A campus racial crisis is a time of significant scrutiny for institutional leadership. In these moments, the campus community, whether they be students, faculty, staff, or alumni, look to their leaders to see whether and how they model competence, empathy, and stability for the campus. Developing effective strategies for navigating a racial incident is difficult. The way in which leaders rebuild and provide direction to restore a commitment to diversity and inclusion matters. Rebuilding the campus community requires commitment, significant organizational and leadership effectiveness, and strategies to restore trust and stability.
The University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Missouri System serve as the case site for Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate, having experienced a highly visible racial crisis in the 2015–16 academic year. The university’s openness to being studied provides a unique opportunity for the nation to learn important lessons about the recovery process on college campuses following a racial crisis. Thus, project co-leads Adrianna Kezar (USC) and Sharon Fries-Britt (University of Maryland) sought three key outcomes from this work: first, to understand what led up to the crisis; second, to understand perceptions of leadership during the crisis in 2015; and third, to understand what it has taken for the University of Missouri to move forward after the crisis. The lessons and insights that they have learned from the initial stages of this case study are the focus of this report.