Institutional inclusion and diversity efforts can stretch far beyond a campus’s borders–that was a key takeaway from an event held at ACE on Nov. 29, which is now available for viewing, focusing on lessons learned from the racial crisis at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS) hosted the convening, “Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Navigating a Campus Racial Crisis.” The event featured findings from a research report exploring how the University of Missouri responded to the 2015 events on its campus and offered recommendations for other university leaders who strive to create and maintain a positive racial climate before, during, and after a crisis.
Participants in the discussion were:
- Philip Rogers, ACE’s senior vice president
- Lorelle Espinosa, ACE’s vice president for research
- Sharon Fries-Britt, professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, College Park
- Alexander N. Cartwright, University of Missouri chancellor
- Kevin McDonald, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the University of Missouri System and vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity at the University of Missouri
The event was a follow-up to the release of ACE’s report, Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate, which was co-authored by Fries-Britt and Adrianna Kezar, of the University of Southern California.
After Fries-Britt presented the findings, she joined Cartwright and McDonald for a panel discussion about lessons learned and best practices, moderated by Espinosa.
Cartwright recognized the inherent challenges facing his administration when he arrived on campus 16 months ago but gave credit to McDonald and other leaders for helping engage the university in a collaborative approach that extended beyond the institution’s borders.
“There are always challenges on every campus. The question is, how do you engage everybody? It was really opening up the communication across the campus, every constituency. And we went back to our core values: respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence,” said Cartwright.
McDonald and Fries-Britt focused on how important it is to recognize emotions that often follow a racial crisis—anger, fear, distrust—and to address those emotions before moving on to devising solutions to the crisis.
“We roll up our sleeves and work with these students. Are our actions matching our rhetoric? How are you receiving what we’re doing? Students will tell us what they like and don’t like. Acknowledge the points of affirmation and points for opportunity. You take it and be the sponge. We want them to be open, but we have to be as well,” said McDonald.
Since 2015, the University of Missouri has undergone an institutional transformation that includes the hiring of McDonald and the creation of a university-wide plan to improve compositional diversity and the learning, living, and working environment. A new required course introduces all new students to the values and culture at the university, and underrepresented minority faculty grew by more than 14 percent. In 2018, the freshman class rose by 13 percent from the year prior, showing a return of students from throughout the state, from both urban and rural areas.
Click here to watch the recorded livestream of the event.