MU Chancellor and UM System President Mun Choi met face-to-face with the Faculty Council on Thursday and again condemned a recent social media post by a student believed to be the president of a far right-wing student group.
The post featured a racial slur and prompted many MU students to call for the group leader’s expulsion from school.
“The statement was reprehensible,” Choi said. “Our team, including Bill Stackman’s team, Maurice Gipson’s team, has been reaching out to various student groups to reassure them that we support them and that we care about their safety and their well-being.”
Stackman is vice chancellor of student affairs and dean of students, and Gipson is vice chancellor of inclusion, diversity and equity.
The social media post originally appeared last week on Snapchat but also began to circulate on Twitter. That prompted MU to respond with its own tweet saying: “We condemn this language and all forms of racism and discrimination. We have reported the post to our Office of Institutional Equity.”
The university account then provided an online link for reporting any acts of discrimination.
Regarding MU’s response, Choi said he believes the university acted quickly compared to 2015, when then-Missouri Student Association President Payton Head was called the N-word on campus.
“I understand the university didn’t respond right away. We responded right away,” Choi said. “When we saw that on the social media site, we condemned it right as we saw it, and then we followed up the next morning with a statement, and I think we need to stand strong when it comes to situations like this, to share with everyone where we stand on matters like this.”
To some Black student organizations, though, MU’s response does not give them a sense of comfort. This incident, along with posters promoting white supremacy on campus, has left some Black students feeling distraught.
Isaiah Massey, president of MU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, said before the Faculty Council meeting that he and others on campus are trying to find solutions and support.
“A lot of us as Black Mizzou definitely talked about this, and this conversation in terms of this type of situation, because of course it’s not the first time and it’s probably not the last time, more than likely,” he said.
As for MU’s response to the situation, Massey believes more could have been done.
“I think they can definitely be more sincere. A lot of it is automated messages, a lot of it’s saying the right politically correct things without taking a quote unquote ‘strong’ stance against it,” he said. “More so it feels like they’re covering their own backs when it comes to these types of posts and statements just to say that they made a post or statement.”
Senior Zachary Charles is president of MU’s Black Student Athlete Association. He says his sense of discomfort started during his sophomore year.
“When I first got here, I was just excited to make new connections, and then once I started getting used to campus life and things around, I kind of felt out of place being one of the only people of color in my classes, from large lecture halls to small classes,” he said.
According to the MU Office of Institutional Research, during the fall 2020 semester, 2,061 Black students were enrolled at the university out of 31,103 total students. In fall 2021, the number of Black students decreased to 1,945 out of 31,412.
Charles found his sense of belonging through Black Mizzou and becoming president of his association. Incidents of racism at MU dishearten him.
“It’s shocking still that we have to undergo seeing these things, especially in areas of media. We get on our phones instantly and see things like that. So it was definitely disappointing, especially when we felt like we’re taking steps in the right direction,” he said.
Charles said MU’s response was good to see, but added that the university could do more to ensure that the student faces consequences.
Charles referenced an incident in which a student initially going to the University of Florida had his scholarship revoked after a video online surfaced of him using the N-word when rapping along to a song.
“That happened within a short time period. So I mean, I’m not sure where they’re at with it right now … but I feel like those should instantly require immediate action, especially (with) the attention it gained and how fast it spread because that affects all of us,” he said.
Kaci Miller, president of the Mizzou Black Pre-Law Students Association, also wishes more action would be taken.
“I wish they took into consideration how these consistent displays of hate against the Black community make us feel,” she said in an email to the Columbia Missourian. “I wish the university would immediately expel a student that uses racial slurs or acts in a hateful way. Furthermore, the university needs to make the entire student body aware of these consequences as a deterrent for this behavior.”
She says her “Tiger spirit” has decreased over the years of attending MU.
“When I initially came to Mizzou, I saw the chance to make connections with people and truly get involved. However, it is very clear that I attend a predominantly white institution,” she said. “There is a lack of inclusion and belonging at the university in general, and with the hateful situations that constantly happen at this university, I do not feel as comfortable being here.”
Marshall Allen was a student in 2015 and a member of Concerned Student 1950, a group named after the first year a Black student was admitted to MU. He is not convinced that MU has improved since then.
”Another day, another incident, right? Something happens, MU ‘responds,’ and then we just wait until the next one — rinse and repeat. We should begin asking ourselves, what about this environment encourages such blatant behavior?” he said in an email. “Regardless, without direct consequences (tangible and evident consequences) the pattern will persist; Black and Brown students are not the problem.”