MSA committee backs zero tolerance for hate crimes

The legislation looks to define hate crimes within MU's policy book.

The Missouri Students Association's Multicultural Issues Committee is working to write legislation proposing a zero tolerance policy be added to the M-book, the university's set of official disciplinary policies.

"The legislation intends to address violations that are motivated by a bias or hatred because of an individual's race, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation and suggests that there should be harsher punishment for such actions," MCI Vice Chairwoman Lakeisha Williams said in an email.

If passed, the hate crime legislation would move to add a written hate crime policy to the M-book, which would eventually be incorporated into the student conduct code of all schools in the UM System, Williams said.

"Like all legislation passed through MSA, nothing is guaranteed," Williams said. "The legislation shows that MSA and the students of the university are in support of the cause. This is a small hurdle though. The real work comes in working with University administration and faculty to advocate for your cause and desired change."

The legislation is in response to hate crimes committed on MU's campus, most recently the Hatch Hall graffiti incident. There is currently no written MU policy regarding hate crimes and no legislation has been written in response to past hate crimes, Williams said.

"We want it to be directly addressed in the M-book and have certain consequences for such actions considered 'hate crimes,'" MCI Chairwoman Alex Holley said in an email.

MU does punish for hate crimes, but their policy is not in writing, she said.

"This is not to say that the university isn't against hate crimes or that they don't punish those that commit them, but we would just like something to be official and to be in writing," Holley said in an email. "I think that it may help in deterring others from committing these types of crimes from year to year when (students) see that there are official rules against them."

MCI has been working with Four Front, the Asian American Association, the Jewish Student Organization as well as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to write hate crime legislation and change the M-book, Holley said.

"I met with Lakeisha Williams to discuss the issue after hearing word of the two of us working on the same task," MU NAACP President Bryan Like said. "NAACP started out with a petition to have students sign their names in support of adding this legislation. Giving much credit to Ms. Williams, she composed a draft for the legislation, then we met again to go over it and make sure we are sending the right message."

The legislation will not be presented to MSA Senate until the language of the policy has been defined, Williams said.

"This policy has the potential to face legal challenges, and I intend to make sure that everything is legally sound in its wording before trying to pass it through Senate," she said.

Williams said the Board of Curators would have the final say in a hate crime policy implementation.

"What we have is a great policy that will stand and fight for all students no matter their ethnicity, sexual orientation, handicap or sex," Like said. "This legislation is a 'no-brainer.'"

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