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Friday, October 24, 2014

One Mizzou Week facilitates diversity education

One Mizzou was created after several racially charged incidents at MU.

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Cait Campbell/Graphic Designer

The first annual One Mizzou Week began Sunday.

This week is a student-led initiative to educate students and other members of the MU community about the importance of diversity, Missouri Students Association President Xavier Billingsley said.

Billingsley said he and MSA Vice President Helena Kooi proposed One Mizzou Week during their 2011 MSA campaign. They want students to understand this week is about more than athletics or fundraising — it instead emphasizes the importance of diversity on campus.

“We came up with this week,” Billingsley said. “We have been working with the One Mizzou Student Task Force, which is made up of myself, the LBC (Legion of Black Collegians) president, the RHA (Residence Halls Association) president, the GPC (Graduate Professional Council) president and the Four Front chair. Essentially, we really want to make this week something that is annual and something that educates the students about the real meaning of diversity.”

Two racially charged incidents spurred the creation of One Mizzou Week, according to the One Mizzou website.

“Students, staff, faculty and administrators came together in February of 2011 and determined that there is a need for a proactive and positive diversity initiative on our campus," the website stated.

Among the two most well-known events of the week were author and poet Maya Angelou’s talk Monday and the Fun. concert Friday.

The purpose of a popular band such as Fun. headlining the concert is to raise awareness of the week in general, MSA Director of Student Communications Zach Toombs said.

“I think it boosts the profile of the week as a whole,” Toombs said. “I think that it’s very important. Fun. reaches some people that otherwise might not be interested in the week as a whole.”

Kooi also said it's important to get students involved who might otherwise not think about the importance of diversity.

“Ideally, One Mizzou Week will engage students who might not be thinking about diversity issues on a regular basis,” Kooi said in an email. “The more we can encourage people to think about diversity, the more willing they will be to consider views different than their own. One Mizzou Week is meant to help our community think and act more inclusively.”

It is also important to highlight One Mizzou Week events that don’t have celebrities, Billingsley said. Students can expect a core education about diversity at these events, and new events each day this week will address different diversity topics. Because this is an event run by elected student leaders, it is important for the Student Task Force to get feedback from students for future events, Billingsley also said.

Though this is the first year of One Mizzou Week, it is important the week becomes an annual event, Kooi said.

“Having an annual week means that the ideas of respect and communication that drive the One Mizzou movement will continue to impact future students," Kooi said in an email.

Billingsley said he and Kooi hope the week will become an annual event. They also have other long-term diversity goals.

“We hope that this will open a door to many more diversity conversations here on campus,” Billingsley said. “We hope students will get involved with the push with Faculty Council to incorporate a diversity course requirement here at the university. One day, we also hope as a One Mizzou Task Force that diversity is a fifth core value of the university.”

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