For many former students of the University of Missouri-Columbia, events of recent weeks bring back memories. Some are good, but many are not. For those alums, racial bias has always been part of the sub-text of their Mizzou experience.
And while some alumni welcome announcements this week that Tim Wolfe, president of the University System, is leaving, and R. Bowen Loftin, chancellor of the Columbia campus, is changing jobs, others question whether those actions alone will be enough to solve long-standing problems.
“I think (Wolfe) is the scapegoat for a larger issue,” Rochelle Aaranson, of Chesterfield, told St. Louis Public Radio “The items that the protesters want addressed will be more long term. If people are looking for instant gratification, they are going to be disappointed.”
Aaranson, a 1986 graduate of the School of Journalism, shared her own stories of discrimination. “I am Jewish, so it was not easy for us either,” she wrote. “I remember sitting in the Commons and people would push their agenda on us all the time. Campus Crusaders (for Christ) was big back then, and they were very religious, Christian zealots. My son is a student at Mizzou, and the whole climate is very disturbing right now. I just want him to be safe and to be able to go to school.”
Recent signs of racial strife include reports that a swastika formed with human feces was found on a wall in a dorm bathroom.
In addition to Aaranson, several other alumni shared their reactions with St. Louis Public Radio through the Public Insight Network. Following are samples of responses we received; they have been edited for length and clarity.
Describe the racial climate and your college experience.
— Felicia Butler, Florissant, was told by an academic adviser that she would never get into the nursing program because she was not smart enough. She has a master's degree in nursing and is a nurse practitioner.
— John Harris, Lincoln, Neb., is a retired administrator at the University of Nebraska
— Kathy Bernard, St. Louis. She said it was 35 years or so, nationwide, before she saw black people in her sorority magazine.
What is your reaction to the resignation of President Wolfe and Chancellor Loftin?
— Terry Smemo, Kansas City, Mo., attended Mizzou in the mid-1970s.
— Bruce Lemmie, Sugarland, Texas, is from Rock Hill and attended to Webster Groves High School.
— Terry Blastenbrie, Olathe, Kan., earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1999.
— Shawn Taylor, Oak Park, Ill., attended Mizzou from 1984-1988.
Enrollment at the Columbia campus is 34,972, of which 2,542 (7 percent) are African American. Among other ethnic groups, 1,213 (3 percent) are Hispanic and 779 (2 percent) are Asian. Fewer than 1 percent of the students are American Indian/Alaskan native or Pacific islanders. Seventy-seven percent of the students — 26,903 — are white.
Inform our coverage
This report contains information gathered with the help of KCUR radio and our Public Insight Network. To learn more about the network and how you can become a source, please click here.