UPDATE: Cotton balls scattered in front of MU's black culture center

Friday, February 26, 2010 | 6:57 p.m. CST; updated 3:47 p.m. CST, Monday, March 1, 2010
Cotton balls lie scattered in front of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on Feb. 26. Witnesses said the cotton balls were thrown around the building between 1:30 and 2 a.m. early that morning.

COLUMBIA – MU police are conducting an investigation after cotton balls were scattered in front of MU’s Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center early Friday morning.

MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer said it’s too early to say whether the incident would be considered a hate crime.

Talk of the incident spread via text message, Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth later in the morning. Many comments on the subject said it was an example of continuing racism.

Before the Civil War, many enslaved African-Americans were forced to work on cotton plantations.

Outside of the center Friday afternoon, MU senior Gerald McLemore said it is sad that things of this nature are still happening in the 21st century, especially during Black History Month.

“For it to happen in February, the month when African-Americans get to celebrate our history, is totally disrespectful,” McLemore said.

Weimer said a witness saw two individuals running away from the area between 1:30 and 2 a.m. There are no security cameras at the center, but there are cameras in residential halls and parking garages, which Weimer thinks could help.

Director of Student Life Mark Lucas said it is unfortunate that there are still people who would commit this type of act.

“Everyone will learn something from this, and hopefully we’ll be a better and stronger campus moving forward,” Lucas said.

People gathered around the display during the early afternoon, taking pictures and holding conversations around the center.

The cotton balls were left in front of the building until 2:30 p.m.

There was some debate about when to clean the area. Lucas said after some talks with his staff, it was decided that the cotton balls should be left where they were for a  portion of the afternoon as a way to get the message out about the incident.

MU sophomore Melanie Seaton saw the cotton balls around noon and said she wanted them removed sooner.

As far as the act itself, Seaton said she doesn’t understand the mindset of whoever scattered the cotton balls.

“It’s really petty for someone to take the time to sit out here and do something like this,” Seaton said.

Chancellor Brady Deaton issued a statement, which was also e-mailed to the MU community, saying MU celebrates diversity and the act offends the university.

"This university is fully committed to tolerance and respect for every one of its members, and this kind of conduct will not be tolerated at MU," Deaton said.

Roger Worthington, MU’s assistant deputy chancellor and chief diversity officer, said this incident affects everyone at MU.

“This incident is a hostile act against the entire MU community,” Worthington said. “A campus-wide response is the most effective way to show we won’t tolerate these kinds of acts.”

Worthington leads the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative. The initiative’s goal is to enhance diversity and present a welcoming campus.

“No university is ever completely immune, no matter how hard we try to educate or prevent these types of things from happening,” Worthington said.

The Legion of Black Collegians will hold a campuswide town hall meeting at 5 p.m. Monday at a location to be determined. MU administrators will be in attendance.

The LBC might also hold a protest early Monday, President Anthony Martin said in a statement released Friday.

"We are too progressive of a nation and a university to still see issues of this nature still taking place," he said in the statement.

Students who want an outlet to be heard by MU on racial issues can contact Noel English, director of MU Equity, submit a bias incident report online or inform MU Police.

Anyone with any information about the incident can contact the MU Police Department, 882-7201, or Crime Stoppers via its Web site or phone number, 875-TIPS.

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LaToya Farrar February 26, 2010 | 8:18 p.m.

This is very unfortunate! I am an African American student who attends Mizzou. This is also my first semester here (transfer student) and so far the environment is not what I expected, not to take away from what the school has to offer, but for some reason, this does not surprise me. I know I won't be here for Grad School.

(Report Comment)
Anna Ritzman February 26, 2010 | 9:25 p.m.

I agree that it is a very unfortunate event, and those who took part in these actions are obviously very immature, seeking attention, and have issues. Unfortunately, as can be seen by the above comment, this reflects the University as a whole. I am upset by that because I am a graduate student at Mizzou and have friends of many ethnicities and from a variety of cultures. I don't think it is fair to judge the campus as a whole based on what a very small number of, excuse me, but, STUPID people did. I love Mizzou very much, and I do not feel that these horrible actions represent the atmosphere of the campus at all. It makes me sick that people would do something so repulsive and therefore I do not wish to be grouped as a person that agrees with this type of behavior by generalizing the campus as a type of campus that would condone or even promote that behavior. Contrary to the previous poster, I was completely shocked by this behavior. But it just goes to show that WHEREVER you go, there will be people that try to stir up controversy. I love Mizzou and I truly hope that people do not think that the disgusting people that performed these actions represent the campus. They do not represent Mizzou; they represent an antique, FLAWED perspective of inequality.

(Report Comment)
Cutler Edwards March 1, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.

Students at UC-San Diego and at UC-Davis are experiencing similar racist actions, and protests have grown widespread. We stand in solidarity with the students at Missouri, and demand that the Missouri administration look deep into the structures of the university to correct the institutional inequities that make these actions acceptable. The problem isn't the cotton balls, they are only a symptom of the larger issues.

(Report Comment)
Hagazi Kebede March 2, 2010 | 4:34 p.m.

I have the had distinct priviledge of living in many cultures, countries and with many different kinds of nationalities. Often and almost invariable the few bad apples are the ones that get noticed and spoil the harmony. But the solidarity of the good people of the community always win. So the good people of Mizzou with no malice towards none but with love, hope and faith keep shining above the despicable behaviors of the few. Reacting in kind or being fearful lessens you to the stature of those who perpetuate hate.

(Report Comment)
ted fat March 4, 2010 | 8:10 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
ted fat March 4, 2010 | 9:35 a.m.
This comment has been removed.
lacinda florez March 16, 2010 | 3:01 p.m.


(Report Comment)
desta violeta October 15, 2010 | 1:01 a.m.

By saying that this event was a "joke" devalues the reality of what occurred. This event was in fact a hate crime directed towards African American students. In case you did not know, racism is when one group in power (whites) use their power/privilege to oppress a disadvantaged group in society. But who wants to get tied up with all this fancy sociological jargon?

Just know this, there is NO NEED for a white culture center on a campus where whites are the predominant race. Furthermore, there is no need for a white culture center on any campus in this nation having that white people are the majority and possess the power relations. The reason why blacks, latinos, and other minority groups have organizations is because they have been historically oppressed. The function of these groups are to empower its members. I don't see the need for white people to empower themselves if they already possess the power relations.

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