To the People of Missouri:
Student leaders at the University of Missouri recently placed a spotlight on the systemic racism present on our campus, and we at the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies stand with our student leaders. We respect the symbolic importance of recent actions. Protest in many forms is a good response to the members of our campus community who demonstrate a lack of respect for the basic rights and humanity of students and colleagues of color.
The University of Missouri has a long history of not addressing the fundamental needs of their diverse populations, including people of color, the LGBT population, non-Christian populations, and others. We know the micro aggressions those students experience are psychologically damaging. As a University, we are in the business of human development, and of helping young people form robust identities that guide them as the future leaders in our society.
We recognize and value the sincerity and passion of the Concerned Student 1950 organization; you are already leading. We join fellow faculty across the campus to take time to research and listen to the student voices, as well as take steps and advocate for changes in behaviors across all levels of campus personnel. As faculty, we have an obligation to provide leadership in the much needed journey that must unfold to address racial inequities and to promote healing.
The faculty and staff of the School of Information Science and Technology are committed to engaging in intentional dialogue with our students about this movement and about the urgency for change. We join our students in striving for equity, inclusion, and respect.
We view racism as the combination of prejudice and power. Social psychology reminds us that we will never remove “in group” or “out group” prejudices from human nature. We can, however, extend meaningful power — power over budgets and campus priorities — to people of color and groups who represent their interests. In effect, this is what the demands of our student leaders will accomplish.
Mizzou as an institution is in a unique position. We are nationally at the crossroads of northern, southern and western U.S. cultures. We are geographically located in a rural area, which is mostly white, and so we have many employees and students who have never experienced the hostilities of urban racism. We are a crucible of the different facets of racism present in U.S. Society, together in one place.
We write this letter as a component of our responsibility as a faculty and staff, to the citizens of Missouri.
Libraries and learning technologies can act to facilitate civil, informal discussion on the future of our campus. Libraries have long been a place for open information and civil discourse in American Society, and the online environments we design, construct and research are often called upon as solutions in the struggle of U.S. Culture to reconcile our basic goodness as people with long standing institutional racism.
We have a deep respect for the students leading and participating in the Concerned Student 1950 protests. We are committed to taking an active role in demonstrating to the world how students and faculty working together can actually create institutional change.
The Faculty and Staff of the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri