Nov. 11 Letter to Mizzou Ed Students

Dear Mizzou Ed Students,

I know you are experiencing so many emotions. Thank you for reaching out to me last night as you were seeking to understand what was occurring on our campus. Your fear for our community was real and your concern for our students was genuine.

I do want to thank our faculty and professional staff who made phone calls and reached out to students via email and social media to ensure their safety and offer support.

On Monday night during the action-planning meeting, 240 individuals generated brilliant ideas and solutions for the College of Education in relation to social justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. It was the most memorable night for me in my 12+ years at Mizzou. I left that meeting with such hope for our future. The ideas that were generated will be posted on the second floor of Townsend Hall for all to see this week (outside The Bridge in 220 Townsend).

At the end of the event on Monday night, two of our African-American Mizzou Ed students were escorted to the parking lot by a professional staff member. That walk was interrupted by verbal threats of racism. Fortunately, the professional staff member witnessed the event, wrote down the license plate number, and reported the information to MUPD. As I talked to one of the students involved in this incident, I felt great sadness that any of our students have to experience this reality.

During the event on Monday night, I shared a quote from one of our student leaders:

“Improving the climate here surrounding diversity wouldn’t just make this university for students from marginalized identities, it would make it a better learning environment for all of us. When it is clear that bigotry has no place in an institution, AND that diversity of all forms is VALUED, not just used to fill quotas or recruitment pamphlets, people who are against those values fall in line & improve their attitudes, or choose another place to get an education/work/play/eat/live etc. It is obvious that Mizzou is not there yet, and that our college has some work to do as well, so I will probably be unsettled internally until we get there.”

Mizzou Ed equips leaders to impact communities. We will need strong leadership from everyone in our Mizzou Ed community to help us “get there.” Many have reached out to me in the past 12 hours and offered to be escorts for our students of color. Those emails make me proud to work at Mizzou Ed. I will have discussions with others today about this idea.

Unfortunately, it is possible that the events of the last few days will lead to an increased likelihood of racist events directed toward people at MU. Last night I was following the situation regarding threats that were being delivered via social media. My understanding is that MUPD has taken someone into custody in connection with these threats, but it is possible that other incidents will occur. It is crucial that we all work to support the safety and welfare of all of those in the MU community. If you witness these types of incidents or have them directed at you, I encourage to immediately contact MUPD (you received an email about this yesterday). I also want to know about them. Here are possible ways that you can contact us.

If you feel safe and decide to come to campus today and want to talk to me, I will be in the Townsend Lobby from 1 to 3 p.m. today (November 11). The Bridge (220 Townsend Hall) is another space where you can talk with others who want to support you.

Combating incidents of racism and bigotry will require efforts among all of us in the Mizzou Ed community. Please extend support and empathy to all those in our community who are hurting.

Kathryn B. Chval, Ph.D.
Acting Dean and Professor, College of Education
University of Missouri
118 Hill Hall, Columbia, MO  65211