then he managed to get out in half the time. After his victim’s impact statement went viral, thousands across the nation were enraged that Turner was being let out early. 

7. Baylor University fired their football coach and demoted their president in the same day

The university fired their football coach after several players were accused of sexual assault under his leadership. Ken Starr, the University president at the time, was demoted to chancellor. All of this stemmed from a report showing the university mishandled sexual assault and dating violence reportedly committed by football players. On top of all that, the university was found to be taking action against the students who reported sexual assault. Not okay.

8. The Citadel denied a student’s request to wear a hijab

The Citadel, a strict military school in South Carolina, told an incoming freshman that she would not be allowed to wear a hijab because it would break uniform code. Since a hijab is essential to expressing her religion, the student had to choose another school. The U.S. military currently allows turbans if they contain religious significance.

9. SCOTUS upheld UT Austin’s affirmative action measures

Affirmative action’s constitutionality has been questioned over and over, but the Supreme Court decided in favor this year in regard to UT Austin. Abigail Fisher brought a lawsuit against the university claiming their affirmative action policy affected her admissions decision, as she was not accepted to their institution. Ultimately the Court found that UT Austin was not unfair in its admission process.

10. A pizza ATM opened at Xavier University

One of the happier moments of 2016 was when pizza became automatically available to students at Xavier University in Cincinnati. In a major win for its student body, they now have access to pizza 24/7, and many other colleges have made inquiries into this low-cost option for their own campuses.

11. Stanford banned hard liquor from on-campus parties

In an effort to reduce “high-risk behavior” on campus, Stanford University banned liquor with a 20 percent or higher alcohol content. Students found violating the policy can be expelled from campus housing. Some said this was just a response to the Brock Turner rape case in which both the victim and Turner had been drinking, causing backlash as students said the rule was an indirect solution to the deep-seated problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

12. University of Texas students protested a new gun law with dildos

Students at the University of Texas played dirty and carried around sex toys to protest a Texas law allowing concealed guns on college campuses. Unlike guns, it’s illegal to have sex toys on campus. Their slogan was, “If you’re packing heat, then we’re packing meat.” 

13. Brown University students gained access to free tampons in on-campus bathrooms

In the midst of a debate about the luxury tax on tampons, Brown University made a statement that sanitary products are not a luxury, but a necessity. The school now provides free menstrual products for students in all on-campus bathrooms, regardless of gender.

14. A student from the University of Richmond published the receipts from her sexual assault case after the school said she lied

When a student at the University of Richmond was sexually assaulted, the university did little to reprimand the rapist. This student was CC Carreras. After she publically denounced the university for its weak actions, they released a statement about their Title XI procedures and accused Carreras of lying. Fighting back, Carreras bravely published documents from the case that confirmed her story.

15. College Students formed mobs to hunt made-up clowns

How could we forget the clowns? The clown epidemic started in South Carolina and eventually spread to 20 states. Penn State was notable because some of its students actually formed a mob to hunt down (nonexistent) clowns. Students were assured by police forces that these clowns were mostly made-up and not a real problem.

16. University of Maryland approved a student fee to assist the Title IX office

In an effort to increase funding to the Title XI office, the UM Student Government approved a $34 yearly fee for all students. The need for more funding came from more reports of sexual assault on campus and an average wait of 140 days to investigate claims. This fee was a major step forward in acknowledging the necessity of properly funded Title XI offices at educational institutions.

17. UC Berkeley Greek life voluntarily banned parties because of sexual assault reports

After two women were assualted at an off-campus fraternity party near UC Berkeley, the school’s Interfraternity Council banned parties of their own accord. It was a refreshing moment in which Greek leaders self-imposed this restriction in an effort to recognize the victims and plan to take preventative measures in the future.

18. BYU made a decision to no longer charge students who report sexual assault with honor code violations

Brigham Young University, one of the most conservative colleges in America, faced backlash in April for suspending a student who reported sexual assault because she had admitted to having premarital sex. Months later, an advisory council said students at BYU who report sexual assault crimes should be given amnesty against honor code violations. The school started following the recommended rule immediately. 

19. Harvard canceled the rest of their soccer team’s season to punish them for a sexist tradition

When Harvard found that the 2012 soccer team had created a sexist “scouting report” for the women’s soccer team recruits, they ended the rest of the season as punishment. President Drew Faust found the matter completely unacceptable and recommended looking into other sports teams to ensure this was just an isolated incident. After this incident, athletic teams were punished at Amherst, Columbia and Princeton for similarly sexist and racist talk in team group chats.

20. Schools across the nation protested Donald Trump being elected president

After a long year of election madness, many students both in college and high school were shocked to learn Trump had been elected president. Clinton had been favored by most millennials. Across the country, students gathered in protest. Some blocked bridges and used chants calling Trump a fascist, while some schools staged walk outs.

21. A student at Ohio University attacked and left 11 students injured

A student at Ohio University ran his car into a group of students and then got out of the vehicle injuring several others with a butcher knife. He was killed by the police when he refused to obey their orders to stop the attack. Investigators concluded that he was inspired by ISIS. A total of 11 people were injured.

Abigail is a Journalism and Political Science major minoring in Spanish. She has a penchant for puns and can't go a morning without listening to NPR's Up First podcast. You can usually find her dedicating time to class work, Her Campus, College to Congress, SGA or hammocking. Her dream job is working as a television broadcast journalist on a major news network. Down time includes TED talk binges, reading and writing. You can follow Abigail on instagram and Twitter @abi_meggs