COLUMBIA — The situation is certainly unusual. On Thursday, a group of University of Kansas students will express support for MU on their rival's turf. Not in a sports arena, but in a town hall meeting at the Life Sciences Center.
Where: Life Sciences Center (1201 Rollins St.), Monsanto Auditorium
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday
- To discuss differing reactions to the cotton balls scattered at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center
- To explore different perspectives on the incident
- To discover why it's so difficult to talk about race
- To watch KU students present a diversity banner to show support for unity
Call: The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative at 882-5838
KU student Kelsey Murrell said she was "shocked" to hear that two MU students had spread cotton balls in front of the MU Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on Feb. 26. The incident was considered racist by the MU community as a symbol of the pre-Civil War cotton plantations on which many enslaved African-Americans were forced to work.
Murrell learned of the incident Thursday when her mother sent her a text message that said one of the suspected perpetrators had gone to her Missouri high school. As Murrell read up on coverage, she was touched by the hurt expressed in Web site comment sections.
Murrell realized she could use the MU/KU rivalry to send a supportive statement. She rallied a group of KU students to paint a banner displaying the following words: “We choose unity. KU supports MU in the promotion of diversity.”
The banner uses both MU and KU colors, as well as green and blue for the colors of the Earth. Those colors represent a society that doesn't support discrimination, Murrell said.
“I really hope that MU students can recognize that we are making a positive statement in lending support, even if we are Jayhawks,” Murrell said.
At first Murrell worried about a lack of support from KU students because of the schools' rivalry. But most students recognized the issue was pertinent to society, not a specific college. Since Sunday night, students have signed the banner as it circulated through KU residence halls. Murrell and other KU students will present the banner to MU Thursday at a town hall meeting aimed at discussing differing perspectives on race.
MU and KU Chief Diversity Officers Roger Worthington and Fred Rodriguez, respectively, were at a diversity officer conference together Tuesday when Rodriguez received an e-mail about the KU student banner. He praised KU students for sending a powerful message that they won’t tolerate incidents like the one at the Black Culture Center.
Like Murrell, Worthington feels that students have a clear idea of what situations call for unity.
“I think this shows that students have a strong sense of what is most important when incidents like this take place — that coming together for the common good is far more central than any cross-institutional rivalry,” Worthington said.