Editorial: All of us are responsible for campus culture

We should always be paying attention to our campus’ passionate advocates and taking advantage of campus resources.

During the “Ferguson Listening Session” Monday evening, students criticized the delayed response from several administrators, including Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, to the ongoing events in Ferguson. Students expressed frustration and disappointment with the administration’s inactivity to close the racial divide on campus and foster an environment in which marginalized students feel comfortable voicing their concerns.

Several solutions were proposed by students in attendance, such as introducing a mandatory “diversity education” course and imploring the administration to act proactively rather than reactively. Another student urged for a mandatory sensitivity training program for all faculty members to help prevent racial disregard around campus.

We, as students, should acknowledge and understand that we live on a campus that has struggled with race relations, both overtly and subtly, for all of its 175 years. These issues are all a part of a broad cultural problem that is rooted in the past of our university and of our country. Our culture still struggles with the remnants of that history and recognizing that is the first step toward creating a more inclusive environment for everyone.

For more than half its existence, MU did not even admit black students. It was only in 1950 that the first black student, Gus T. Ridgel, was admitted, and the desegregation process was not easy. In 1977, the Missouri Students Association condemned the Ku Klux Klan for reportedly authorizing a Columbia chapter. In 1988, the Legion of Black Collegians hosted the first LBC Homecoming with the theme, “Show Me a New Mizzou,” in response to MU’s “Show Me Ol’ Mizzou” Homecoming.

Senior Naomi Daugherty, an organizer for MU4MikeBrown, said to administrators at Monday night’s forum: “We’ve been tweeting at you about this since August. Why is this discussion happening only now?”

The administration has not done enough to address how the events in Ferguson impact MU students or to create a safe space where students can discuss the changes they want to see. This forum was the first event that encouraged students to speak freely to MU officials on these issues.

The university should have taken more proactive steps months ago. Loftin said in a statement Tuesday that the administration has been “listening” to students, but listening doesn’t affect change. Students need to see that their words matter and resonate with administrators in responding to situations like this one. The administration needs to work to foster a more open relationship with its students so that they can feel comfortable to approach administrators and help make a change.

Unfortunately, some of MU’s students haven’t done so. Some made blatantly racist statements on anonymous social media like Yik Yak and Erodr. One Yak called for students to “burn down the black culture center & give them a taste of their own medicine.” We were glad to see Loftin’s swift response and condemnation, saying “The behavior we are seeing on these anonymous social media sites is deplorable and unworthy of this institution and its values.”

But an even bigger problem on our campus, and in our society, is the subtle racism that makes its way into everyday discussions. The kind of racism that is sometimes difficult to detect, that is so deep-seated we might not notice it, even within ourselves. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it’s vital that we question why we hold those opinions. As university students, now is the time to examine our ideas and values — and how they formed.

For this conversation to move forward, it’s important that we all actively educate ourselves about our fellow students’ experiences and our community. We can’t wait for something terrible to happen before listening to our community — we should always be paying attention to our campus’ passionate advocates and taking advantage of campus resources. If you are walking by a protest or demonstration that you don’t understand, stop and listen. If you feel as though you are lacking understanding on these long-standing issues, get involved with events like “You in Mizzou,” Coffee with Noor or any of the other 750+ student organizations designed to educate.

Everyone — including us, the Maneater Editorial Board — needs to work harder to become educated and understanding members of our campus community.

We’ll strive to use our platform to give these topics the coverage they deserve, both in our reporting and in our opinion. As individuals we will seek to better educate ourselves, and as an institution we will work to better fulfill our duties as journalists, which includes fostering conversation.

On our nameplate, we say that we are “The Student Voice of MU.” It’s more than a slogan — we aim for it to be a guiding principle with every issue we publish. We welcome our readers’ insights — through letters to the editor, website comments, social media and guest columns — and hope to promote conscious discourse and help better our campus’ culture.

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