With the news that the University of Missouri system president and chancellor are resigning in the wake of racial turmoil on campus, we reflected on just how similar some of the circumstances that led to the outpouring of anger and frustration are to what has happened over the last few years here at USC.
It's not just one incident that has sparked the firestorm in mid-Missouri — it's a long train of abuses, disrespect and discrimination that have built up and gone unresolved.
This should serve as a wake-up call to all colleges to work much harder to stamp out racism in their communities. Here at USC, we have had our share of tension on these issues this year. There was the racial slur written on a campus white board that went viral. There was the heated debate over the confederate flag that saw the KKK and the Black Panthers come to town. This semester saw the first black fraternity council president in school history impeached, then claim it was in part racially motivated. Controversy erupted at homecoming over the treatment of NPHC organizations.
Those are just some of the low-lights. But as we saw this week, even what some perceive as small gestures perpetuate an unacceptable climate, one that students of all races at Missouri are fighting back against. We need to follow their lead, and we need for all students at USC to continue to push each other and our school to be leaders on race relations, not generators of negative headlines and epicenters of racism. And when those things happen, the university should expel those whose willful ignorance fosters a toxic and dangerous environment.
That isn't to say that our campus is one defined by racial hatred. These issues are present at every school. One thing we think sets our school apart is the willingness of all students to talk about these issues openly — we've seen several forums and positive discussions about race come after anger about these divisive incidents. But real action must be taken to combat these issues, and soon, lest we see a campus divided. What happened at Missouri was a result of people not listening and not taking action. That can no longer be an option when it comes to racism, and all discrimination, on or off campus.
It's an issue of campus safety. It's an issue of inclusiveness. But most of all, it's an issue of respect.