COLUMBIA — Students sat in clusters on the floor with laptops and notebooks around them, studying. Occasionally, students would break from studying by chanting in unison. When they chanted, "Power" together, the first floor of Jesse Hall echoed. The chants could be heard outside the building.
Tuesday's #BLMStudyHall in the main lobby of Jesse Hall, as well as a group prayer at Traditions Plaza, were organized by MU students to show support for the Legion of Black Collegians royalty court after members were called racial slurs by a student late Sunday night.
"My grandparents, they grew up in the Civil Rights movement in the southeast, and what happened on the fifth (of October) was a commonality for them," MU junior and #BLMStudyHall participant Jordan McFarland said. "It happened all the time and it's ridiculous to think that in 2015, some people think that it's OK not to take action every day to change this. It can't keep happening."
The study hall
Students organized from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first floor of Jesse Hall. They studied and chanted, and erupted into cheers when the MU Provost sent an email announcing the student who called the LBC Homecoming court racial slurs had been identified, removed from campus and would face the student conduct process. The individual, who has been identified as an MU student, could face a range of sanctions, from a verbal warning to expulsion.
In accordance with FERPA, how the student was removed from campus, where the student is now and whether the student can still attend classes could not be disclosed, said MU spokesman Christian Basi.
Students from different majors, ages and backgrounds attended the study hall. A common theme among participants was a desire for change.
"We go here, too," MU junior Andrea Fulgiam said. "To know these things are happening and to do nothing is irresponsible."
Fulgiam said all the protests and demonstrations come down to a need for accountability. It may seem like demonstrators blame Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and the administration, she said, but they want to keep him accountable since people look up to him.
In order to address a problem, people have to recognize it exists, Fulgiam said, adding that she appreciates Loftin mentioning words like "racism" and trying to work at the problems.
However, students present at the study hall echoed calls for more action from administration and less reactionary emails and empty words.
"There are a lot of students on this campus that are hurting right now. There's a lot of students who are frustrated and fed up and tired, but we're still here," MU senior Katie Harbinson said. "At the end of the day, as chancellor he's not here to represent Jefferson City or governmental or political interests, he's here to represent us. And I think it's time we start seeing that again."
Student leaders recognized the need for students to keep each other accountable, in addition to pressuring administration to enact change.
Fellow students should try to be more empathetic and educate themselves through campus events and research, Alex Ayala, a fifth-year MU graduate student and president of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Inc., said.
"A lot of the institutional change comes from the administration, but culture change has to come from the students," Missouri Student Association President Payton Head said.
Head said students need to educate themselves and stand in solidarity with minority groups. "If you see something, say something," Head said.
When strangers repeatedly yelled racial slurs at Head last month, he said there were a lot of people around and no one said anything. Head posted a Facebook status on Sept. 12 that grew into a national story.
Although no changes in policy or behavior have come from racist incidents this semester, students notice a difference with the protests and demonstrations. Ayala remembers a time when it felt like the administration did not listen to minority students and swept their concerns under the rug. Now there is more visibility.
"Realistically, to change people's behavior is a hard task and that's why I'm OK with there not being a set plan and us being seen and heard," Ayala said.
Prayer at Traditions Plaza
About 20 students from groups and classes, including His LIFE dance ministry and 100 Praying Women, assembled in Traditions Plaza for a group prayer hosted by the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The groups wanted to support the LBC Homecoming court after the Sunday night incident.
"We chose Traditions Plaza just because of the energy put into this place, and this is where the incident happened," said Curtis Taylor Jr., an employee of the BCC and an MU graduate student. "We want to reclaim Christ in this place, and this place was built to celebrate and cherish traditions here at Mizzou."
The goal was to honor and celebrate the hard work that the court put in at Traditions Plaza for the play tonight, Taylor said.
Melissa Maras is one of the professors for an Honors College class called Start Empathy that teaches students about science and empathy. The goal of the class is to teach students how to start an empathy revolution on campus, be aware of social justice issues and be involved in discussions. Maras and several students were present at the prayer event.
"Some of the folks may not have been as comfortable coming on their own, so we wanted to use the power and privilege as instructors, faculty, staff and administrators to promote involvement among students to promote any kind of social action on campus," Maras said.
Kasia Kovacs and Mariah Brannan contributed to this story.
Supervising editor is Caroline Bauman.