Column: MU hasn’t done enough since 2015

MU needs to actually care about black students and work on the hiring and retention of black faculty.

Caleb Sewell is a sophomore double majoring in educational studies and black studies at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about the intersections of race, politics, and education.
As most who are apart of the University of Missouri community know, 2015 was a season of protest and unrest as black students on campus took a stand against unaddressed racism by administration for years. All of which is a product of systemic racism.

Concerned Student 1950 were the student leaders who led the protest at MU, named for the first black student who was admitted to the university. They listed eight demands that they wanted the university to meet. MU failed their black constituents and community as a whole by not accepting those demands. I strongly believe we need to look at some of those demands, and see where the university is still failing to meet them.

MU portrays the point of view of valuing inclusion and diversity, but they struggle with speaking about the events that persisted in fall 2015. It is taboo. Not speaking on it doesn’t hide the fact that MU has struggled to meet Concerned Student 1950’s demands.

Recently, news reports in the Columbia Missouran, KBIA, and The Kansas City Star wrote articles centered around MU increasing black faculty at the university. I believe the headlines are misleading. I believe that these headlines are designed to give MU credit where credit is not due.

Here’s why: Concerned Student’s fifth demand was for MU to increase black faculty and staff on campus by the 2017-18 school year to 10%.

According to the Kansas City Star, black faculty increased only by nine people. That is not an achievement to be praising in retrospect. Now I applaud the first and former chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at MU: Kevin McDonald. He worked hard to make the school more inclusive. I just wish the rest of the university and administration would’ve followed suit and worked as hard to support the initiatives and value increasing black faculty.

An increase of solely 9 black faculty members is not a lot. That did increase the proportion of black faculty and staff on campus to about 3.4% compared to 3%. That increase doesn’t even line up to the percentage of black students that are on campus at 8%.

What also needs to be looked into is the retention rate of black faculty. Year after year it appears as if prominent black faces are missing from the university that were here prior. MU needs to not only work on getting more black faculty, but also retaining them. Each year, black faculty and staff are leaving to transfer to another institution where that new institution sees their value in the work that they do and then pay them accordingly. MU is struggling to not only hire black faculty, but also to keep the ones that they secure. While the articles applauded MU for increasing the amount of black faculty by 9, I think they should be more scrutinized for failing to reach one of the simple demands that Concerned Student 1950 protested for.

I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the importance of having black faculty on this very campus.

MU was founded in 1839.

The first black students were not admitted until 1950. The first black graduate student was Gus T. Ridgel.

The first black faculty professor wasn’t tenured until 1969, his name was Arvarh Strickland.

It is important for black students to have black faculty, who are socially conscious to feel supported. MU has not done that with totality. MU has not made black students feel comfortable on campus. Everyday it is microaggression after microaggression. With black students being a minority at large with 8% of them, only being able to turn to just the 3.4% of black faculty to be a resource and to get educated by them is a disgrace.

MU can’t call themselves an inclusive university until the demands from Concerned Student 1950 are met. The ceiling isn’t at MU getting more just black faculty, the ceiling is at meeting all demands laid out and by not stopping at them.

Simply put, do better MU.

Edited by Roshae Hemmings | rhemmings@themaneater.com

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