Four Front discusses diversity with administrators

The biannual meeting lets Four Front members ask about diversity issues at MU.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs and Legion of Black Collegians President Anthony Martin listen as Chancellor Brady Deaton addresses members of Four Front on Tuesday at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center. At the meeting, Martin expressed concern over practices regarding the hiring and retention of minority faculty.

Chancellor Brady Deaton met with Four Front, a coalition of minority student organizations, on Tuesday to answer questions about diversity at MU, though his stay at meeting was short.

Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs, Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton and Chief Diversity Officer Roger Worthington joined the chancellor at the forum.

Before the meeting, Four Front members prepared about 20 questions. The group asked, and administrators answered, fewer than half of them. The issues covered included ethnicity, religion and gender identity issues.

Deaton was running late from a prior general officers meeting, but students began questioning other administrators before he arrived.

Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Jonathan Mays began the meeting by asking if it would be possible for the department of German and Russian studies to include "Asian" in its name because the department also includes Asian language classes.

"Changing the department name is up the faculty of the department itself," Worthington said.

The issue then developed into a larger question of whether Asian studies could have a major or department of its own.

The biggest issue with that, which became a common denominator for several more issues at the meeting, is state funding.

Worthington said if there is an interest in creating an Asian studies department, it would take a great deal of time and resources before it came to fruition.

The topic that inspired the most conversation came next when Four Front Co-Chairwoman Rachel Kuo asked about MU's efforts to retain minority faculty.

Worthington said there are 39 regular-ranked black faculty members.

"Every year we lose a number - about one to three per year," Worthington said. "And we hire about the same number that we're losing."

In the past year, six black faculty members left MU. Because of the Chancellor's Diversity Initiative, faculty members have begun to do exit interviews about their reason for leaving, but the results are confidential.

Middleton said the exit interviews don't suggest any particular problem with minority issues. Rather, he said, it is an issue of state funding to increase faculty salaries.

"We do our best to match offers, but we don't have the resources," Middleton said.

During this discussion, Deaton arrived.

Following his arrival, topics included transgender issues in the residence halls, appreciation of religious beliefs in dining halls and diversifying international exchange programs.

Scroggs answered questions by proposing solutions. She said she was willing to accommodate the problems Muslim and Jewish students have with dining halls during religious holidays.

"Our maintenance staff welcomes learning about different cultures," Scroggs said. "Our staff in our kitchen would, too."

Because of a prior commitment, Deaton had to keep the meeting brief. Many of the questions fell under the duties of Worthington and Scroggs, so Deaton only had a few chances to speak.

Four Front meetings with the chancellor take place once per semester, but Scroggs said she would be willing to attend a meeting in the future to answer more questions.

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