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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

After Review Finds No Racial Discrimination Against Him, MSU's Coopwood to Resign

Missouri State University

A Missouri State University administrator who was the subject of a recent investigation to determine if he had been discriminated against will resign.

Dr. Ken Coopwood will step down from his position as vice president of Diversity and Inclusion on April 30. The school says he is on leave until that time.

The announcement comes less than a week after the university released the results of an independent investigation finding no credible evidence of race discrimination against Coopwood. The investigation was prompted by an online petition noting such allegations.

In an interview with KSMU, President Clif Smart says both sides met after the investigation’s conclusion.

“It was a mutual decision that it was appropriate for him given those [investigation] findings that it was time for him to move forward and he initiated that interaction,” said Smart.

Smart said Coopwood was not asked to resign, but rather representatives from both sides determined this was the best path forward for the university.

“No one had to ask anybody to do anything. It ended up just that; when you have a significant issue with your boss you have to figure out how you move forward, and kind of this was everyone’s best resolution to that,” said Smart.

“I agreed to the investigation and actively participated in it,” Coopwood said in a statement. “I think that the investigative team took the matter seriously and conducted a thorough investigation. While I accept the investigation and its findings, I have decided it would be best for me to pursue other professional opportunities.”

KSMU reached out to Coopwood for comment but has not yet received a response.

In his statement, Coopwood continued that he appreciates the opportunity to work for Missouri State and is proud of the progress that the school has made during his time as vice president.

“There are many people at the university and throughout Springfield who are committed to ensuring that the Missouri State campus is known for being a place of inclusion, and I am confident that the good work will continue on campus and in the community after my departure,” he said.

Coopwood was hired as Missouri State’s first vice president of diversity and inclusion in October 2011. According to the school, Coopwood initiated the Statewide Collaborative Diversity Conference and was honored by INSIGHT Into Diversity in 2015 by receiving the Diversity Visionary Award. He also led the effort that culminated in Missouri State’s 2014 receipt of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award.

President Smart says before long an official will be appointed to fill Coopwood’s position in an interim capacity, likely between six to 18 months. The school will eventually conduct a nationwide search.

“We wanna have some time to evaluate the scope of the position and what its focus should be,” said Smart.

Coopwood is the school’s first black vice president. Smart says that while it’s likely that many applicants for this type of a position would come from diverse backgrounds MSU does not factor race into any hiring decision.

He said, “I think someone’s experience that they bring to the job is very important in whatever job they have. But no position at the university is determined based on ethnicity or race, and that’s equally true of this position.”

Smart maintains that despite Coopwood’s resignation, he wants the community to know that MSU is committed to making the school the most inclusive campus in the state, and that it is not devaluing diversity.

“I look at this as an opportunity that we continue to grow our diversity efforts and improve the campus climate. And anytime there’s a personnel change there’s always an opportunity to take a step up and I’m looking at this as an opportunity to increase our emphasis and focus on those issues at our university.” 

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