Mizzou students air concerns about sexual assault, MU alerts, during town hall meeting
University of Missouri students on Wednesday night called for more transparency and preventative measures in how campus safety issues are handled on and near the campus.
About 20 people attended a town-hall-style evening meeting at Memorial Union South, where the featured speakers included Bill Stackman, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Brian Weimer, MU police chief. The event was sponsored by the Missouri Students Association Senate.
The town hall comes at the end of a semester in which students staged multiple protests and rallies to draw attention to their concerns about a rash of public safety matters that came to light, including reports of drugged drinks, sexual assaults and several shootings in downtown Columbia.
Missouri Students Association Senate Speaker Lane Cargile kicked off the event with some moderated questions.
“MSA conducted a survey of different students across campus, and in that survey there was demonstrated a lack of confidence in the University of Missouri prioritizing safety throughout departments,” Cargile said.
Weimer spoke to students about the MU Alert system as well as the ways in which his department collaborates with the Columbia Police Department to best serve the student body.
“When you hear the concept of community policing. It doesn’t get any better than it does on a college campus,” Weimer said. “Because the resident hall groups are already formed. So they work very closely with our department.”
Weimer and the other officials all cited the ongoing pandemic as a barrier to creating more programming opportunities that would better engage students.
Stackman said that he and other university officials regularly seek feedback from students, citing weekly meetings with MSA and a group called Presidents Council comprised of leaders of a wide range of student groups.
“I’m constantly meeting with student leaders in a proactive way,” Stackman said. “But when students are concerned — when I read Twitter messages or I hear concerns — I reach out to do what what I can to support or provide information.”
Hayes clarified the role of the Title IX Office: “I am not an advocate. I am like a neutral fact finder,” she said. “My investigators are neutral fact finders.”
She said that by the nature of the work the office does, transparency presents several challenges.
“All I can do is build trust, build relationships, meet students explain our process,” she said. “So that’s kind of what I do to help, really more individually and one-on-one. I’ve never turned out a student group.”
In October, more than 200 protesters gathered outside Phi Gamma Delta’s fraternity house, where a freshman was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning, to demand that more being done to make Greek life safe.
Earlier that month, MU’s Title IX office disclosed that they had logged 13 reports of students’s drinks possibly being drugged at different locations on or near campus, including two bars and six fraternities.