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Exam - A Year In Review: Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Missouri

Tyler Adkisson

One year after Payton Head, former University of Missouri student body president, shared his experience of being called a racial slur on the MU campus on Facebook , leadership from the University of Missouri System and MU held a press conference to review the progress of the last year that began with student protests calling for systemic action against racism.

Protests by a student group, Concerned Student 1950 began on October 10, 2015 during MU's Homecoming parade. Students stood in front of, then UM System President, Tim Wolfe's car to address their frustration with lack of action after racists incidents on campus. Protests continued as students felt Wolfe's response was inadequate. One student, Jonathan Butler, went on a hunger strike calling for Wolfe's resignation. When football players joined the cause and refused to play until Wolfe stepped down, national attention was drawn to MU's campus. On Nov. 9, 2015 Tim Wolfe resigned from his position as UM System President. 

Last week, Mike Middleton, interim president for the UM system; Hank Foley, interim chancellor for the university; Kevin McDonald, UM System Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer; and Pam Henrickson, the chair of the UM Board of Curators addressed the progress of the initiatives the UM System and MU have taken in response to last fall. 

"We recognize as an institution and as a system that our community, both our campus community, our local community, and our national community have an interest in this subject matter," McDonald explained. "We identified this as an important time to be able to check-in and provide information about our progress to date." 

McDonald laid out four areas in which the UM system is examining the existing programs, and looking to add more initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion: access and success, campus climate and intergroup relations, 

Credit Claire Banderas / KBIA
Pam Henrickson, the chair of the UM Board of Curators; Mike Middleton, interim president for the UM System; Hank Foley, interim chancellor for the university; and Kevin McDonald, UM System Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer,

Access and Success

McDonald said that the MU counseling center has hired two psychologists of color, a post-intern of color and additional intern of color that serves as the center's first diversity coordinator. This step aligns with one of the demands presented by Concerned Student 1950 to the University on October 20, 2015 calling for an increase in mental health resources and outreach.

McDonald said they are, also, reevaluating the existing scholarships and financial aid for minority students, as well as investing in programs to increase enrollment of underrepresented populations. 

In terms of faculty, Foley announced a $1 million investment to recruit minority pre-faculty fellows to MU with the hope of keeping them on as faculty members. MU has also added $600,000 to it's Faculty Incentive and Excellence Fund to target the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty.

McDonald said the goal is to double the number of faculty of color in the next four years, from 6.7 percent to 13.4 by 2020.  While this goal is of the same sentiment of the demands made by Concerned Student 1950 last fall, the students' demands were on a quicker timeline. They had asked for an increase to 10 percent in two years, but after Wolfe's resignation they increased their number to 15 percent. 

In order to also focus efforts on retention, McDonald said there will be the creation of an eminent scholars program to pair newly hired assistant professors and a prominent researchers in their field, along with a new partnership Southern Regional Education Board to provide mentorship and support to minority faculty, 

Campus Climate and Intergroup Relations

This fall marked the beginning of a new student orientation program called Citizenship at Mizzou. McDonald said it is a required interactive program for incoming students that "focuses on making individuals aware of the differences that exist among us and the important impact that exposing themselves to and engaging with this diversity will have on their academic and social journey at Mizzou." 

Both McDonald and Foley emphasized that the upcoming campus climate survey will help measure the success of that program and other initiatives, as well as guide further diversity efforts. 

Education and Scholarship 

McDonald stressed the importance of a curriculum that incorporates diversity. To encourage this he announced the creation of inclusive excellence grants for research involving diversity and inclusion and a partnership with the National Center For Faculty Development and Diversity, an organization dedicated to providing mentorship and research support for diverse faculty. 

Institutional Infrastructure

"The right infrastructure can be key factor in sustaining our diversity and inclusion efforts," McDonald said.

MU and UM System will seek private donors, corporate and foundation partners to support these efforts, as well as continue to develop multicultural alumni networks. 

McDonald explained they are developing an Inclusive Efforts Frameworks that will allow them to annually assess these efforts and transparently share progress. 

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