MU seeks student opinions on diversity

Thursday, March 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:31 a.m. CDT, Friday, March 20, 2009

COLUMBIA — Looking to build on its Campus Climate study, MU is asking students to complete another survey this week to gauge their attitudes toward diversity on campus.

The original study was completed in five phases from 2001 to 2005 and involved students, faculty, staff and administrators. The results led to the creation of several initiatives.

“In terms of the survey from the past, there is a report that came out from it and a task force that was put together,” said Jeni Hart, one of the professors overseeing the project. “Several recommendations were made in light of the data from the study.”

One of those recommendations was for the creation of a chief diversity officer, which was filled by Roger Worthington, an associate professor at the time.

Worthington said he hopes the new survey will allow MU to make progress on issues that have not yet been addressed.

“In only three years, we’ve made progress on numerous issues that were highlighted in that report,” Worthington said. “And we continue to (make progress).”

For example, MU has been working on broadening the diversity of faculty, as well as a diversity requirement in the curriculum and a dialogue program on campus, Worthington said.

Although Worthington said he thinks MU is doing all it can to promote diversity, there is always more work to be done.

“In the past 15 years, the institution has really turned a corner and become a much more diverse environment than it has in the past,” he said.

Worthington said that throughout the 1980s and ’90s, diversity was broadened to include dimensions such as sexual orientation, disability status and religion.

Hart said she thinks that most harassment cases reported on campus are related to racism, homophobia and class, but she emphasized that this is not a rampant problem on campus.

“Missouri isn’t any worse than any other campus,” she said. “This is not to raise a red flag and say that we’re doing horrible.”

Worthington said that the current hot issue on campus is the initiative by students to encourage the University of Missouri System to include gender identity and gender expression in its anti-discriminatory protection clause.

This issue has been brought up in meetings with the administration and by student leaders on campus.

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