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President Choi: University would have benefited from “open dialogue” in 2015

UM System President Mun Choi said the University of Missouri would’ve benefited from “open dialogue” during the 2015 protests on campus.

Choi said he would’ve held a number of open forums if he had been at the university during that time.

The UM system president made his remarks during a special committee hearing at the Missouri State Capitol Monday after urban issues committee chair Rep. Courtney Allen Curtis asked Choi what he would do to make sure the events in 2015 didn’t happen again.

A “university should be a place where tough discussions happen,” Choi said.

Choi and MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright both spoke at the hearing, which was centered on campus climate and campus security.

“Our door is always open, if there’s an issue come talk to us,” Cartwright said.

Choi said the university has made a lot of progress, but there is still a lot of room to grow. He cited the campus climate survey in which 19 percent of respondents said they experienced some sort of exclusionary behavior.

“We want to be able to address that by asking all of our stakeholders what can you as individuals to make someone else feel welcome and included at the university,” he said.

Rep. Curtis was particularly concerned about campus safety after the reported rape at UMKC last year. Choi and Cartwright both said safety is a top priority.

“We made mistakes. The university made mistakes,” Choi said of the alleged sexual assault. “As soon as we found out–the senior leaders found out–we had an all hands on deck meeting to talk about where the failures occurred. Failures occurred in training the actual staff member to call the police…not notifying the university community that this occurred was also a big mistake. So, as part of that, we revised the way we train our employees who work in the dormitories and the reporting protocol to make sure situations like this don’t happen again.”

Asked for his response to the security steps the university has taken, Curtis replied, “I’ll have to take the wait and see approach.”

Both Choi and Cartwright also highlighted the changes the university has made in terms of both leadership and diversity efforts. They said there are 20 new leaders on campus, and 9 of 13 deans are new within the past two years.

“In 2017, Mizzou hired 17 African American and Hispanic faculty, which represents 33 percent of the total pool of hiring,” Choi said. “This was by far the best year Mizzou has had in terms of diversity hiring.”

Curtis was upset that Choi and Cartwright couldn’t attend the last special hearing. This time, he said he was “pleasantly surprised.”

“This conversation we had today was basically to lay the foundation for the relationship moving forward to hold them accountable. I was pleasantly surprised that they did have a lot of answers for the questions that the committee posed and I look forward to see them move the university and the system in the right direction,” he said.

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