Administration to present Call to Action progress update
Some of students’ request in the Call for Action include the creation of an intergroup dialogue course and evaluating how MU recruits minority students and faculty.
Apr. 28, 2015
Administrators will hold a public meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday in Conservation Auditorium to discuss their progress in fulfilling student requests regarding a change in campus climate.
Dubbed the Call to Action Progress Report, Wednesday’s event will be a departure from past race relations events that allowed students to voice their concerns and frustrations more openly. This week’s forum will begin with a thorough, organized update on administrative progress and allow time for questions and feedback at the end.
Some major requests student leaders made in their Call for Action were the creation of an intergroup dialogue course and the evaluation of recruitment methods for minority students and faculty.
Ellen de Graffenreid, vice chancellor for marketing and communication of university affairs, said the event’s priority is to address each item in the students’ Call to Action. She said administrators have run out of time during each of the previous open forum events and haven’t been able to adequately address students concerns. She said she hopes this format will allow for a thorough update.
The new format, which places a greater emphasis on administration’s response to student concerns, is a product of students’ requests that more time be spent discussing administrative progress. Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of student affairs, agreed on the new format after meeting with a coalition of student leaders April 6.
Race relations remains a prominent issue on this campus, as Associate Professor of Journalism Berkley Hudson said it has been for many years. Students’ indignation intensified last year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. The grand jury decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson last November sparked student protests and prompted Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to host a listening session in December to address the events in Ferguson and campus climate.
Students who showed up to [December’s listening session]() expressed a great deal of frustration and accused the administration of lacking effort to address campus race relations.
Many students were upset that administrators hadn’t held the forum earlier, and one student pointed out that people had been tweeting at administrators about the issue since August.
One student, December 2014 graduate Ashley Bland, called on administrators to try to change the way people at MU think about race relations as a whole.
“We’re not necessarily trying to change policy,” she said during the December forum. “We’re trying to change thought. We need to acknowledge the divide.”
Since then, the university has taken steps to identify tangible remedies to the problem. One such solution has been the creation of Faculty Council’s committee on race relations.
“I think there’s a festering wound regarding race relations on this campus,” said Hudson, who is leading the committee. “It’s going to take time to heal. First we have to figure out: how sick is the patient?”
Hudson’s committee on race relations was established January after students at December’s forum urged administrators to be “proactive” in their handling of race relations on campus. Eleven members of the committee were recently vetted at a Faculty Council closed session and Hudson hopes the committee will have its first meeting within the next two weeks.
Administrators established a website in March to disseminate information about their progress on improving campus climate, called Mizzou Transparency.
The website features a letter by Angela Speck, chairwoman of the Faculty Council committee on diversity enhancement, discussing “initial projects” she and her peers have undertaken. In her letter, Speck said she wants to implement a diversity competency requirement that is writing intensive and uses existing courses where possible.
In January, Speck said that a mandatory diversity education course is impossible but she would continue to look for ways to implement another kind of diversity education requirement for students.
A letter from Scroggs to student leaders can also be found on the website. In it, Scroggs offers several updates on administrative response, including new cultural competency training for Summer Welcome leaders.
Hudson said as concrete progress begins to be made, it’s important that members of MU’s community remember the task of improving campus climate falls on everyone’s shoulders.
“We have to bring diversity into university,” Hudson said. “We have see it as a multifold human organism; living, breathing, crying, loving, hating, misunderstanding — that takes time.”