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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

MSU Students Seek Accountability, Action to Climate Study Recommendations

Scott Harvey
/
KSMU
Monica Villa-Meza (right) addresses the MSU Board of Governors Friday.

Calling for better accountability and commitment to Missouri State University’s public affairs mission, a group of students has delivered recommendations to the Board of Governors on how to improve the school’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

The remarks by several minority students during the board’s public comment section Friday continues a dialog on the subject dating back months, and comes amid recently published concerns over treatment of MSU’s black vice president for Diversity and Inclusion.

Ravyn Brooks is a junior sociology major and one of seven students who in mid-November co-authored a list of demands to school administrators on racial issues (This was the university’s response on Dec. 1). In her address to the board Friday, she referenced various university policies related to non-discrimination and harassment that she and others feel are not being adequately implemented.  

“While I commend the university on these policies created I fail to believe they are being adequately applied as minority students on this campus,” Brooks said.

The students also noted the school’s Campus and Community Climate Study, a 19-month long project unveiled in March in order to address concerns, issues, and problems for culturally diverse and minority students, faculty, administrators and staff. Students like Xavier Torres-Ghoston, a senior pursuing a degree in communications, said Friday that steps to address the report’s recommendations have not been taken.

Referencing the study, Ghoston said accountability improvements should include making people of color more visible on campus through, for example, a diversity council.

Credit Scott Harvey / KSMU
/
KSMU
Xavier Torres-Ghoston (center) speaks to the board Friday.

“Do to underrepresentation, students and staff of color can and do suffer from an invisibility that only limits our impact on this campus but neglects our individual needs,” explained Ghoston. “In order to combat this limitation on power and presence, the university should install the diversity council in accordance with the climate study.”  

He also mentioned the study’s call for the establishment of a living-learning community for students of color and low income students. Additionally, Ghoston said MSU needs to institute a hate speech policy.

“No professor should ask the question why don’t African Americans vote and the majority white class heckles ‘because they’re lazy they don’t care.’ These are encounters no one should face at a University who upholds the pillar of Cultural Competence.”

Other student speakers asked why the TRIO program that offers tutoring and academic advising can’t be expanded, for a restructuring of the Jumpstart Program for incoming students, and a reevaluation of budgeting in Multicultural Programs and diversity initiatives.

Adekemi Omoloja, a junior Cellular Molecular Biology major from Nigeria, said, “The Climate Study itself states there is a tendency for universities to take no action. However, ignoring such a wealth of information is to ignore the reality that an increase in enrollment of underrepresented student groups is not the same as guaranteeing educational equity for those students.”

Monica Villa-Meza said the university needs to re-evaluate its hiring process and it should include students. She said that as a Latina, she has witnessed breakdowns in communication amongst students, staff, and administration.

While I commend the university on these policies created I fail to believe they are being adequately applied as minority students on this campus - Ravyn Brooks

She spoke of racial tension and a lack of unity, citing criticism of Juan Meraz, assistant vice president of Multicultural Services. In its list of demands document issued in November, Meraz is alleged to have neglected multicultural students.

“The broken relationships and cultural incompetence within the Latino community is simply a microcosm for a glorified, but unfulfilled public affairs mission,” said Villa-Meza.

MSU’s public affairs mission has three pillars; ethical leadership, cultural competence and community engagement.  

Per Board of Governor policy, the chair can allow time for public comment on agenda items prior to final action being taken on any such item. Members are not to engage individual speakers in dialogue nor ask or answer questions during the presentation.

Steve Hoven, board chair, commended the students for their efforts. He said that MSU has many diversity initiatives embedded in its annual goals and long-range planning.

“We review these goals each year to determine whether they have been successful and how we might improve them or whether they need to be replaced. I think your comments will help us very much in moving forward,” Hoven said.  

He cited a unified Board of Governors committed to improving diversity and inclusion efforts, and encouraged the students to remain involved in the process. Hoven also thanked President Clif Smart for his leadership on this issue.  

Smart said many of the issues referenced Friday are currently being reviewed and those discussions are expected to continue during meetings next week.

Dr. Pauline Nugent, a professor of Biblical Languages, thanked the students for their articulate message and encouraged a conciliatory approach.

“Because you’re doing something hugely and historically important for this part of the world, so I want to encourage you to work cooperatively with the university and see what we can all do together,” Nugent said.

Copies of the student statements provided to KSMU by Ravyn Brooks can be viewed below:

Ravyn Brooks

Xavier Torres-Ghoston

Adekemi Omoloja

Monica Villa-Meza

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