On Monday, the University of Missouri said it would implement a diversity initiative, following the resignation of the university president and chancellor in light of student protests against campus racism and white supremacy.
These new initiatives, which incorporate demands made by the Legion of Black Collegians, the Black students at Mizzou, come 46 years after Black students made similar demands that the institution ignored. The question that arises is whether this diversity plan at the University of Missouri will amount to real reform of a white supremacist system of education, or will serve merely as a band-aid on cancer. As the Huffington Post reported, the university will hire a diversity officer, increase training and expand mental health services.
“The board of curators will not tolerate hateful activities on our campuses — period,” said Donald Cupps, chair of the university Board of Curators, in a statement. “We are taking additional measures beginning today to ensure that our campuses are free of acts of hatred, so that our campuses all embody a culture of respect.”
The immediate measures, which include many of the demands of the #ConcernedStudents1950, named after the year the first Black student was admitted to Mizzou, include:
- A Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer;
- A full review of MU policies regarding staff and student conduct;
- Additional support for students, faculty and staff who have experienced disparate treatment
- Additional support for hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff.
In addition, the board announced next steps that will invite input from across the university system, including a diversity, inclusion and equity task force and campus-based task forces, a Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer at each MU campus, and a diversity, inclusion and equity leadership training and development education program. The board also announced mandatory diversity training for all faculty, staff and incoming students, a comprehensive review of mental health services, and a process to identify external diversity consultants to conduct a comprehensive assessment of diversity and inclusion efforts on campus.
In 1969, the Legion of Black Collegians presented a list of demands to the MU chancellor, which included, among other things, a Black studies program, a Black student culture center, promotion of Black staff, and scholarships for Black students. In 2005, the Black students submitted yet another, updated list of the 1969 demands, including turning the Black Studies program into a fully-accredited major, an increase in minority scholarships and the number of Black students, faculty and staff, reparations for funds taken away from the Black student group, and dedication of a campus building to a Black leader.
Diversity efforts have come under fire for their role as window dressing, and their failure to address systemic racism. Predominantly white colleges and universities are existing to serve the interests of whites at the exclusion of people of color. According to a Georgetown University study, white students are 75 percent of the top three tiers of the most selective colleges in America. In addition, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 84 percent of full professors and 78 percent of full-time faculty in the U.S. are white, while only 6 percent of faculty members are Black. Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of college presidents are white, according to the American Council on Education. And while over half of the football players are African-American, 87 percent of the head coaches are white.
Meanwhile, the University of Missouri must deal not only with systemic discrimination and institutional racism, but a climate of terror against students of color, as Black students receive death threats and live in fear, and the governor has failed to call for a state of emergency. On Wednesday, University of Missouri police apprehended a suspect who allegedly posted threats to the campus on social media.
— blackHAZE (@Zaaaym_SheBLACK) November 11, 2015
Death threats are being made to Black students and NO ADMINISTRATORS are responding effectively.
— JB. (@_JonathanButler) November 11, 2015
— MariaChappelleNadal (@MariaChappelleN) November 11, 2015
I am not trying to be sensational but if the threat was to kill all of the jews on campus wouldn’t we be calling this terrorism? #Mizzou
— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) November 11, 2015
— Lara Haft (@badpriestess) November 11, 2015