Over the past few months, the students of the University of Missouri stood up against the racial injustices they have been facing for years.
According to students, university officials didn’t do anything to stop the racial injustices other than Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin making a few remarks such as claiming racial discrimination is “totally unacceptable.” There seemed to be no action beyond that.
Tensions came to a tipping point on October 4, when a white student, who had been drinking, spewed racial slurs at an African American student group that was preparing for homecoming. The student group felt unsafe and threatened on their own campus.
The situation escalated from there. Swastikas were drawn on buildings, and violence was threatened on social media sites such as Yik Yak. Students boycotted in support of student leader Jonathan Butler, who went on a hunger strike to bring awareness to the issues on campus and demanded change and the resignation of Wolfe.
One of the more startling things to happen was when the black football players at the university decided they were not going to practice or play in any games until Wolfe was removed from office. The white players, coaches, and athletic director stood behind them, risking scholarships and jobs.
Finally, on November 9, Wolfe resigned.
The University of Missouri is a Division I school with big name sponsors and partners. In an instance like this, and with all the tragedy the world is facing, what should the university do? Do they stand in solidarity with the students, or hope the president’s resignation will make it go away?
As I learn more about PR and brand reputation from my internship, I think the simple answer for the brand is to do what is right.
The University of Missouri should be trying to make this situation right because the school stands for inclusion. They could start by forming a task group to handle racial tensions on campus, involving students in decision making, and not shy away from talking about a controversial topic.
By doing this they are practicing what they preach. A brand that claims to be diverse, should at least try to be inclusive.
Xavier University (XU), where I am pursuing my Bachelor’s degree, has done that. Xavier claims that diversity is a great feature on campus, and showed that when 200 students gathered outside of Cintas Center before the basketball game against Missouri, locked arm and arm in solidarity with those whose lives have been threatened. A proud moment for this XU student.