You know at Missouri State University and most universities there is never a dull moment and this weekend was no exception. On Sunday, someone tweeted about several flyers posted on a bulletin board in Kentwood Hall regarding privilege. I wanted to set the record straight on the facts surrounding this action.
This series of flyers was part of a diversity awareness exercise and were originally posted 18 months ago without controversy. The flyers were co-sponsored by the Residence Hall Association and a Student Government Association committee with the idea of encouraging students to think about the difference of being white versus non-white or heterosexual versus LGBTQ or able versus disabled or Christian versus non-Christian and how these identities affect day-to-day interactions and experiences. Discussion groups followed.
All flyers were cleared off of the bulletin boards in the residence halls at the end of that semester. Apparently, some leftover flyers were re-posted in Kentwood Hall sometime this semester. They have now been removed since the exercise ended in 2014.
At Missouri State, we encourage free speech and healthy debate. The impact of race, religion, disability and sexual orientation on our lives and certain actions of police officers in impoverished urban areas are all important topics to think about and discuss at our university.
Unfortunately, members of the Twitter-verse, most of whom are unconnected to Missouri State, decided to take an awareness exercise that occurred almost two years ago and transform it into an inflammatory statement about the university and its practices, as well as question our support of our police force. That was unfortunate as we value both our students and their free speech rights and we respect and appreciate the important service the Springfield Police Department provides to our university.
Now that you know what happened, I am asking you to step away from the craziness of social media and think about constructive and healthy debate versus hateful 140 character attacks that require little thought or responsibility. The public affairs mission at Missouri State means making a difference, one person, one step at a time. I am asking you to be that person and make the difference. Don’t allow this social media exchange to negatively define the university.