Report Notes Progress on Diversity and Inclusion at Missouri

June 23, 2020

The American Council on Education released its second evaluation report of the University of Missouri’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, which found that the university made significant strides in addressing issues of race on campus over the last five years but must do more to regain the trust of people of color. The report is part of an ongoing study of how the university has recovered from a 2015 “racial crisis” that occurred on the Columbia, Mo., campus and led to the resignation of several senior leaders.

Researchers evaluated the university in February 2019 through interviews with administrators, students, faculty members and local residents and reviews of policy and hiring changes. They characterized Missouri’s “capacity to effectively respond to diversity, equity and inclusion issues such as racial unrest” as “moderate,” noting that the university is still working to build trust with people of color on campus and in local communities, according to the report released Monday. The evaluation was led by Adrianna Kezar, professor of higher education administration at the University of Southern California, and Sharon Fries-Britt, professor of higher education at the University of Maryland, College Park.

ACE’s first evaluation of Missouri’s racial climate in 2017 said the university had “low” diversity, equity and inclusion capacity due to lack of a plan for and understanding of racial issues and the “tense campus climate” that followed the events in 2015.

The latest report said that members of the campus and surrounding community believe university leaders show they are committed to diversity and inclusion and “would have the skills and abilities to address the crisis effectively and in a way that would be responsive to community concerns.” However, researchers also identified the different perspectives faculty members and students of color have of the university’s progress.

“These individuals were vigilant and believed that the campus was still fragile and could move backward, denying the institutional racism that they fought so hard to make visible,” the report said. “White faculty, staff, administrators, and students were much more likely to describe improvements on campus, to perceive progress, and to feel that a stable state of racial ‘harmony’ was perhaps not imminent but possible.”

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