Campus leaders discuss past, future of One Mizzou

Student leaders said One Mizzou has morphed into MU’s marketing brand for diversity, instead of an inclusive, action-based initiative.
Missouri Students Association Vice President Emily Moon, Residence Halls Association Lauren Thomas, Legion of Black Collegians President Lisa White, Chancellor Brady Deaton and MSA President Eric Woods sign a pledge to uphold respect and responsibility on campus at the launch event for the One Mizzou diversity campaign April 7, 2011 at the MU Student Center. Deaton called the event his "proudest moment" as chancellor. Maneater File Photo

“One Mizzou,” MU’s unofficial slogan, can be found everywhere from recruitment packets and T-shirts to the university’s Strategic Operating Plan. The phrase, though, has very recent origins, and was initially conceived as a response to hate crimes committed on campus in 2010 and 2011.

One Mizzou was created in 2011 by the Missouri Students Association after offensive words were found spray-painted outside Hatch residence hall.

This incident took place about a year after a hate crime occured outside of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, in which cotton balls were found strewn across the lawn one morning.

When One Mizzou was first created, it was an initiative made up of three tiers: a steering committee, a council and the general student body.

The council comprised many organizations’ presidents, while the steering committee was application-based.

Former One Mizzou steering committee member Shane Stinson said the problem with the structure was its large size, which marginalized students and important factors on campus.

The steering committee was supposed to meet with the council and the advisors, but it never did, he said. Additionally, the steering committee was designed to take action, but it never received direction from the council as to what steps to take.

“The thing that is so frustrating, when I think about One Mizzou, is that it reaches so far,” Stinson said. “Like, everybody talks about One Mizzou, everyone talks about how they want to experience One Mizzou. But the administration, not the advisers, has done a very poor job at listening to all different realms of students and what they want to see changed on this campus.”

One Mizzou has never been up to par with what others want it to be, but instead has always been a few steps behind, Stinson said. He said he believes it takes a certain level of education and passion for social issues to be involved in One Mizzou.

“One thing One Mizzou was supposed to do was create that sense of unity between student organizations, on campus especially,” MSA President-elect Payton Head said. “It is our big diversity initiative, our big call to action, but there isn’t a lot of action we are seeing right now. Honestly, I think a lot of that is a lack of vision of what exactly we want to do.”

Head said he felt there was a lack of vision of what the initiative was supposed to accomplish. Now that he has acquired a seat on the One Mizzou council, Head said he already has plans to help “re-ignite” the initiative.

“I think the main thing as of now is to just come together and to evaluate the role of One Mizzou,” he said.

Additionally, Head said that time needs to be set aside to reevaluate the outcome of the desired solution.

“I want to see more action,” he said. “I know One Mizzou will be having a transition in leadership soon, and so I think the biggest thing when it comes to leadership is making sure that they have clearly-defined goals.”

Jennifer Pagan, political chairwoman for the Legion of Black Collegians, said the biggest push for One Mizzou was football player Michael Sam’s coming out last year because a spotlight was placed on the university after his announcement.

“I think that Michael Sam, and the whole him coming out definitely ignited a fire in terms of social change at Mizzou,” Pagan said. “But One Mizzou’s job was to keep that fire going and get people involved, but it didn’t.”

She said the administration has taken One Mizzou into its own hands and has transformed it into a marketing brand for campus diversity.

She added that the university has not devoted enough time to the initiative and has left students confused about their desired roles.

“It is really supposed to be something that brings together the community of Mizzou, but I know that a lot of people have felt like it hasn’t been successful, as of late,” MSA Vice President Matt McKeown said. “I know a lot of people are thinking right now, ‘What can we do to improve that community?’ ‘What can we do to make sure people are actually following through on that and not just having it be a hashtag?’”

Although One Mizzou is said to have virtually collapsed and is now restructuring, the initiative did host One Mizzou Week earlier this semester, including a panel dedicated to discussing the initiative’s success. Right now, McKeown said, the council is using the testimonials and opinions heard at the panel to try to find the best way to offer what students want.

“A lot of people at the panel agreed right now that One Mizzou was not a successful initiative,” McKeown said. “They thought of it as just a hashtag or phrase. A lot of people believed there was not a lot that followed through behind that phrase or that feeling that students were living in a One Mizzou community.”

Campus leaders said One Mizzou should be an initiative that proactively educates students about making a more inclusive campus.

“As a diversity initiative, it kind of fluctuates, depending upon situations, and I honestly do not think that’s a good thing,” Head said. “I think that if One Mizzou has a clear mission, (a) clear goal of what it needs and wants to accomplish as a council, then we can make sure that this isn’t a reactionary movement.”

The more people tried to make One Mizzou primarily an organization, the more it continued to plummet, Stinson said, because the initial message was lost.

“It’s an initiative,” Stinson said. “It’s a feeling. It’s not something that’s necessarily tangible that you can grab and do footwork in, rather than just live your true life and try to teach other people to accept and embrace people for living their truth.”

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