COLUMBIA — The night before the One Mizzou diversity initiative launched, 2,000 One Mizzou T-shirts arrived at the Center of Student Involvement with only three students to roll and tie them with rubber bands.
One Mizzou task force member Chris Rucker said he and the other two students panicked and then started texting and calling friends and leaders of different student organizations. An MSA Senate meeting got out next door, and even more students joined. Others walking by saw what One Mizzou was doing and started helping.
"We had like 50 people in a few minutes," said Rucker, who is vice president of the Residence Halls Association. "It was just a great sight to see everybody coming out for this one cause, especially at the last minute."
The One Mizzou diversity initiative launched Thursday afternoon in response to the hateful message written on a sculpture outside Hatch Hall in February and the cotton balls dumped in front of the Black Culture Center the year before. Although the initiative is still in its beginning stages, One Mizzou has already developed a task force of student organization leaders who are working to promote diversity on campus. The group will organize future diversity-related efforts.
Student leaders and MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, all wearing One Mizzou T-shirts, spoke to a crowd of listeners so thick at the Student Center that people passing through had to push their way through the audience to get out.
"Today has been overwhelmingly amazing with how many people who have been asking how they can get involved," Rucker said.
Deaton described the launch of One Mizzou as a "historic, watershed moment at the University of Missouri."
"This truly is the proudest moment I've had as chancellor, to stand before you and salute the wonderful work you've done on this campus," Deaton said.
Missouri Students Association President Eric Woods spoke about his vision for One Mizzou.
"We will make it abundantly clear that regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and any other factors, that the only colors that matter at Mizzou are black and gold," Woods said.
People crowded into the student center and lined up to get One Mizzou T-shirts and sign a pledge banner. Signatures filled up three banners, which will be hung from the bridge in the Student Center. Rucker said One Mizzou hopes to continue the pledge banners at the beginning of next academic year so students can pledge their commitment to diversity as they begin their college education.
Rucker said signing the banner is a pledge to not judge people or treat them differently.
"You're going to appreciate them as they are," Rucker said. "You show them that we are One Mizzou, we're going to come together, and when we come together, we're going to be powerful."
Students will have a chance to sign pledge banners again Friday afternoon and part of next week in the Student Center. More banners will be at the front desks of all the residence halls next week as well.
Leaders of student organizations can get involved in One Mizzou by joining the task force. In the future, One Mizzou will create multiple committees for students to join depending on their interests, Rucker said.
But in addition to its concrete goals, One Mizzou has also helped start friendships among people who otherwise would not have gotten to know each other. Rucker said he became best friends with the president of the Graduate Professional Council through One Mizzou, and he hopes others will form those kinds of friendships through the initiative. Rucker spends time with other task force members outside meetings, eating dinner together at The Shack.
"Just from weeks of meeting, I've become best friends with people from across campus organizations that I never would have been able to mingle with before," Rucker said. "We really are a One Mizzou family."
In February, One Mizzou brainstormed several ideas to promote diversity on campus, such as signing pledge banners, which are listed on the MSA website. Other ideas include:
- Starting an online diversity training course
- Incorporating diversity into Summer Welcome activities
- Sponsoring a diversity video contest
- Placing signs for drivers to honk for One Mizzou on campus boundaries
- Create a specific spot on campus related to diversity
"I like the fact that they're trying to initiate diversity just because campus seems so separate sometimes," MU sophomore Anitra Washington said after Thursday's event. "With more minorities coming in, it's important to have all those different racial groups come together with the same goal of getting a higher education."