Navigating a Racial Crisis: Lessons Learned From University of Missouri
June 22, 2020

ACE's second report on recovering from the 2015 racial crisis at the University of Missouri–Columbia explores how the institution has been successful in increasing its capacity for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) over the last five years, and how the campus community has responded. Leaders at all campuses can learn from the report's frameworks to address DEI capacity and put its lessons into action as students, faculty, administrators, and staff reckon with issues of racial justice and institutional histories with race and racism.

Leading After a Racial Crisis: Weaving a Campus Tapestry of Diversity and Inclusion," details what researchers found when they returned to the University of Missouri to see the progress since the first ACE report, published in 2018. This latest report was spearheaded by ACE's Vice President for Research Lorelle Espinosa and co-authored by Adrianna Kezar of the University of Southern California, and Sharon Fries-Britt of the University of Maryland, College Park. 

The report documents the activities that have helped Missouri make progress, including its Inclusive Excellence Framework, leadership training, and resource investment in DEI work at all four University of Missouri campuses, in addition to engagement with the local community. These improvements have upgraded the university's assessed capacity to effectively respond to diversity, equity, and inclusion issues such as racial unrest from “low" in 2015 to “moderate" as of 2019.

As is the case for universities across the country, challenges remain. The university community members at once praise the direction, are fatigued by it, and continue to expect greater progress. This fragmentation of perspectives, tensions, and emotions is not unique, as many others are also working to recover from racial crises.

With this in mind, the authors present what they term the “Weaver Leader" framework—identified as leaders who are able to engage with different parties, connect them, and help to bring together ideas, beliefs, activities, and feelings. These individuals are focused on communicating, relationship building, and setting expectations. The “tapestry" that campus weavers create can “add texture from all segments of the campus community to weave an authentic and truthful story that represents both positive and negative experiences, while finding the strength and beauty in the unique pattern that emerges."

The authors conclude that now is the time for institutions to work on addressing racial climate, before a crisis occurs.

Read the full paper here.