Despite what our current political environment might say, being inclusive is not a political statement. Hate speech does not belong anywhere in meaningful rhetoric and every person with a logical, research-based, intelligent argument belongs at the table responsible for making decisions. Opportunity and education should not be controlled by fear or discrimination.
Now more than ever, institutions need to make a firm decision about where they stand on the issue of equality; making decisions behind closed doors will no longer suffice in today’s climate. Such noncommittal attempts have made way for various Kirksville community members to feel okay with putting racial slurs on their lawns. And while the decisions of the few do not dictate the freedoms of the many, such hateful speech does highlight a glaringly unfixed problem in our community.
As of 2017, Truman’s student population was 79% white, with no other category reaching above 7%. It should also be mentioned that this data comes from DataUSA because the University does not publish readily available statistics about its racial demographics.
While this trend can also be seen in universities throughout Missouri, it is nonetheless a problem that must be addressed immediately. Having a consistently predominantly white population hinders students’ ability to learn about perspectives different than their own. This lack of diversity also presents issues for the University’s mission of interdisciplinary learning. Without true diversity, students never learn how to communicate with people different from themselves.
We, The Index Editorial Board, believe that people of color belong in Kirksville. This is our community and we expect human decency. We believe that in response to the recent displays of blatant racism and intolerance, Truman needs to commit to increasing diversity and transparency. To start, the University needs to make a public response to the present racism. The University also needs to redistribute its allotted funding for public communication to include areas with lower populations of white students. Along with this more equal spread of information, the University should also increase scholarship opportunities for non-white students. Most importantly, Truman needs to meet each and every demand on the list provided by the Association of Black Collegians as stated on June 17. Some such demands include:
- We demand that Truman State University hire more Black faculty, especially for courses surrounding Blackness. We demand that Human Resources immediately express efforts to hire and retain Black faculty and staff. Further, we demand the routine publication of racial demographics for faculty, staff and administration.
- We demand at least one Black counselor and academic advisor on Truman’s campus.
- We demand that University Counseling Services be expanded to better help Black students. UCS employees should undergo anti-bias training. Truman State University should seek to employ more Black staff at UCS.
Keeping Truman a predominantly white university allows students and teachers to stay in the ‘white bubble’ of Kirksville — which was 80% white as of 2019 — with harmful repercussions. A lack of representation can allow those with white superiority complexes to never confront their racism, while it simultaneously robs non-white people of inspiring role models.
The University needs to make further efforts to diversify its student body, along with its staff, to allow for more than just white students to feel welcome in Kirksville. As for the Kirksville community as a whole, we all need to remember that empathy and compassion are not reserved for any particular political party. Being an inclusive person never goes out of style.