This story is updated with new information regarding Dr. Melissa Click’s involvement in campus protests, confrontations with journalists and interaction with police.
This is a release from Missouri State Representative Courtney Allen Curtis in reaction to what he calls the University of Missouri-Columbia’s continued lack of leadership:
“It has often been an uphill battle these past eleven years trying to work with the University of Missouri’s leadership in promoting racial diversity and equality. It is apparent to Missourians from all parts of the state that our flagship university has failed in its mission to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment. And it is abundantly apparent that the university has failed completely in addressing the latent racism that has existed on its campus for decades.
Many of the problems our students have faced this year have been going on since I first attended the university. As a student I tried to work with leadership to promote an open dialogue that would move the university in a positive direction. I have continued through these years to work to improve diversity and to reach out to the university’s leadership to create a better student environment for all. Repeatedly, it has been less of a concern for those overseeing Missouri’s flagship university.
For the largest university in our state, this failure in leadership is unacceptable. They have preferred a laissez faire approach for far too many years. We are a diverse state and it’s time we embrace that. We must learn from these mistakes and become united in celebrating our differences. We must ask ourselves if Mizzou’s new leadership will be taking the correct way in being proactive, or is it just because the majority party has threatened their budget? Will they finally learn from their repeated failures, or are they doomed to continue down this path? Can we truly entrust this university as it currently stands to continue to educate the young people of Missouri?” – End of statement
After another week in the news headlines, the University of Missouri system continues to try to find its way for the future.
It has been the focus of many lawmakers in Jefferson City as the system’s half billion dollars in taxpayer funds are at stake.
One of those concerned lawmakers is State Representative Courtney Allen Curtis. The Ferguson Democrat is our guest for “This Week.” I start our conversation by asking him about his confidence in, and his concerns about MIZZOU.
This is a transcript of our conversation:
Courtney Allen Curtis: My concerns are that the Board of Curators and the interim individuals outside of Mr. Henson aren’t moving quickly enough to actually solve the issues that arouse and brought national attention to the University of Missouri Columbia as well as the System.
Joey Parker: Do you think UM System Interim President Mike Middleton was a good step?
Courtney Allen Curtis: He was a good step, but we also have to remember that he has been at the University of Missouri, Columbia for a number of years. I personally had a meeting with him, Chancellor Wallace, Deaton roughly about eleven years ago to this date and we were talking about similar issues that occurred when I was a student there and a student leader on campus. And in that meeting I actually told Chancellor Wallace that if diversity was a thing that was important to the University we would place plaques saying that all around campus, because we had just placed Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence and other tenants around campus and in that meeting he said that was good idea. Though shortly after that he retired and Deaton became the new chancellor and that still wasn’t something that was shown as true commitment of the University. And now, eleven years later, President Middleton is the president of the UM System, and it just raises questions about what individuals that were previously there have done in the meantime since having conversations like that eleven years ago.
Joey Parker: Do you think he has been in the system too long, in your opinion?
Courtney Allen Curtis: So, can he take a fresher approach? I would like to think that he can. If not, hopefully he would assemble a team that would allow him to have fresh eyes on the situation so essentially things that he may be blind to…from being a part of it that ultimately that he could try to respond to and do things differently with. I won’t say that he has been there too long. but every day on my job I fight for my community. I can’t say that every day on his job, or capacity that he served, that he has gone against the grain to try and push for a greater accountability and respect and ultimately equal treatment for all students at the University of Missouri, Columbia in that position and I would believe that is what he is doing. Now in this new position what the question is what did he do in the ten years prior to this position?
Joey Parker: Now, recently they talked about making a diverse backgrounds for members of the Board of Curators. They talked about education, and professional background; they didn’t necessarily talk about racial background. Do you think that is important?
Courtney Allen Curtis: Definitely. In order to have a good grasp of some of the issues, you need to have different people at the table and involved at in the conversation. So, if we don’t talk about racial background we could still likely have diversity, but not have as much the various constituency groups accounted for possible.
Joey Parker: Of course it concerned you, I’m sure, when the two African-Americans members of the board resigned recently.
Courtney Allen Curtis: Yes. Actually, that happened right before the Board of Curators were supposed to meet with the Legislative Black Caucus. So, to have two ethnic minorities on the board and have them resign right before the meeting with the Black Caucus…that raises flags. Then, secondly, we do have a women the chair of Board of Curators. That’s a good positive step but the question is…The meeting we had with her, she was asking the Black Caucus in February what we would have her do. We started talking with individuals from the Board of Curators and the UM System and from Mizzou back in November, before Thanksgiving. It’s February. This is something that has brought national attention to the University of Missouri, Columbia as well as the University System and to still be asking what we would have them do in February? It may highlight the fact that not enough has been done in order to remedy this situation and try to move on positively forward as a leader on these issues and to make sure that we have learned from the mistakes that we have made and the inattentiveness to student issues and that we are going to be better going forward.
Joey Parker: Do you think the international attention and the shakeup at Mizzou would give people pause to serving as a member on the Board of Curators?
Courtney Allen Curtis: It definitely would. What I would like to say to that is that, essentially, there are other leaders within the community. So if your first choice doesn’t work, you know to accept the responsibility, there are other people. So it’s a question of are we widening the net enough to make sure that we involve additional individuals that normally wouldn’t been involved in the process but have what it takes and have the heart to do the work that is needed right now. If we can’t find anybody…and we have over six million residents in the State of Missouri…that means that Missouri has failed its residents.
Joey Parker: Would you do the job of curator?
Courtney Allen Curtis: Ultimately, as a Representative from Ferguson, I would only because I have been dealing with the issues since ten years ago. But at the same time I have to fight for my now community and our session isn’t over until May. So I don’t think I would be able to serve in both positions.
Joey Parker: Sure. It was really a hypothetical, but thank you for joining us, Representative Curtis. We hope to have you back soon.