Column: Chancellor Loftin is out of touch on the issue of race relations

After a delayed response, all Loftin’s letter shows is how little he knows about race at MU.

On Sept. 12, 2015, the Missouri Students Association President Payton Head posted a very personal and explicit message on his Facebook page. In his message, Payton discussed a recent incident in which he was called a nigger on MU’s campus. Payton discussed not only this incident but other incidents that both he and his closest friends haved lived through here at MU. When first posted, this Facebook post generated a lot of talk through Twitter and other social media outlets and around campus, but over the days it became national news.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin's response was delayed by six days, without much to show for it. Loftin did not even have enough respect for the incident to call it what it was — racism. Instead, our chancellor chose the words "acts of bias and discrimination" repeatedly throughout the statement. Not once did he address the situation for what it was, and not once did he express his viewpoint on the situation, other than to say he was saddened at what had happened to an MU student. In order to avoid discussing specifics, he deflected to MU's often-repeated core values: Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, and Excellence, which clearly weren't displayed in this situation. The chancellor also addressed how only in "spirited inquiry and intellectual discussion” is freedom of speech supported, although “n-----” should never be tolerated in that environment, either. If it were me, Chancellor, I don't think I'd ever fix my mouth to compare the n-word to freedom of speech on any level, especially while an emotionally charged movement was cultivating itself on my campus.

The MU student community felt disrespected by the Chancellor's indifferent attitude and lack of urgency in this situation. They gathered at Speakers Circle on Sept. 24 to protest against the racism they've experienced at MU as well as the reaction of Chancellor Loftin and his staff to this growing problem. After migrating from Speakers Circle to Jesse Hall, over 100 students chanted that "racism lives here."

Racism lives here, within the halls, streets and community of MU. Racism lives here when students of color can't walk down the streets of Greek Town without being called a nigger. Discrimination lives here when those who identify as transgender or queer are being spit on. Discrimination lives here when students do not feel safe enough to be themselves within their college communities, a community that is supposed to be educated about the real struggles and problems of those minorities they associate with every day.

If you feel you are educated on the growing problems that minority students on this campus face, and if you feel that because you would never do any of the things described, that you are not the problem, you're wrong. The issue is that these incidents have been silenced and ignored for so long that they're still happening, years after you assumed that they've gone away. Your silence has allowed them to continue. Now, it's your responsibility to speak up.

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