Racial tensions flared once again on the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus Wednesday, nearly a year after protests put the school in the national spotlight and toppled top administrators.
The latest trouble began, according to MU’s Legion of Black Collegians student organization, when a group of white students hurled racial slurs at two black students as they crossed paths in front of a fraternity house late Tuesday. That incident drew a crowd, police and allegedly more racial slurs shouted from the windows of the fraternity house.
The fraternity, Delta Upsilon, was placed on emergency suspension Wednesday by its international governing body as fraternity and university officials sought to learn exactly what happened.
“Quite frankly, we are sick of this,” the Legion of Black Collegians said in a statement. “Any student that selects to intentionally use hate speech on a campus that pushes the morals of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘diversity’ does not belong, and their presence continues to foster the apparent dichotomy amongst black and white students. ... Enough is enough.”
Late Wednesday afternoon, a town hall meeting hosted by the Legion of Black Collegians at the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center was closed to media but appeared to be well attended by both black and white students.
The executive director of the Delta Upsilon fraternity’s governing body, Justin Kirk, issued a statement announcing the Columbia chapter’s suspension, posted to the fraternity’s website.
“Delta Upsilon International Fraternity is aware of a verbal altercation that took place in front of our chapter at the University of Missouri on Tuesday evening, Sept. 27,” the statement read in part. “We have placed the chapter on an emergency suspension as we work closely with the university to learn more about the incident. Racism and sexism have no place in our Fraternity and we expect our members to be positive contributors to inclusive campus environments.”
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said he was “outraged and saddened” to hear about the incident.
“We have zero tolerance for actions like this; if any student is found in violation of the Student Code and/or the university’s nondiscrimination policies, they will be subject to discipline, up to and including suspension and/or expulsion.”
MU police have identified the students involved in the incident. The MU Office of Student Conduct and the Office of Civil Rights & Title IX “are taking appropriate action,” the university statement said.
MU’s student government on Wednesday posted a statement online saying members were “disappointed” at the “acts of hate, discrimination and ignorance.”
“We call on the University of Missouri administration to make sure that the individuals involved in this situation are held accountable and sanctioned accordingly,” the statement read in part.
A similar incident occurred last September, when the N-word was hurled at then student body president Payton Head — he has since graduated — and in a separate incident the same racial slur was used toward members of the Legion of Black Collegians as they prepared a float for the campus homecoming parade.
Those racially charged incidents sparked a series of campus protests last November led by a predominantly black student group, Concerned Student 1950. A tent encampment was erected in the center of campus as a protest against racism and systemic oppression of minority groups on campus. Graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a week-long hunger strike, and Mizzou football players threatened to boycott a game unless campus leaders stepped down. Ultimately, the university system president and MU’s chancellor resigned.
The problems last November at MU hurt the university’s reputation and were partly responsible for a 5 percent enrollment decline this fall.
Two weeks ago, MU leaders invited media on campus to spread the word about $4.2 million they will spend to fund new diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Campus leaders talked about mandatory cultural competency training for incoming freshmen and faculty, beefing up recruitment of minority faculty and infusing diversity and inclusion issues into the campus curriculum.
In Wednesday’s statement, Foley said, “As we have stated, it is a new day on campus and we take our core values of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence seriously.”
But some faculty have warned university officials this year not to begin patting themselves on the back just yet about accomplishments with regard to quelling racial tensions, because the campus still has a long way to go.
The Star’s Jason Hancock contributed to this report.