One Mizzou Week was held last week on campus. You may or may not have been aware of its general existence, its occurrence or its offerings.
We believe that is a critical problem.
Since it began in 2011 as a remarkably positive, ambitious collaboration between MU students, faculty and administrators following a series of cowardly racist incidents on campus, One Mizzou has had ups and downs as the vanguard and most visible branding of diversity and inclusivity on our campus.
The campaign seems to have lost some steam and visibility since the graduation and departure of former Missouri Students Association President Xavier Billingsley, who prioritized and guided One Mizzou. Last year, the first One Mizzou Week was held. In our later evaluation of Billingsley’s presidential term, we praised the week’s larger events, such as the Maya Angelou talk and the Fun. concert, but noted that many of the smaller panels and lectures were poorly attended and advised Billingsley’s successors to focus on getting more students to challenge their notions of diversity.
The One Mizzou Committee seems to have lost the momentum Billingsley and other motivated student leaders generated. This year’s One Mizzou Week came seemingly unannounced, with little publicity, lackluster attendance and a schedule of events that seemed cobbled together without much focus or direction.
Where the inaugural One Mizzou Week brought Maya Angelou to a full-capacity Missouri Theatre last November as the One Mizzou Speaker. This year’s committee partnered with Mizzou Reads and presented Krochet Kids International founder Kohl Crecelius, whose sparsely-attended talk was more related to the 2013 Mizzou Reads book than to creating a more inclusive and tolerant MU. Where last year flags emblazoned with MU’s four pillars and a “One Mizzou” centerpiece hung between the Columns and banners were put up around the Student Center and dining halls promoting the week’s events, this year had no such advertising.
Members of the Department of Student Activities Speakers’ Committee we spoke to expressed being surprised at the week being held two full months before they had originally thought, which meant that the committee was unable to help secure a marquee speaker such as they had with Angelou. By moving One Mizzou Week up so early, its organizers missed the chance to work with the Speakers’ Committee to bring a truly inspiring and exciting speaker to campus.
Sequester-affected budgets might have been partly to blame for the lack of high-interest speakers and promotional materials, but we have to think a lack of leadership and collaboration also had a hand. With all the diversity resources on campus — the Multicultural Center, the International Center and the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, to name a few — why was so little attention brought to the week?
Most of the events on the One Mizzou Week calendar seemingly would have happened anyway despite the special week and only attracted those who would have attended anyway. Some of the events had questionable ties to the overall goal of furthering inclusivity and fostering understanding at MU. In our view, the week should have worked to engage those who normally would not attend a “diversity event,” to challenge and provoke them in pursuit of a more inclusive and progressive campus. Did this really happen last week? Is our university stronger and more unified after it?
Our concern is that this signals the future of One Mizzou: relegated to the corners, just another diversity program without much collaboration, promotion or engagement. Where is the legacy now of the great campuswide effort to boldly reject the reprehensible racist vandalism found on campus two years ago? It began as an important campaign with the potential for heavy impact on students, faculty, staff and community members, but we fear the purpose and power of One Mizzou is dissipating.
Start a discussion
Concurrence or rebuttal, if you have a strong opinion, let's hear it. The Maneater Forum seeks to publish a diversity of opinions and foster meaningful decision. Readers are encouraged to actively contribute to and develop new discussions. Add to ours, or make your own point.