Monday, April 26, 2021
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Students and Faculty Talk Race at UMKC

Students and faculty met Tuesday outside of Jazzman’s Café to discuss the resignation of former UM President Tim Wolfe and the racial climate on UMKC’s campus.

 

Initially a small discussion between English Professors, the meeting soon ballooned into an event with faculty, students and alumni from all departments.

 

Susan Wilson, the Vice Chancellor of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, expressed a desire to learn what needs weren’t being met at UMKC.

 

“I’m most interested in is hearing students and faculty about . . . the things that need to be done,” Wilson said. “What are the things that need to be addressed? When we know those things, we can do better than we’re doing now. I’m not one who’s going to stand here and say we have everything right all the time.”

 

A common idea expressed was that the cultural atmospheres at UMKC and Mizzou are very different and lend themselves to different kinds of racism.

 

“It’s more about the subtleties,” said UMKC student Cordell Pulluaim. “Here at UMKC, I’ve never had anybody call me the N-word. I’ve never had anybody outwardly disrespect me because of my race. And I think because we don’t have those issues here, people think we don’t have racism at all.”

 

“I can’t say that I’ve been called to my face an N-word or someone’s Mammy, but I will say this: there has been plenty of undertones of racist beliefs on this campus,” UMKC Student Ruth Jones said.

 

Pulluaim brought up the anonymous social media app Yik Yak, which he said hosted racially hostile comments.

 

“There’s a culture of racism through anonymity here,” Pulluaim said. “At MU, there’s a culture of outward, blatant university.”

 

Dr. Jacqueline Wood, a Black Studies professor, urged attendees to pay attention to systematic problems at UMKC.

 

“I do believe that we need address issues that are more local,” Wood said. “There’s a real issue here in terms of recruiting black students and black faculty.”

 

Wood also endorsed greater support for Black Studies and Latino/a Studies as a possible means of dismantling racist attitudes at UMKC.

 

Jones expressed a need for greater disciplinary action when racist incidents occur. Pulluaim agreed and suggested a zero-tolerance policy for racist acts on campus.

 

Jasmine Johnson, the president of the Multicultural Student Organization, said that while MSA has been trying to coordinate events to have conversations that address difficult topics like race, they receive little support from faculty and administration.

 

“We want our students involved in these different strategies that we’re coming up with, yet we don’t see our faculty and staff at our events,” Johnson said.

 

This was the first of several meetings of this kind at UMKC. The Student Government Association hosted a closed meeting for students of color to express their concerns on campus. Chancellor Leo Morton hosted two Town Hall meetings, closed to the media, for students and faculty.

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