Missouri to require all freshmen to undergo diversity training

By Eric Adler

The Kansas City Star


KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The University of Missouri, which this week removed a student from its Columbia campus for shouting “the ‘N’ word” and other racial slurs at members of a black student group practicing for homecoming, announced Thursday that, as of January, all new entering freshmen will be required to undergo diversity training.

The training, to be conducted online, will eventually become mandatory for all faculty, staff and other students.

“As you know, a few individuals have tried to harass and intimidate our students using racial slurs over the past few weeks…,” MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin wrote Thursday in an online letter to students, faculty and others. “As a community, we must live by our values of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence.”

In a previous posting, he wrote that racism “and all prejudice is heinous, insidious and damaging to Mizzou. It hurts students’ education and experience including their mental health and academic achievement. That is why all of us must commit to changing the culture at this university.”

University spokesman Christian Basi said Loftin was out of town when members of the Legion of Black Collegians Royalty Court were accosted by an inebriated student who began shouting racial slurs at members of the group. The incident occurred shortly early Sunday morning, shortly after midnight, when members of the Legion of Black Collegians were practicing for homecoming.

Notified of the incident, Loftin recorded an angry video from his hotel room condemning the actions.

“It’s happened again!…It’s enough. Let’s stop this,” Loftin said in the recording. “Let’s end racism and hatred at Mizzou…”

The event came less than a month after Missouri Students Association President Payton Head, who is black, was similarly verbally assaulted on campus, prompting an impassioned response on Facebook describing his experience and calling on his classmates to fight injustice.

“I just want to say how extremely hurt and disappointed I am,” he wrote in mid-September. “Last night as I walking through campus, some guys riding on the back of a pickup truck decided that it would be okay to continuously scream (the N word) at me. I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society. For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here. …”

He continued with a plea.

“Educate yourselves and others,” he wrote. “Hold your family, friends, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters accountable. And if this post made you feel uncomfortable, GOOD! That means I’m doing my job. It’s time to wake up Mizzou.”

Basi said that the university had already been working for several months to create new diversity training when the weekend incident occurred.

“What I can tell you is it was the right time to make this announcement today,” Basi said.

The training will first be mandated for new students coming to Missouri in January. That experience, Basi said, will allow the university to assess what adjustments the program might require in time for the 6,200 or so freshmen who will enroll in the fall of 2016.

“Eventually, every student will be trained,” Basi said. A separate program is being developed for faculty and staff.

In August, MU reacted to the fomenting, national issue of sexual assault on college campuses by requiring all 2015 incoming freshman to take online sexual discrimination training. Other students were encouraged to take the training, but are not required.

About 18 months ago, Basi said, the university took its one part-time Title IX officer, charged with investigating complaints regarding sexual discrimination, harassment and assault, and made the position full-time. The university, he said, also now has a team of four Title IX investigators.

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