As the semester winds down, we have much to be thankful for and many successes to celebrate. Our enrollment is at a record level, new programs have begun, fundraising has increased and new facilities are under construction. However, we also saw a handful of people respond in a very negative way to a peaceful protest on the Missouri State campus during Homecoming.
That incident has resulted in a campus-wide dialogue about racism. I believe this dialogue is healthy, and I expect it to continue. I also expect it to result in positive change on our campus over time. I applaud our students who started this dialogue by exercising their rights to free speech through a protest, open forums and social media.
Challenging conversations continue
It is always challenging to have a conversation about racism. The opportunity for misunderstandings and hurt feelings exists on all sides. Moreover, addressing these issues as an institution is neither a fast nor easy process; however, we are focused on moving forward as a university that embraces and promotes diversity and creating an environment where all members of the campus community feel equally included and valued.
During the coming days and weeks, we may experience more protests in a variety of formats at multiple venues. The grand jury meeting in St Louis will soon issue its report regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, and many will be unhappy with the results, no matter what they are.
Respect the marketplace of ideas
I encourage everyone to remember that all members of the Missouri State University community have the rights of assembly, free speech and expression throughout campus. While we as individuals may not always agree with the ideas expressed, as a community built on civility and respect, we must all support and protect these rights. By committing to do this, our campus climate will continue to improve.
As a part of Missouri State’s homecoming activities during the weekend of Oct. 17, a group of students organized a grassroots protest entitled Homecoming Blackout. This protest was motivated by the recent fatal police shootings in the St. Louis area. The apparent goal was to start a dialogue that would raise awareness of the ongoing issues of racism in America.
The protest was a well-organized march with the participants carrying signs and banners, moving silently through the crowds in the tailgating area and BearFest Village. It was a legitimate effort to raise the dialogue of these issues on our campus.
It was disheartening and disappointing to learn that, in several instances throughout the march, their actions were met with anger and negative language by a handful of other students.
Actions of a small group of people not only discouraged the protesters, they threaten Missouri State’s ability to move forward in our effort to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all our students.
All members of the Missouri State University community have the rights of assembly, free speech and expression throughout the campus. While we, as individuals, may not always agree with the ideas expressed, as a community built on civility and respect, it is expected that we will respect these rights, and that they will not be thwarted by the threat of abuse or harassment. Let’s be the example for our state on how to work through differences of opinion on difficult issues like race, the use of force by police authorities and poverty.
As president of Missouri State University, I can assure you that my administration and the Board of Governors are absolutely committed to improving diversity and inclusion on our campus and in our community. I made that point directly during my recent State of the University address and at many of the public venues at which I have been asked to speak.
Missouri State has done very well in increasing the ethnic diversity of students during the last three years. It has been recognized for creative diversity initiatives by being named a recipient of the 2014 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine, but we still have miles to go towards creating a campus climate where all feel equally welcome. I believe the diversity climate survey that is currently in progress will enable us — in partnership with students groups of all ethnicities, political ideologies and religious creeds — to further expand our diversity emphasis. However, in order for it to be effective, this must be a campus-wide effort so that we reach a true understanding of our differences.
While change can be a slow process, it will never happen if we don’t begin the dialogue. I look forward to meeting with students and student groups interested in moving the conversation forward in the coming months.
This editorial was originally published in the The Standard.
In this issue of Clif’s Notes, I provide a recap of Homecoming activities, discuss a naming gift for the welcome center, summarize two actions by the Board of Governors, highlight updates made to the University’s tobacco policy, invite the campus community to attend this year’s Public Affairs Convocation and remind the campus community about the United Way and Missouri State Way campaigns.
Last week we welcomed the University’s alumni and friends to campus for Homecoming. The celebration started on Sunday and Monday with a series of campus decorating contests. On Tuesday, students showcased their singing and dancing talents at the annual Rockstar karaoke competition. On Wednesday, students celebrated Maroon and White Night with a chili cook-off and concert. On Thursday, the campus community cheered on the University’s fall athletes at the Yell-Like-Hell pep rally, followed by a headphone disco Homecoming dance. Student organizations participated in physical and academic challenges at Friday’s Field Day. That night the University presented awards of special recognition to six alumni and friends of the University at the Distinguished Bears Dinner and Awards Ceremony.
In conjunction with Homecoming festivities, several academic units held meetings with advisory committees, organized alumni events and honored scholarship recipients. The trustees for the Missouri State University Foundation also held their annual meeting.
