The University of Missouri has been in the news lately for the wrong and right reasons. The University president and the chancellor of the Columbia campus did not exercise good leadership and have been forced to resign. Much of the campus, led by a group of protesters, has dealt with challenges of racism here in an honorable way, albeit with some lapses. The football team, supported by their head coach, threatened not to play unless the president resigned.
Although most of the national media attention focused on the president for his handling of issues of racism, locally there was even more attention on the chancellor. There was a list of complaints about him in addition to his handling of racism on campus. This prompted two departments to vote no confidence in him and nine deans to urge his resignation.
On a less significant level, Missouri was in the news because our starting quarterback was suspended for the season. Our football coach has been a model of integrity, refusing to overlook the quarterback’s transgressions while steadfastly maintaining confidentiality about the matter.
Our campus leaders have said that racism “would not be tolerated.” Would that we could banish it so easily. It is like a virulent but often subtle cancer that affects us all.
I think that the revolution in Missouri generally has been a healthy development. But it addresses only a small part of a difficult, complex set of problems and we have a long way to go. Although we have gotten a lot of press lately, I think that the issues here are symptomatic of problems in campuses around the country and society generally.
Update: My colleague (and member of our DR Center), Chuck Henson, was just named as interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity. Chuck is a very talented, sensitive, and caring guy and I think that this should help things move in a good direction. Although the immediate crisis has ended, I’m sure that many difficult challenges are ahead. Best wishes to you, Chuck, and thanks for taking on this responsibility.
Second update: My colleague, Michael Middleton, was appointed as interim president. He was a civil rights attorney before joining our law faculty. He served as deputy chancellor for many years where one of his duties was to supervise our Campus Mediation Service.