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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Voices From the MU Social Justice Centers Protest: 'It's Disheartening'

Approximately 100 students gathered Monday on the University of Missouri campus after reports that the MU social justice centers would be undergoing restructuring and the current coordinators' positions would be eliminated as of July 1, 2021.

The students moved from Traditions Plaza to Jesse Hall to the MU Student Union and then back to Jesse Hall. Some students shared their personal experiences with the social justice centers and their coordinators, while others lead the entire groups in chants of “Justice for Justice,” “Save Our Centers,” and “Who’s Campus? Our Campus.”

Here are the voices of just a few of the concerned students who gathered Monday.

 

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KBIA

Kayla Cobb

I'm here today because my brother actually went here when the race riots and stuff happened first, and I remember him being at a bar and him saying that there's a bunch of guys with Confederate flags following him out of the bar, and that being super scary to my parents.

I'm from Illinois. So, there was nothing that they could do.

When my parents sent me here, they sent me here – actually, a group of Black girls stopped me and said, “Hey, you know what? We got you. Don't worry. If you come here, we got you,” and as you can see, they still got me. We still got each other. But we need Mizzou’s administration to get on board.

The staff members that work at these centers have impacted my life completely because I have friends that have been raped, have been discriminated against here on campus, and I'm not a trained professional to deal with that. Yes, I have the same experiences, but they need professionals that are here to support them through the terrible stuff that they go through, and I want to know that there's people here that if that happens to me here, that I'm going to have the same support.

I think that we spend and give this corporation – because let's call it what it is – way more than enough money for them to keep the staff members here to help these students. They pulled us in and rope us in and made us think, “Hey, we got you, and as long as you give us your money, we're gonna continue to have you.”

And then we got tricked, we got bamboozled. We're giving them all our money, and they still do not care about us, and it's ridiculous – absolutely ridiculous.

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KBIA

Taten James

We're here to protest – the social justice centers are trying to be unified into one big group, and in doing so, they would have to fire all the people in charge of those different centers. So, we're here to try and keep that the way it is and keep it together.

They're [the Centers] just very helpful for people who are marginalized, especially like, as an assault survivor and an LGBT community member, it's so much – it's comforting to know that there's at least one safe place on campus no matter what. So, they're in pretty important, I think.

So many people here have looked to those people as family, and so, to us – it's not just getting a new person to sit at a desk, it's removing somebody from our family who's going to no longer be here.

And for a lot of people that could be their support person, and without that it can be quite difficult for some people.

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KBIA

Peter Chau and Kevin Duong

Peter: So, “Tigers Support Tigers” has been the statement lots have been repeated throughout the year. But there's never been an actual statement that necessarily defines what that means.

I think it's implied or assumed that it means like, “we support each other in the cause,” but I also think that's like a lie in a sense. Because it's like if the statement was true then if “Tigers support Tigers,” they wouldn't be getting rid of, or trying to fire, these coordinators that are trying to actively support these marginalized groups.

Or like there wouldn't be – still so many like people around – that scream at you for being a minority or like, not wear a mask or anything.

Kevin: Also, if Tigers really did support Tigers, then they wouldn't be getting rid of --- like he said – getting rid of all the coordinators, and they wouldn't do it during the middle of a pandemic, in the midst of all the hate crimes of like Black Lives Matter or Protect Asian lives, you know? Especially since they said nothing about the shootings that happened recently.

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Sireen Abayazid, Jeremy Amen, Jacob Moyer and & Raelyn Stecker

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KBIA

Sireen Abayazid

I am here because of Miss Velma Buckner. She is a GOBCC [Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center] coordinator for the Mizzou Black women's initiative class, and it was honestly one of the best experiences I've had on this campus. I felt so extremely supported by her and by all of the leadership team students.

And I think getting rid of that is putting so many Black women on this campus in such a bad place. It's an incredible opportunity for all of the black women on this campus, and getting rid of it is just like, it's a dumb decision.

I don't feel like I'm going to school anymore. I just feel like I'm a cog in some giant business machine that does not care about me. That sees me as nothing but tuition, and I'm just being walked all over.

And also, I think that lumping all five of the IDE centers together is not beneficial to anybody on this campus. It feels like they're lumping every single minority into one group, and that's just “minority,” and the RSVP Center even – that's being also lumped into this category.

And I think that's just extremely unfair. There are so many people on this campus that are affected by sexual violence that Mizzou is just not recognizing.

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Jeremy Amen

I'm here today to support both just every marginalized community, but also the LGBT Resource Center, and the coordinators there because as a gay male, I am someone who is affected by these choices, and I've tried to seek out these resources – and it's always been like huge help for me.

And so, for these coordinators to be fired and those resources to be unavailable to me is – it's disheartening. It's a struggle for me. So, I'm here today support these coordinators.

I don't want to feel like just a statistic here, you know, and when I come here, I don't feel like a Tiger. Like when they have the sign saying, “Tigers support tigers.” It doesn't feel as if I'm a Tiger. So yeah, “Tiger support tigers,” but do I feel included? No.

And the funding. You say, “eventually they'll get more funding.” When is that? When will we get that funding that we deserve? Because we need those resources for our students.

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KBIA

Jacob Moyer

The thing that really upsets me is I realize how much funding goes into football, but I don't care about football. So much of my money is going towards things that I don't care about, or that I don't want to represent or be a part of.

And instead of them accommodating to that and saying, “Okay, we can put your money that you are paying toward – going to these causes,” instead they take students money and they put it towards causes that they don't need or that aren't as important.

Student Life and student safety and comfort and feeling represented is much more important than people running around and tackling each other. That's just my opinion, but I feel like that should be common sense.

So, it's really disheartening to say that you don't have this funding that's needed when you have so much money that's just going to places that just in my opinion, aren't correct.

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Raelyn Stecker

I'm here because I'm a bisexual woman, and I've also been raped on Mizzou’s campus, and the only people who have cared about what's happened to me – it wasn't the therapist that I saw for two sessions, who told me to go get some longterm therapy because she can't help me.

Instead it was the RSVP Center who cared about me, and they listened to me and they helped me work through what was happening, and they helped me connect with somebody who would actually be able to be there for me like longterm.

Mizzou needs to stop doing these performative actions where they say they care about diversity and inclusion and their students, and instead, they need to actually act on it.

When they're taking away these resources that we all love and that we all use, and these staff members who are not only getting underpaid for their jobs, but they are doing it specifically because they want to support us students who are being affected by the racist, homophobic, and just bigot students here at Mizzou that they don't even hold responsible.

And they're taking away the staff members who are trying to help us and protect us and give us a safe space to be, and now they’re making these spaces like less safe and inclusive for us.

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