MU talks Ferguson but students shed light on bigger issues

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COLUMBIA - MU students used the Chancellor's Ferguson listening event at MU to bring attention to complicated race relations and a "racial divide" on and off campus.

The University of Missouri held its first university-backed Ferguson event Monday, December 1, a listening session in an attempt to support MU students impacted by the events in Ferguson and the decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of unarmed teen Mike Brown.

The event was only open to MU students and faculty members. Recordings and pictures were prohibited in order to create a safe space for those speaking and anyone within the MU community was able to speak.  Chancellor Loftin and the provost and vice provost of  student affairs, as well as a large sum of black students attended the event. Only a handful of those in attendance were from the Ferguson area. 

Students stood up and shared experiences many unrelated to the actual events of Ferguson but related to race relations and experiences shaped by race either on or off campus. Several students directly addressed university personnel with requests, questions, or experiences that shaped their experiences as black students on MU campus. 

Although the event was brought about in response to Ferguson the theme of the conversation surrounded several other things, three main points: Education, race relations and action. Most that spoke appealed to action, asking attendees and specifically professors to be proactive in educating instead of reactive. Students requested the university to make more authentic attempts to incorporate a cultural curriculum into the general education requirements, and create a representative voice for black students in major decision making.

Jennifer Pagan said the event was reactive and a marketing attempt to seem supportive.

"It's never too late but you're late," said Lechae Mottley  president of the Legion of Black Collegians, the black student government on campus.

Students and faculty emphasized education as the root of the outcome.

"The central problem is that people know that racism is bad,"  MU professor Kristopher Ebarb said. "But people don't really know what it is." 

Loftin said he has always been supportive through all of MU's events in response to Ferguson, whether public or not. He said it was important to give students a forum to share, and the event was sparked after the decision not to indict Darren Wilson. Loftin said there will be several more events to come and there are more conversations to be had. Loftin sent out an email Monday minutes after the decision stating that there were resources on campus for those impacted.

The event was scheduled from 4-6 p.m. Monday but lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Most people stayed to hear from everyone. 

"Two hours is not enough time to talk about this or to share years of our experiences," Mottley said.