Saturday brought the Homecoming parade, the Maroon and White Basketball Scrimmage and tailgating at BearFest Village. That afternoon, we cheered our Bears to victory in the Homecoming football game. Students, friends and alumni of Missouri State filled downtown Springfield that evening for Bears on the Square festivities.
We had a fantastic Homecoming week, and I want to thank everyone who helped make it so.
Welcome center naming gift
As you know, our new welcome center is under construction at the corner of National Avenue and Bear Boulevard. Last Thursday we announced that Warren and Anne Davis and Patrick and Kim Harrington have given significant contributions, making the construction of the welcome center possible. In recognition of their gift, the building will be named the Davis-Harrington Welcome Center. A special thanks to the Davis and Harrington families and all the other private supporters who made the new “front door” to our campus a reality.
Board of Governors actions
The Board met on Friday, Oct. 17. I want to summarize two actions taken at the meeting:
First, the Board elected officers for 2015. They are Stephen Hoven (St. Louis) as chair and Peter Hofherr (St. James) as vice chair. I look forward to working closely with Governors Hoven and Hofherr in the coming year, and I want to thank Beverly Miller (Lebanon) for her continued service as chair in 2014.
Second, the Board voted to award the Bronze Bear to the Bill R. Foster family. The award is presented to those who have exhibited extraordinary achievement and/or outstanding support for Missouri State. The Foster family has been involved with Missouri State for three decades and has invested in the University with gifts supporting Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, Ozarks Public Television, JQH Arena, intercollegiate athletics programs and numerous academic scholarship funds. In 2011, the Missouri State University Foundation received a major charitable gift commitment from the Foster family in support of the University’s recreation center. I want to thank the Foster family for their support of the University and congratulate them for this well-deserved honor.
The Board also discussed the breadth and value of faculty research. This discussion involved presentations by three faculty members: Paul Durham, Michael F. Murray and David Mitchell. The Board received copies of the second edition of Mind’s Eye to facilitate the discussion.
To ensure a healthy learning and working environment by promoting a culture of health and wellness, the University became a tobacco-free campus two years ago. The University has updated the Tobacco Use Policy to address products and devices that have become popular more recently.
The new policy clarifies that “the use of devices or products that may be used to smoke or mimic smoking (including bongs, hookahs, vaporizers, etc.)” is prohibited on campus. If you would like more information about smoking cessation, please contact the Taylor Health and Wellness Center at 417-836-4064.
Public Affairs Convocation
The Fall 2014 Convocation Lecture is 7 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. This year’s lecturer is Eric Greitens. Mr. Greitens is a former Navy SEAL, a Rhodes Scholar and the award-winning author of our common reader for this year, The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL. The lecture is free and open to the public, but it requires a ticket for entry. Tickets are available at the ticket offices of Hammons Hall, JQH Arena and Plaster Student Union.
United Way and Missouri State Way campaigns
We only have three weeks until our celebration luncheon on Nov. 10. If you would like to participate in one or both of these campaigns, please remember to complete and submit the forms in the packets you received.
Homecoming brings thousands of people who have been affected by the University to campus. It is a reminder of our rich history. I look forward to working with you to continue this tradition of excellence. Thanks for all you do for Missouri State University.
Missouri State alumnus looking to dance his way to fame
Recent Missouri State University alumnus Darrell Hyche did not become serious about dance until his senior year of high school, but he is already starting to make a name for himself in the dance world.
“I had very little dance training before attending MSU,” said Hyche. “What initially started off as elective courses snowballed into a major, thanks to the guidance of the dance faculty.”
Hyche, who graduated in May 2013 with degrees in dance performance and psychology, was a member of Missouri State’s Inertia Dance Company, which promotes cultural literacy through performances and workshops; choreographed and participated in several Homecoming and Greek Jam performances for Phi Gamma Delta fraternity; and danced with the local step group Spazzed Out.
“Who I am as a dancer is largely due to the creative freedom I had and the encouragement and experience gained from the theatre and dance program,” he said.
Realizing his professional goals
Dance has grown from a hobby to a profession for Hyche. “My ultimate dream is to have a sustained and meaningful career in dance,” said Hyche. “Our time is short here so I just want to embrace each opportunity I’m given to continue to do what I love.”
Hyche is getting closer to making that dream come true, as he is one of the newest professional members of Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) in St. Louis, Mo. He works with choreographers to interpret and execute dances with speed and precision.