It’s been more than two years since the protests at the University of Missouri. In 2015, the university was at the center of a national conversation on race relations and student activism.
Today, the campus has undergone a number of changes, including the hiring of a new Chancellor and UM System President, and a new division of diversity, inclusion, and equity.
KBIA’s Elena Rivera is revisiting that historic moment in higher education with a few of the faculty and staff who were close to it.
On this show we interviewed Stephanie Hernandez Rivera, who was the coordinator for MU's Multicultural Center from 2014 to 2017; Dr. Berkley Hudson, who served as the head of the campus race relations committee, and Dr. Stephanie Shonekan, the chair of the Department of Black Studies.
On Creating a More Equitable Campus Environment
Stephanie Hernandez Rivera: That's a very long process. That's something you have to be committed to. That can't be done overnight by the creation of any space or adding positions. It needs to be an intentional process, where we're thinking about at every level how are students being marginalized by the campus, by the institution. That's a lot of different people. That's a lot of different structures and practices in place.
Assembling a Committee on Campus Race Relations
Dr. Berkley Hudson: I had to make sure they were really good listeners. I wanted people with strong viewpoints but they were willing to listen to viewpoints not comparable to their own. We all started coming together and met in late April of 2015 to talk about race at Mizzou, race in the United States, and race in the world.
Citizenship@Mizzou is a required program for incoming undergraduate students that started in 2015. The program encourages students to think critically about issues of citizenship on campus.
Dr. Stephanie Shonekan: Citizenship@Mizzou is one layer, is one leg of the long race. And it is simply a chance to catch these students as they come onto our campus, all of our students. It's a chance for us to say, "Hey, these are our expectations. Let's engage with these values and expectations for about two hours."
Students' Experiences of Racism at MU
Dr. Stephanie Shonekan: One of the worst ones was somebody called our front desk, and we had a student there. The student picked up the phone and said "Hello, this is Black Studies. How may I help you?" which is what we've trained them to do, right? And the person said "Oh, that's Black Studies. Alright, I need to get 200 of you because I'm casting for Planet of the Apes." You know, how do you as a human being hear a young person's voice on the phone and call her a monkey? That really broke my heart, and that was confirmation that yeah, the environment that the students are talking about is real.
Producers for this show are Sara Shahriari and Abby Ivory-Ganja. Assistant Producers for this show are Drew Mathieu and Beatriz Costa-Lima. Additional sound and reporting by Ana Perez.