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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

No Evidence to Support Discrimination Against Vice President, Investigation Finds

Missouri State University

An independent review has found no evidence to support allegations of race-based discrimination against Dr. Ken Coopwood, Missouri State University’s vice president of Diversity and Inclusion.

The school issued a statement and executive summary concerning the investigation on Thursday, a day after the full report was shared with the MSU Board of Governors.

Coopwood, who is black, was hired on Oct. 1, 2011. Summary findings compared the vice president’s salary to that of his counterparts at other schools, changes to the operating budget for the Diversity and Inclusion office and recent changes in Coopwood’s responsibilities.

The investigation aimed to determine if Dr. Coopwood had been discriminated against because of his race in connection with his employment and to identify remedial measures, if necessary. The allegations came to light following a petition posted at by Du’Sean Howard to “call attention to the gross and racist treatment being hurled at Dr. Ken Coopwood.” The Board of Governors later hired an outside investigator.  

The investigation summary document states that 38 individuals, both MSU employees and community members, were interviewed between Dec. 8 and Dec. 23. Each interview ranged in time from 30 minutes to 4 hours. The university noted certain demographical for the persons interviewed, but declined to share names, citing this being a personnel issue. It does state that Howard, the petition author, was one of several individuals who were asked to be interviewed and declined. According to MSU, university policy in this instance also prevents sharing of internal complaints.

The school says it produced thousands of pages of documents for the investigation, including the petition, Dr. Coopwood’s personnel file, salary figures, audits, and documents provided by the vice president himself. The summary can be found here.

“Our investigators interviewed 38 individuals on and off campus and we are confident that they were both thorough and impartial in their pursuit of the facts in this case,” said MSU Board Chairman Stephen Hoven in a statement. “We are extremely pleased with the manner with which the allegations were investigated. The bottom line is that the report does not find evidence to support claims of discrimination and we are absolutely confident that this conclusion is accurate. We fully support President Smart’s leadership with respect to issues of diversity and inclusion at Missouri State and reiterate our desire to see the university continue to make progress toward achieving those critical goals.” 

Missouri State President Clif Smart said, “I fully welcomed this investigation and believe in the need to be transparent. I am pleased that the report supports our assertions that Missouri State strives to be a diverse and inclusive campus.”

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