University of Missouri in midst of change after turmoil

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2015 7:33 AM
University of Missouri in midst of change after turmoil

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — After weeks of racial turmoil forced the departure of the University of Missouri system's president and the Columbia campus' chancellor, the university has assured parents and students via email that administrators "are working toward real, enduring change" benefiting minority students.

Here's a look at what has happened, and what's on the horizon:

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WHAT HAPPENED?

Many students, faculty and staff have been upset with top administrators almost from the outset of the fall semester. The university announced it was eliminating subsidies that helped pay health insurance costs for graduate student, and the university later severed ties with Planned Parenthood after political pressure from Republican state lawmakers. While both of those matters were remedied, racial unrest, including slurs yelled from a pickup truck at the student body's black president, led to "Racism Lives Here" rallies on campus. Pressure from protesters helped lead to Monday's resignation of the University of Missouri system's president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor's decision to step down at the end of the year.

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WHAT'S THE PLAN FOR FILLING THE ADMINISTRATIVE VOIDS?

The university system's governing board has said an interim system president would be named soon, though there's no word about how quickly successors to Wolfe and Loftin may be named. The board planned to meet Wednesday but didn't say what topics the meeting will cover. Concerned Student 1950, the group behind the protests leading to Wolfe's departure, are demanding a say in those executive decisions.

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WHAT IS THE UNIVERSITY DOING TO IMPROVE THE RACIAL ATMOSPHERE?

Chuck Henson, associate dean for academic affairs and trial practice at the law school, was named Tuesday to the new position of interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity on the Columbia campus, with similar positions to be created and filled on the system's other three campuses. The school already had announced plans to offer diversity training to all new students starting in January, and the system's governing board has promised a full review of other policies, more support for victims of discrimination and a more diverse faculty.

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HOW ARE MISSOURI POLITICIANS GETTING INVOLVED?

Members of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus met Tuesday with protest organizers, including Concerned Student 1950 leaders, in the Columbia campus' black culture center.

"The issues going on up here are systemic," said state Rep. Brandon Ellington, a Kansas City Democrat and caucus chairman. "This is something that didn't happen overnight."

Concerned Student 1950 has said Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, faculty representatives and the system's governing board will be given a list of the group's demands.