Guest Column: Mizzou student offers perspective on recent events

University of Missouri students rally on the Carnahan Quad after hearing news of President Tim Wolfe's resignation. Photos by Claudia Guthrie, reporter at the Columbia Missourian.
Guest columnist Christine Jackson discusses recent events at University of Missouri through a student’s perspective.

I am tired.

I am tired from keeping one eye on the change that is happening on our campus, and another on the parts of life that go on as “normal.” I am tired from watching bursts of information and joy fill my Tweetdeck columns, only to be polluted by streams of ignorance and hate. I am tired from late nights and early mornings spent worrying about everything from the right wording for our coverage of the event of this week to the safety of the city I now call home.

I’m not tired. I am exhausted.

But my fatigue is nothing compared to that of those who feel constantly oppressed and unwelcome at this university.

I am a white, female undergrad studying journalism. I recognize that my privilege allows me to feel both safe and wanted in most situations. I also recognize that that fact does not ring true for every student of this University.

The last year, and especially the last weeks, of living on this campus have been eye opening.

I have watched the demonstrations and read the coverage of the many complaints about Mizzou from my classmates. I have listened from the grass as Jonathan Butler, supported by friends and weak from hunger, has been strong in the face of opposition. I have been both impressed and appalled by the words and actions of the people around me.

As a member of the media, it is my responsibility to pay attention to the events around me and how they are being interpreted. People know this and assume that I know more than them. I’ve been asked by people outside of Columbia, “What’s going on? What happened that set this off?” The answer is that there is no one answer.

The simplest statement I can give is that Concerned Student 1950 and their allies (who I aim to be a part of) do not just want change. They need it. Until this campus is a place where all feel welcome to live and learn, this institution is not doing its job.

I won’t lie. There have been mistakes on all sides. Tim Tai should not have been denied his First Amendment rights. Information should have been made more available about the threats on campus. Our administration should not have been so unresponsive to the concerns of the student body that and student felt the need to put his body in danger.

But there have also been moments of triumph. I’ve seen hundreds of people gathered in solidarity, hopeful for change. I’ve seen people’s eyes opened and hearts changed. I’ve seen organization and dedication produce results. Things can be made different. We can be made different. We can be made better.

The coming months are going to be hard ones. There were people who thought that UM System President Tim Wolfe’s resignation was the only goal. They thought that the good guys had won, the bad guy had lost and that things would go back to “normal.”

But here’s the thing – “normal” isn’t good enough. It never was. I know that now, and I hope others recognize that. We must create a new, more inclusive “normal” – one where we consider the needs of others and don’t discount them just because we have not felt them personally.

Whatever our roles – students, faculty, community members, media and observers or any combination – we must be conscious of one another. We are all people that deserve respect.

Talk to one another. Listen to each other. Try to understand. As the members of Concerned Student 1950 said at their press conference Monday, “This is a movement, not a moment.”

Nothing is over, but things are definitely changing. Let’s make the movement a step forward.