Faculty and student-led organizations are working to make MU a welcoming environment for everyone, a vital effort after the events of fall 2015 when students protested for change.
In light of those past concerns, MU has prioritized discussions on the importance of inclusivity on campus.
“I hear [prospective students] talking more about … either the steps Mizzou is taking for increasing diversity and inclusion or just appreciating the response to 2015,” said Cary Littlejohn, an MU graduate student.
There are more than 750 student organizations that not only welcome but preserve student identities. One of the most engaged resources is the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, where students are constantly advancing communication on campus. Those who work with the Black Culture Center say it’s easy to set up a student-led event.
“Student organizations have availability at any time to request a space to rent out and create an event that is all inclusive to students of color and student allies.” MU graduate Josiah Callaway said. “We had probably around 400 students recently to a barbecue, not just black or brown, really every ethnic group.“
“We’re focusing on having more events that are also including other groups and social organizations in a safe space,” said sophomore Alexiana Crum-Kirkland. “Communication amongst all nationalities is happening and will continue at MU.”
That communication works to diminish the racial divide.
“We focus on political change, social change and awareness,” said Caleb Sewell, sophomore. “Things like events, talking to administration and making sure our problems are heard.”
According to one engineering student, MU has also focused on gender diversity by promoting female applicants.
“The lack of diversity was a factor in my consideration to apply,” said international student Run (Elle) Yan. “However, it was their progress in promoting female applicants that won me over.”
MU’s ongoing efforts ensure progression in creating and sustaining diversity among the students and faculty. A lack of this progress spurred the fall 2015 protests.
In the fall of that year, MU found itself in headlines. Many students protested institutional racism at the university, which led to both the chancellor and the president of the university resigning, among other consequences.
After the resignations, many black students reported receiving death threats and feeling a general sense of fear on campus. The lack of diversity at the university remains a concern for student applicants, including sophomore Margo Wagner.
“It was the one thing about Mizzou that was holding me back, that I was worried about,” Wagner said.
After these events, the faculty made it their responsibility to prevent hate crimes and make MU a safe environment for everyone. In 2016, MU hired Kevin McDonald as the new vice chancellor of inclusion, diversity, and equity. He brought in a new idea called the Inclusive Excellence Framework. Chancellor Alexander N. Cartwright explained the university’s stance on McDonald’s progress.
“Since Dr. McDonald’s arrival at MU, he has helped create a more inclusive environment that has benefited all of us,” said Cartwright. “He guided our efforts to embed diversity, inclusion and equity into the fabric of MU. Dr. McDonald and his team have been instrumental in committing resources and sharing best practices to help us increase our diversity pool among faculty, staff, students and administrative searches across campus.”
Students agree on the importance of maturing the university’s climate while also refusing to forget their original concerns.
“I got here well after the upheavals of 2015, and so it’s constantly an issue of discussion around here, it’s all referred back to,” said Littlejohn. “There’s still a long way to go, but I think they do a good job at recognizing the effect of those protests.”
Ella Litchfield is a student at Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, Iowa. Jonah Hammel is a student at Rochelle Zell Jewish High School in Deerfield, Ill.