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Students And Advocates Rally For MU Social Justice Centers

Rebecca Smith

This story has been updated with audio and additional quotes. 

A group of more than 100 MU students, faculty and advocates gathered this morning at MU's Traditions Plaza to protest a planned restructuring of key campus social justice organizations.

Campus centers affected by the changes are reported to be the five organizations in the social justice department on campus - including MU's Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center, the Multicultural Center (MCC), and the Women's Center. 

While reports surfaced on social media saying that staff and director positions of the organizations would be elminated under the changes, MU spokesperson Christian Basi declined to deny firings when contacted Sunday night by KBIA. Instead Basi said, "The university is committed to maintaining these centers and we are going through a restructuring plan that changes the positions."

Basi declined to comment further after repeated questions from KBIA about the details of the restucturing, further adding, "There's going to be more resources, and there's going to be a larger budget for these centers."

Basi told KBIA there would be no announcements any time "in the near future" about the restructuring, and declined to give specifics on any new resouces or staff changes at the centers. 

The online reports have sparked an outcry on social media from current and former students, including 2015 Concerned Student 1950 protest leader Payton Head, who has since his time at MU become a national speaker on social justice issues. He took to Twitter, writing: "This is disgusting... @Mizzou has been strategically removing anyone with institutional memory of Fall 2015 and it's blatantly obvious. The wild part is that memory is actually the school's saving grace. I feel sick to my stomach ..."

After gathering at Traditions Plaza this morning, the group of demonstrators moved together to the steps of Jesse Hall, where several students shared their experiences with the centers and the importance of the support they provide. One student shared the support they received from the RSVP Center after experiencing a sexual assault. 

No official MU statement has been released at this time. Dr.  B. Sherrance Russell, assistant vice chancellor for student diversity initiatives, was in attendance at the gathering, and when approached by KBIA declined to comment. 

Maurice Gipson, MU's Vice Chancellor of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity, said in an email to the university Monday afternoon that more details would be forthcoming after meetings with student groups and staff. He reiterated the university’s commitment to the social justice centers.