Concerned Student 1950 affects would-be students

Prospective student Shawnee McDonnell: “By going (to MU), they are getting a minimum of $25,000 from each of us, which is profiting the school and paying the salaries of those who are acting racist and sexist.”

Campus tours didn’t stop for the protests this week.

Saturday, Nov. 7 was a day marked by Concerned Student 1950 demonstrations and chants in several dining halls, the Student Center and the Reynolds Alumni Center. Not coincidentally, those demonstrations were scheduled on Meet Mizzou Day, a busy day of campus tours.

The protesters aimed to show prospective students a side of MU they felt tour guides would not showcase. For Shawnee McDonnell, from Wright City, Missouri, the activists changed her mind about attending MU altogether.

After the day was over, McDonnell tweeted:

McDonnell explained that through her conversations with protesters during her campus visit, her perception of MU shifted.

“I always imagined it as a great school where programs and academics were important,” she said in a Twitter message. “I realize now that such a high emphasis is put on the athletics and funding focuses on it as well. And the minorities feel as if their views (religion for example with the recent anti-Semitic actions) and their races are not being taken seriously as well as attacked.”

Other Twitter users reached out to McDonnell, asking her why she would choose to avoid MU rather than attend and join the cause. She said the campus movement does need more voices, but she explained that her tuition payments would only be “profiting the school and paying the salaries of those who are acting racist and sexist.”

“I need to know that my money and my time is being spent in a place where we are advancing and progressing to ensure equality for every student,” she said in a message.

Not all prospective students were turned away by the protests, though. Tori Brew, from Kokomo, Indiana, visited MU on Monday, Nov. 9, the day both UM System President Tim Wolfe and MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned. She viewed the protests as a positive aspect of the school.

“I saw a lot of unity,” Brew said. “I heard people chanting and it gave me a sense that this school is great, can come together and be unified. It made it seem that it was more of a family and that it had a greater sense of community than other schools.”

JT Westcott, from Kirkwood, also toured MU on Monday. He said he was unaware of recent events on campus, and praised the way his tour guide explained the current campus climate.

“(The tour guide) did a really good job of letting us know that it was happening and they did a good job just guiding us through it,” he said.

Tour Team, the group of students who lead all official campus tours, was not given any specific talking points regarding the Concerned Student 1950 movement or campout, according to LeAnn Stroupe, manager of visitor relations and coordinator of Tour Team.

“In regards to various rallies, guides have been told to use the facts, be open and transparent about what's going on, and continue to share information about their personal experiences,” Stroupe said in an email.

Tour guide Lauren Giwa-Amu said she has not received any specific questions about recent campus movements as she has not led any tours during protests, but received several questions last year relating to the events in Ferguson in the summer of 2014. She said Tour Team has always encouraged her to answer honestly.

“Tour Team has never asked me to lie — ever,” Giwa-Amu said. “It’s always been, ‘present the facts, present exactly what you know, exactly what you’ve seen.’ All of us present the same facts throughout our tours, and then we all add our personal experience. So if it’s something that’s relevant to me, I will add my personal experience.”

Giwa-Amu said that while she loves MU and generally feels safe on campus, the current campus atmosphere, especially the racism on social media, makes her uncomfortable. She urges all prospective students to fully educate themselves on the current issues on campus as they make a college choice.

“I don’t think that anyone should commit to anything for four years without knowing all aspects about it, good and bad,” Giwa-Amu said. “So if a prospective family were to ask me specifically about the things going on on campus, of course I would tell them. I would tell them the facts, I would tell them the timeline of events that have occurred on campus. Because I think they deserve to know that when making their college decision.”

Stroupe said she cannot predict the effect that recent campus events will have on enrollment, because many factors influence the size of a freshman class and it’s nearly impossible to foretell which factors will prove most impactful. She said she has not noticed any downward trends in the short term, though.

“I have not looked at actual numbers of visitors, but at this point have not noticed a drop in number of tours being given to prospective students visiting campus,” Stroupe said in an email.

Giwa-Amu said that although recent campus events have seemed negative, they have helped her grow as a person and find her voice on campus. At the end of the day, she said, she would still encourage a prospective student to attend MU.

“I think that if you wanted to go to an institution where everyone looks like you, I definitely think that you could find that,” Giwa-Amu said. “But Mizzou isn’t that type of a place, and you choose to come here for a reason.”

Tyler Kraft contributed to this report.

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