Missouri State Rep: Minorities Should "Reconsider Enrollment" at Mizzou


Courtney Allen Curtis
  • Courtney Allen Curtis
State Representative Courtney Allen Curtis has some advice for black students who are thinking about enrolling at the University of Missouri: Think twice.

The Democrat from Berkeley, who himself attended Mizzou (but did not graduate), says he's come to that conclusion after watching the university bungle race relations time and again — and then watched his fellow legislators resist any attempt to hold administrators accountable.

"At this time, I just don't see how any minority can trust the University of Missouri," he said in a statement. "I encourage any prospective student who believes in equality, a positive campus climate, and productive leadership to rethink enrolling at Mizzou."

Curtis tells RFT he has a long list of grievances, dating back to his days as a student leader and given additional urgency by the campus protests last fall that ultimately toppled the systems president.

But what really pushed him over the edge yesterday was committee approval for SCR 66, a resolution to establish a review commission for the University of Missouri.

Sponsored by Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), the legislation would create a commission comprised of eight members: four appointed by the speaker of the house and four by the president pro tem of the Senate. Both are Republicans.

Curtis' attempt to ensure minority representation was rejected, he says. So was an attempt to add penalty provisions if the university doesn't accept its recommendations. 

The way the bill is written, he says, "they could put all big Mizzou donors on there, at the expense of minorities trying to make things better." He says he'd like to see "acceptable minorities" chosen by the legislature's black caucus, not "yes people."

As it stands, he says, the commission is mere window-dressing — much like he saw in the wake of Ferguson and the panel put together by Governor Jay Nixon to suggest reforms.

"I saw what happened with the Ferguson Commission, that it just bought more time for the people in power," he says. "You didn't even see the governor push for its recommendations. This is just going to buy time for the University of Missouri system. And by the time we get the report, there may not be a sense of urgency to implement these things once the national spotlight is gone."

Curtis' statement is pasted below in its entirety:
Often times being a minority is to be ignored. This isn't the first time that Mizzou has ignored this issue about racial disparity. Mizzou has continued to not move swiftly in solving these matters and try to repair their good name they once had. They created an imaginary office with empty promises. I and other members of the Black Caucus met with Mizzou leadership back in November regarding their planned office of diversity and their budget. It is now April and little has been to achieve a true change.

This commission is another example of buying the University time instead of earnestly making a fruitful attempt at creating change. Without including penalty provisions for failing to implement the commission's recommendations and with no guarantee that there will be diverse representation, it is my sincere belief that this resolution will prove inept. They may have restored the budget cuts for this university, but it will take longer to restore the faith minorities used to have in this flagship institution.

Minorities want to be treated like they are a part of this university system. Mizzou was responsive to the Melissa Click issue, but it is not just her that is the problem. I have absolutely no confidence in Interim President Mike Middleton. He has over 30 years of experience at this University and has not given any true effort in implementing plans and has shown a history of a lack of action.

At this time, I just don't see how any minority can trust the University of Missouri. I encourage any prospective student who believes in equality, a positive campus climate, and productive leadership to rethink enrolling at Mizzou. It is time Mizzou realizes that they are not too big to fail and that they will be held accountable. I will continue to fight this battle until we see some progressive change and they finally become the flagship university that Missouri deserves.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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