A key staff member of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at MU has submitted his resignation in the wake of turmoil about the future of the social justice centers on campus.
Donald D. Gilliam, support specialist and program instructor for the center, announced on Twitter Friday that he will resign at the end of the month.
He said the decision to resign was influenced by factors that included a hostile work environment, lack of communication about expectations and insufficient pay.
“I’ve waited an entire year for this moment,” he wrote. “It’s sad yet liberating.”
As part of restructuring, the five social justice centers, Gilliam’s job will be eliminated and his duties folded into another position. He would then have to apply for that position.
Word that the social justice centers would be restructured came to light after an April 15 meeting between the center coordinators and B. Sherrance Russell, assistant vice chancellor for Student Diversity Initiatives.
“We were told … we were being restructured and the coordinator title would be dissolved, and we would not have jobs after June 30,” Gilliam said.
After news about the restructuring reached social media, students protested on campus April 19 and 29. Many said they were protesting on behalf of the coordinators and objected to their positions being cut.
“When you have most of these centers with one staff, the students are connected to that one person,” Gilliam said. “We have very, very strong connections and trusting relationships with our students.”
Some protesters later received warnings from the Office of Student Accountability and Support for violating MU’s time, place and manner restrictions.
Time, place and manner restrictions address whether behavior interferes with the “right of students to obtain an education,” according to MU.
Part of the restructuring included not only changes to Gilliam’s position, but also those of three center coordinators.
MU posted the newly restructured positions July 1. Maurice D. Gipson, vice chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, said the new positions are classified into two categories — race and ethnicity is one category, and gender and sexuality is the other.
He said the positions will offer an intersectional approach to the program and were created after receiving feedback from numerous stakeholders, including students.
“These positions will help IDE elevate offerings to students as well as enhance program alignment,” Gipson wrote in a June 30 email to campus leaders. “The hiring committees for these new roles will be representative of our community and will include students.”
The new positions are:
- Assistant director for LGBTQ Resource Center and Women’s Center.
- Assistant director for Multicultural Center and Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.
- Senior student support specialist for LGBTQ Resource Center and the Women’s Center.
- Senior student support specialist for the Multicultural Center and the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.
“If we did not apply, or if we applied and were not accepted for those positions, we would officially go into layoff status,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam started working at MU full time in 2013 and joined the Department of Social Justice under the Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity in 2016.
He has been a support specialist for the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center since then, working to provide resources and services for Black students. He has also been the program instructor for Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative, a nationally recognized, two-year leadership and identity development program.
Gilliam served as the Multicultural Center interim coordinator during the 2020-21 school year, a position he left in May.
He said he officially made the decision to resign from the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center after a June 30 meeting where the new positions were officially confirmed.
“I do think that this shift is going to be a major disservice to our student population, but also the institution,” he said.
Gipson said the university is currently in the screening process for new hires and anticipates finishing the process within the next three to four weeks.