Students at town hall meeting speak of feeling excluded at Homecoming

Monday, November 18, 2013 | 11:15 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — MU students discussed how to make Homecoming traditions more inclusive at a town hall meeting Monday night.

MU graduate student Jimmie Jones, who came up with the idea for the meeting, said he wanted to talk about Homecoming because he feels isolated during the event. Those feelings mainly stem from being a black man from inner-city Detroit, he said.

"I wanted to create a space for students to come and express their raw feelings regarding their experience at Mizzou during Homecoming," he said.

Homecoming is divided not only by race but between students who are in sororities and fraternities and those who aren't, said MU graduate student Jayme Gardner, who helped set up the event.

"As a non-Greek member, I felt excluded (from) going to Talent Night and stuff like that," she said.

About 50 people attended the event at the Physics Building, including Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Robert Ross, coordinator of affinity relations for the Mizzou Alumni Association.

Other than Jackson Hobbs, Interfraternity Council president, no member of MU's Greek community spoke at the event.

Jones said he was disappointed by the lack of representation from Greek students, pointing out that the audience was mostly black.

"We tried to influence the influencers, and obviously it wasn't influential enough," he said.

Jones organized the event as part of the Difficult Dialogues in Higher Education graduate class, which requires students to organize town hall meetings as final projects.

The event didn't aim to find a solution to the isolation some students feel during Homecoming week, Gardner said. Instead, it aimed to reach a point of understanding.

Marnae Chavers, president of the Legion of Black Collegians, said that her group's Homecoming events are sometimes misunderstood.

"The thing that I don't like is the constant dialogue of, 'Why are black people isolating themselves?'" she said.

The Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association are overrepresented at Homecoming, said Payton Head, chairman of the Missouri Students Association's multicultural issues committee.

The divisions during Homecoming week aren't just between black and white and Greek and non-Greek, he said. Other minorities also experience isolation.

Andrew Abarca, chairman of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization, said his organization's events usually only attract Hispanic students.

"Hispanics don't really have a Homecoming," he said. The organization throws its own events as a way of "making it a familiar experience for us."

The core of the issue is "a combination of ignorance and inaction," Hobbs said.

Chavers agreed. "I feel like the information is out there, but there has to be an internal drive."

Head said encouraging students from different backgrounds to participate in events could help breach divides during Homecoming.

Building personal relationships between the groups could help bring people together during Homecoming, Hobbs said.

"I'm not naive enough to think that that building process happens instantaneously," he said.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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