Cortlynn Stark, The Black Bear – With 100 new faculty coming to campus and higher student enrollment, diversity training is more important than ever.
Associate Provost for Diversity Gilbert Brown said he’s trying to find out the faculty’s previous experience with diversity. Brown said the first thing to do was a needs assessment.
“We’re trying to learn what’s been their prior experience with diversity before coming to Missouri state, what are the areas of strength relative to diversity that they bring to the table,” Brown said.
Currently, Brown is still looking at survey results from the needs assessment.
“One of the things that I think is really important is that we correctly understand what role the faculty play in creating a stronger welcoming community in the classroom for students,” Brown said.
The university maintains a commitment to diversity, according to MSU’s long range plan. It states that a diverse community is a stronger community and benefits students’ education.
According to Brown, the long range plan is comprehensive in understanding diversity and deals with race, LGBTQ students, veterans and women.
“The university’s policy is to make a welcome environment for all students,” Brown said.
Brown is planning several faculty workshops that deal with different aspects of diversity and align with the long range plan. He said he hopes to bring speakers to campus to address diversity issues as well.
According to Brown, some new faculty members bring previous experience with diversity with them. These faculty members could potentially lead some of the workshops.
Dissatisfaction with minority experiences at MSU sparked a number of protests around campus last year, making diversity a popular issue.
Students accused Assistant Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Juan Meraz of racial discrimination, particularly toward black students, and called to remove him from his position.
A group of students also presented a list of demands to university officials, like a zero tolerance hate crime policy and awareness of systematic racism, according to an article by the Springfield News-Leader.
“Last year, President Smart and his administration listened to students here on campus and I think that’s what they should do,” Brown said.
A renovated Multicultural Resource Center Annex was moved to the basement of Freudenberger House. Students named the center after Mary Jane Price Wells. In 1950, Walls was the first African American denied admission to MSU.
Brown said the black and white discord is the most important aspect of diversity.
“When you look at that reality, when you look at the reality of what’s been happening at other predominantly white universities, it’s the same issue,” Brown said. “It’s not that the other dimensions of diversity aren’t important but at the same time, we would be irresponsible if we did not recognize what the reality is.”
According to a March 2015 Interim Report from the Diversity Task Force, minority students face more challenges before even coming to college. However, the report says MSU is a diversity leader for Springfield.
“I think you can come here and get started in your degree here,” Brown said. “There’s some good resources here. At the same time, there’s some challenges here. I think that we need to go ahead and try and do everything we can to make students be successful.”