It was important that officials with the University of Missouri acted swiftly this week to show that racial hatred on campus won’t be tolerated. What a difference a year makes.
The university temporarily suspended the Delta Upsilon fraternity after a group of white students near the fraternity house Tuesday night shouted racial slurs at two female black students. Out of “concern about their safety,” they contacted other black students. The campus police also responded. That drew a crowd and more racial slurs, plus calls of “Mizzou PC,” which were shouted from windows of the fraternity house.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has made PC, or political correctness, a foul term. It’s not surprising that students on a campus with a history of racial problems would act on what they see taking place in the national political arena. But it also is good that the university acted to squash such racist behavior. Several investigations are underway, and the fraternity’s international governing body has placed the MU Delta Upsilon chapter on an emergency suspension.
Similar incidents erupted last September. Racial slurs were shouted at then-student body president Payton Head and in a separate situation at members of the Legion of Black Collegians, a long-standing campus organization, as they were preparing a float for the MU homecoming parade.
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But inaction from university officials at that time led to campus protests by Concerned Student 1950, including a tent encampment in the center of campus and a weeklong hunger strike by graduate student Jonathan Butler. MU’s black football players also threatened to boycott, which forced the resignations of the university system’s president and MU’s chancellor.
University officials learned the hard way last year that they must act promptly and decisively against hatred on campus. The problems damaged the university’s reputation and were partly responsible for a 5 percent enrollment decline this school year. Budget cuts and a hiring and wage freeze followed to offset the projected $30 million drop in revenue.
The university can ill-afford to have that occur again. Unfortunately, students coming from segregated communities throughout the state and nation bring their biases to campus and inflict them on others who are different.
But college is supposed to be a higher-learning environment, and not just in classrooms. Unleashed from parental restrictions, students learn — often with a lot of headaches and heartaches — that the freedom they have as young adults has to be accompanied by common-sense limits. That includes alcohol consumption, sexual relationships, and learning how to accept and welcome the racial and ethnic diversity on campus.
To foster that growth, the university recently put in place about $4.2 million to fund new diversity and inclusion initiatives. Efforts are underway to increase recruitment of minority faculty, add diversity and inclusion in curriculum on campus, and require cultural competency training.
No student goes to college to suffer abuse. They are there to learn, and MU officials must continue to do everything they can to make that possible.