University President Troy Paino visited the Multicultural Affairs Center Nov. 12 to open dialogue between the administration and students about personal experiences with issues of diversity on campus.
The meeting was informal, an open circle based conversation scheduled a month prior to the events at the University of Missouri. All students were invited to attend and encouraged to openly express their personal concerns or experiences.
Last week, Paino sent a mass email to the University population stating his intent to reach out and learn more about student experiences on campus. In the email Paino encouraged students to reach out to him to discuss any issues. Paino says it is his goal to meet with student groups to open up conversation and create a more inclusive campus, he said in an interview this week. The Multicultural Affairs Center was the first group discussion on his list.
The students attending, all from different ethnic backgrounds, described their experiences but also offered insights on the ways the University could improve its multicultural atmosphere. The students proposed the creation of scholarships for minority students. They proposed educating current Truman State students to open their minds to diverse ideas and perspectives. The addition of a diversity focused course requirement to the liberal arts and sciences program was offered as a method to educate current and future students. More suggestions were given during the conversation.
Senior Blake Miller says the concept of unity and integration should be included in conversations of diversity on campus. Miller says he had a positive welcoming experience as a freshman minority student at Truman, but he says the University lacks integration and unity at times.
Miller says he thinks this conversation with Paino was effective for students to address their issues and for an environment of mutual understanding to flourish.
“It was probably the most effective discussion I’ve had at Truman. My fraternity and other organizations host a lot of forums that try to push the increase of diversity and inclusion but this one was really effective because instead of talking about it, we were actually telling him this is what needs to be done. This specific discussion was done in a way that Dr. Paino could understand where we are coming from.”
– Senior Blake Miller
Jerad Green, program director for the Multicultural Affairs Center, says he thought the conversation between the students and Paino went well. Green says he knows it is tough job to be a President, address these types of concerns and to think about how to turn concerns into actions.
Prior to this meeting, Green says students were a little on edge because in the past students didn’t feel the connection or support they were looking for from administration. He says levels of racial tension resulted from that but he hopes this event will help solve the tension.
Green says he thinks the meeting was a good first step for positive change on campus. He says if anyone can initiate change and be successful it would be President Paino.
“Such national attention has all administration, faculty and staff on college campuses on their toes,” Green says. “They’re hoping it won’t happen on their campuses but if it does, how to effectively handle it. It takes a lot of critical thinking and education to understand what’s going on and addressing the issues.”
After the event, Paino says the meeting at the MAC was successful and helped achieve his larger goals for the University. He says the purpose of the meeting was to try to get some ideas on how Truman can be better as an inclusive yet diverse community, and it achieved that.
“This is a good first step, but it’s only that, it’s only a first step,” Paino says. “What’s important is to continue the dialogue and to turn that dialogue into action. That’s my ultimate goal is to create an action plan so we can make a difference on campus.”