The University of Missouri has made moderate progress in improving diversity, equity and inclusion since its 2015-16 racial crisis, but must continue to address trauma and tensions on the campus, according to a new report by the American Council on Education (ACE) co-written by a University of Maryland professor.
The multiyear project, a collaboration between the University of Missouri and ACE, cited gains made through new programs, communication and community-building efforts, following research informed by documents and reports, field expertise, focus groups and interviews with 64 university leaders and stakeholders.
However, the campus community appears split on the university’s progress since a series of campus racial incidents that its leadership did not address promptly and thoughtfully. For instance, campus opinion ranged from moving on to avoid immortalizing the crisis to marking it as a milestone in the fight against institutional racism.
“Because of the fractured perspectives and the longstanding emotions what we also found is that they weren’t any longer in a trauma situation per se, but there were still these emotions that people had and they were shaped by the fragmented views and tensions,” said report co-author Sharon Fries-Britt, a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education at the UMD College of Education.
The report suggests that such differing views create the need for “weaver-leaders,” adept communicators who can engage all segments of the campus community and advance dialogue through shared expectations of both positive and negative experiences.
Ultimately, the University of Missouri—and higher education in general—still face challenges in improving the climate for diversity, equity and inclusion. The report provides guidance to university leaders on leading during and after a crisis, particularly related to racial injustice, as well as on building an inclusive campus culture.
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