With the recent student protests at University of Missouri, Capital students and faculty are acknowledging the power of a collective student voice.
While racial tension has always existed on Missouri’s predominately white campus, students recently held a string of protests insisting that the current administration is far too complacent with the continued racist incidents on campus.
One of the racist acts that drew attention was a swastika drawn on a dorm bathroom mirror in human feces.
The protest that has grabbed the attention of thousands was graduate student Jonathon Butler’s hunger strike to challenge the Missouri’s president, Tim Wolfe, to step down from his position.
In just days, his protest exploded all across the Missouri’s Columbia campus. Students and faculty who believed that these changes needed to happen backed Butler’s efforts, with students skipping classes to protest on campus lawns and faculty threatening walkouts. One of the final pieces that unified the different corners of the campus protest was the threat of over 30 predominantly black football players refusing to play until Wolfe was removed from his position.
On Nov. 9, Wolfe stepped down from his position as president. Missouri’s chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, followed suit, announcing that he will step down from his position at the end of the year. Loftin will be taking another lower position at the university in an attempt to better understand these problems of racism on Missouri’s campuses.
The evident power of this student protest has sparked a significant conversation in the world of higher academia, and Capital’s campus is not immune.
“[The University of Missouri protests] surely represents the importance and the voice and the power of students to make positive change,” Denvy Bowman, president of Capital, said.
Bowman also discussed the way that the president, while at fault, still made his resignation tastefully.
“In saying it was his [the president’s] fault, instead of pointing fingers in other directions and saying other people were … he wanted to take the responsibility to that others could come in and be more robust in their efforts to make sure that everyone was invited and felt like they belonged and were safe in that academic community.”
Almar Walter, director of Capital’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, thinks that this is just the beginning of a wave of changes that will happen at Missouri.
“There were several attempts to have some meaningful discourse in a way that I think students in the community were urging for. I think the right thing to do was to address it in a meaningful way. But, seeing as how it was not addressed … I understand why they felt it was necessary to make those choices … The solution to the underlying symptoms … remains to be seen.”
While Capital’s administration and student body have made strides to fight racism on our own campus, it has not been eliminated.
“I think the genuine, honest answer is that there are times in our community where our students have unfortunate experiences … but I am happy that that doesn’t represent a large amount [of student experiences],” Walter said.
Capital’s administration has spent a lot time and effort into ensuring that campus is a safe space for students who come from diverse backgrounds.
“There are acts of racism and prejudice on our campus. But we try to take each allegation … as seriously as possible,” Bowman said. “We investigate—and we also try to teach—but it seems like there’s always room for progress there.”
Though there are some serious shifts being made to change the campus dynamics of Capital.
“When you look at our demographics … in terms of diversity, I think Capital continues to show, with data, that we are making strides,” Walter said.
Bowman elaborated further on this specific data.
“[When I first arrived on campus] we had a diverse population of only about 12 percent of our students … and our first-year class this year was 26 percent. That’s over a 100 percent increase. We’re delighted by that because we think one of the best ways to educate is to enhance our outreach to people of diverse backgrounds.”
More than just faculty had something to say about the Missouri protest and Capital’s own racial environment
“When you have a group of African Americans that are willing to give up what they love—like football—just to stop racism … that should turn a lot of heads,” said Javon Law, football player for the Crusaders.
The Missouri student protest is a major historical event that could change student attitudes about the power they have to make changes to campus. While it is still too early to tell exactly what final outcome the Missouri student protest will yield, students across the nation know that if they become united in stopping injustice on their campus, significant change is possible.