What Went Wrong at the University of Missouri and How to Avoid Similar Campus Crises

A recent report from the American Council on Education has examined what led to the University of Missouri’s 2015-2016 racial crisis and how the institution responded to what happened in the ensuing period. The report also offers recommendations to college and university leaders who strive to create and maintain a positive racial climate on their campuses.

For their report, the researchers conducted interviews with University of Missouri students, faculty, staff, and community members. They also analyzed previous research on diversity, inclusion, campus racial climate, crisis response, and institutional leadership. The report shows the steps Missouri’s current leaders have taken since the race-related protests to provide a diverse and inclusive environment. The authors also provide a template for other campus leaders who are facing similar problems and explore the best methods for dealing with trauma regarding such incidents.

The authors outlined several key takeaways from their research including that campus leaders should be aware of the historical legacy of race and racism on campus, demonstrate long-term commitments to issues of diversity and inclusion, acknowledge racism, hatred, microaggressions, and pain when they occur, and engage in active listening, speaking, and connecting with their community immediately after a race-related incident occurs on campus.

“Building trust requires continuous learning around diversity issues,” said Sharon Fries-Britt, a professor of higher education at the University of Maryland and a co-leader of the research project. “This research is designed to help people evaluate their own campuses and whether they have been ignoring signals of concern. There is no recipe for addressing conflicts around racial issues. Leaders need to be willing to be vulnerable and wrong, as opposed to simply looking for an immediate solution to complex diversity issues and their related trauma.”

The full report, Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate, may be downloaded by clicking here.

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