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University plans fair, consistent response to petition

Monday, February 1, 2016

Carrington HallMissouri State University recently received a petition from the Springfield Coalition for Minority Advancement publicly requesting the removal of a staff member within the division of student affairs.

The university has operating policies to ensure fair and consistent actions in all situations. These policies outline formal processes within the university to handle specific complaints and the outcomes. Special interest groups dictate neither the processes nor the outcomes.

A complaint of discrimination and harassment was filed with Missouri State’s office of institutional equity and compliance (OIEC) in November with several amendments made in December by the complainant.

An initial review, which was jointly led by Wes Pratt, former director of the OIEC, and Melissa Berry, current interim director for the OIEC, has been completed. Berry made herself available over the last week to discuss the results with the complainant. A formal investigation can be initiated by the complainant should he/she wish to proceed to the next stage of the process. See section 3.0 Specific Complaint Procedures.

A group of students presented concerns and suggestions regarding diversity issues at the December Board of Governors meeting. Many align with university programs already in progress. Recent activities that align with the student suggestions are noted below.

  • Wes Pratt was named Missouri State’s assistant to the president/chief diversity officer. O. Gilbert Brown was appointed associate provost for diversity. Pratt is serving as head of the office of diversity and inclusion, which oversees efforts to enhance the diversity of our campus and to build an inclusive community in the greater Springfield area. These efforts include planning and hosting the annual Statewide Collaborative Diversity Conference, conducting external relations, coordination with affinity groups, managing the Campus Climate Study and many other initiatives. Brown is focusing on the recruitment and retention of diverse faculty and assisting academic units achieve their diversity goals. Their appointments are for 18 months. A national search for a new vice president for diversity and inclusion will be initiated in fall 2016.
  • As previously requested by students, a President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion – comprised of current students, former students, faculty, staff and members of the community – has been created and will advise the administration on diversity and inclusion initiatives and programs. The university believes this structure will enable attention and resources to flow more efficiently to the university’s diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives. Their first charge is to work with the Long-Range Plan steering committee to ensure goals and objectives for diversity meet the needs and standards of the university.
  • TaJuan Wilson was appointed as interim director of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) during the transition of hiring a new leader for that area. Francine Pratt, who left the university and Springfield this fall to care for her father in California, formerly held this position. An informal meeting for student input related to the director’s duties was held on Jan. 29. Approximately 20 students participated in this forum.
  • Charlotte Hardin, assistant vice president for multicultural programs and student diversity emeritus, has returned to work in the MRC this spring. Hardin was instrumental in creating the initial multicultural center and will provide additional support to students during the search for a new director.
  • The Multicultural Resource Center Annex is expected to be completed in mid-March. This new space will complement the current MRC located in the Plaster Student Union and provide additional meeting and programming space for students. Several meetings have been held with students to discuss desired programming, space usage and staffing. Additionally, students have been asked to participate in the naming of the center.
  • The dean of students office is putting together a bias response team (BRT) comprised of students, faculty and staff. The team is to be a resource to members of the university community who have a concern about perceived bias-related situations, concerns and/or complaints and to coordinate an appropriate response. The BRT will provide an organized and coordinated method of assessment of the severity of an incident or situation affecting the university community. The BRT determines the need to refer the incident to the appropriate university official or committee. Any BRT response will be educational at its core. Voluntary interventions may include a variety of activities including discussion, mediation, training, counseling and consensus building. The BRT will not seek to discipline individuals for expression of views protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Because Missouri State values diversity and inclusion, it will provide educational opportunities for those engaging in speech contrary to those values and support to those affected by it.
  • Lori Patton Davis, associate profession in higher education at Indiana University, will visit Missouri State Feb. 17-20. She is a national expert in cultural centers and will serve as a consultant to the university. During her visit, she will host several meetings with students to gather input.
  • The Campus Climate Study teams are completing their review of the study and are preparing reports to be completed in mid-February.

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