Administrators give race relations update, answer student questions

“You can’t know what’s going on in all the colleges, but at the end of the day aren’t we all supposed to be Mizzou?” one student asked.

Administrators announced the members of the Faculty Council race relations committee and the removal of the One Mizzou slogan from campus in a response to student leaders’ call for action Wednesday evening.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin explained that the focus of the presentation was informed by an April 6 meeting with student leaders. He said the administration’s goal was to show the progress they’d made on each individual student request, including recruitment of diverse students and faculty, the race relations committee, reevaluation of campuswide diversity initiatives and publication of racial bias reports.

After a presentation by various administrators to a half-full Conservation Auditorium, students asked questions and voiced concerns for about an hour. Loftin said this structure was due to student requests for administrators to focus on progress made towards the call for action. Media were asked not to record the event and speakers were not required to give their names.

Race Relations

Berkley Hudson, chair of the Faculty Council committee on race relations, released the names of the members of the committee for the first time.

There are eleven members of the committee. Hudson’s selections fulfill a diverse set of roles; there are faculty members, staff members and students. The full list of committee members can be found on the transparency website.

Hudson said they will also refer to a “ring of liaisons” including the Faculty Council diversity enhancement committee, Chief Diversity Officer Noor Azizan-Gardner, professors Earnest Perry, John Lory and Naresh Khatri, Associate Athletic Director Tami Chievous and leaders of various student groups.

He said he will begin by spending time with committee members to try to identify the problems they see on campus before addressing possible solutions.

A student asked why the two student committee members are both black males and why other minoritized students weren’t included.

Hudson said he was limited in how many students he could select. He said about half the committee is white because 75 percent of MU’s faculty is white and he wants the committee to duly represent MU’s demographic make up. He said he thought this balance would help determine the motivations and reasons for the campus climate.

“I wanted to make sure the people on this committee were committed to it and had open minds and open hearts,” Hudson said.

Reevaluating Campus Initiatives

Ellen de Graffenreid, vice chancellor for marketing and communications, said administrators had been asked to discontinue the use of the One Mizzou marketing slogan in all areas of the university, including campus organizations, banners and posters, as soon as possible.

She asked students to email her if they see the slogan being used “someplace it doesn’t feel right” to them.

De Graffenreid also said she will work with the athletic department and new director Mack Rhoades to remove the slogan from athletic marketing.

Deputy Chancellor Michael Middleton said administrators are also evaluating the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, which was created to coordinate and enhance campus diversity. He said he wants to improve campus diversity work to be “something more permanent and successful.”

He warned students that coordinating campus diversity efforts would take time, potentially stretching into the fall semester.

“We’re talking about restructuring a lot of activity on campus and we want to do it right,” Middleton said. “We expect that we will have a new structure that promises to work better than what we have had in the past.”

Student Recruitment

Director of Admissions Chuck May said the admissions department works to recruit diverse undergraduate students in each of the regions where they have representatives.

He said full-time “diversity recruiters” work in St. Louis and Kansas City to talk with underrepresented students about coming to MU but currently enrolled students are the most important recruiters.

May said the African-American student population has doubled and the Hispanic student population has tripled since 2000.

In response to a student’s question about recruitment amid racist events on campus such as the arrest of a student for anti-Semitic vandalism in a residence hall, Loftin said he hopes to send a message through the consequences for such events. The student could face felony charges if the prosecutors find the vandalism to be a hate crime.

Multiple students asked about the recruiting process for ambassador groups that represent the university to visiting students. Loftin said these groups are often run by individual colleges, which control the recruiting and hiring process.

“You can’t know what’s going on in all the colleges, but at the end of the day, aren’t we all supposed to be Mizzou?” a student asked.

Graduate students are primarily recruited at the department level, Provost Garnett Stokes said. She said there are various fellowships and scholarship programs for underrepresented students.

“We have a lot more to do for diversification, retention and their success, but this is where we are today,” Stokes said.

Stokes called the 110 faculty members taking the voluntary separation plan for early retirement an “unprecedented opportunity” to recruit diverse faculty in large numbers.

She said the race relations committee will focus on faculty recruitment and making sure departments know how to build a diverse pool of faculty candidates.

Course Requirement

DeAngela Burns-Wallace, assistant vice provost for undergraduate studies, said Angela Speck is leading a group to propose a structure for a diversity course requirement.

After a student question about maintaining a diverse educational environment outside of the potential required course, Speck said evidence suggests that a single course isn’t the answer.

She suggested requiring a specific training for faculty members that would be teaching a diversity-intensive course, similar to the training currently required for faculty teaching a writing-intensive course.

Burns-Wallace also said administration is evaluating the requirements for the multicultural certificate, which students of any major can earn through taking certain classes, and analyzing data of which students earn the certificate to further evaluate curriculum.

Discipline and Bias Reports

Chief Diversity Officer Noor Azizan-Gardner said bias complaint summaries are posted on the MU Equity website, as well as a summary report that will be updated every quarter.

In response to a student’s question about improving classroom environments for minoritized students, Azizan-Gardner said students should report incidents online, in the office, over the phone or email.

She said complaints involving faculty members are investigated by the provost’s office and complaints against other students are handled through the Office of Student Conduct.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs said the M book of university policies addresses disciplinary behaviors for students involved in offensive behavior or cyberbullying.

She said the MU Police Department is working with anonymous social media sites such as Yik Yak to find students responsible for behaviors.

“We have a real commitment from MUPD to find who perpetrators are that threaten people, threaten our safety and threaten our facilities,” Scroggs said.

Greek Life

Scroggs said the requirements for Greek chapters will be updated in the upcoming school year to focus on diversity inclusion.

She also said a consultant from Kansas City will be facilitating a discussion on inclusion with staff and students in early May and will lead a dialogue on how the Greek community relates to others.

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