For the world, it’s been an incredibly long seven days.
For the Mizzou Tigers, it’s been even longer.
The heartbreak for those of us who call Columbia, and specifically the University of Missouri campus, home has been deep and, in some ways, everlasting. It’s a pain that can’t be explained to outsiders.
It’s the pain of a campus ripping in two.
I’ve been putting off writing this for as long as I possible could. Because I cannot sleep at night. Because I cannot let myself feel the pain. Because, even while I am halfway across the country, I feel like I’m right there, standing in Carnahan Quad, at the newly-built Traditions Plaza, wishing for answers and listening to students tell stories of oppression. Because I need to change as much as we, as One Mizzou, all need to change.
I can’t put off writing this anymore.
When I first visited Mizzou, in Spring 2011, I was immediately drawn to the closeness of the community. I, coming from a metropolitan city, had never experienced the feeling of togetherness I felt when I walked on Mizzou’s Columbia, Missouri campus. What I realize now is that not everyone who runs through Mizzou’s historic columns (a tradition for Mizzou freshman) feels this way. There are many people—thousands, if you pay attention to Mizzou’s own statistics—who don’t feel as if they are members of the Mizzou community. And that, to me, is heartbreaking. But there are some who are used to this oppression and never mentioned it; and there are some who don’t want to believe that systematic oppression is a problem. That breaks my heart even more.
I don’t feel that my experience as a Mizzou student allows me to speak in detail about the systematic oppression some students face. As a white woman, I was treated with the utmost respect and I felt as though I was an equal—something I will always cherish. I do know, however, that the experience many people have at Mizzou is the exact opposite compared to the experience I had; something that will always leave me ashamed and heartbroken.
After the resignation of our system president and chancellor, I was elated. I was excited for a change within leadership, a leadership that has not been working in favor of students for the last couple years. Even if one hadn’t noticed the systematic oppression that was happening, there was a feeling (at least to me and most people I talk with) that the administration was not listening to its students. What broke my heart, though, was the response of my fellow students.
Some denied the systematic oppression that most of us saw. Some took the side of an administration that had not been listening to students for years. Some denied all allegations completely.
If you look at my Facebook newsfeed, you see a divide: One side is people who love the change in leadership and want to see change from the systematic oppression that has been happening for years; the other side is people who don’t understand and think this change shouldn’t have happened.
The latter are the people that are perpetuating the problem.
What I know, as an alumna of the University of Missouri, is that I saw the oppression that was happening, whether I want to admit it or not. I know that it existed, and I know it was part of the culture. I know that a change in administration was absolutely necessary in order to begin the healing and change of the entire university.
Even with this knowledge, the views I have about my beloved university are completely conflicted.
I did not come from Missouri, and I did not choose the University of Missouri out of convenience. I chose Mizzou because I wanted to be there. I chose to move 1,000 miles away from home to attend this university, because I felt I could be myself there and feel as if my voice was heard. For these reasons, I feel so much love and respect for Mizzou. I once said Mizzou is a place I felt most empowered as a human being. It’s so incredibly painful that this is not everyone’s experience.
This is why I feel absolutely heartbroken that my beloved university has been ripped in two.
What drew me to Mizzou was the feeling of “One Mizzou,” a mantra that has been in place since April 2011. It’s a feeling that cannot be explained; the feeling that, though from different backgrounds, we are all the same people. But the events of the last week have torn my One Mizzou apart.
As I watch the battles from afar, I can only hope and pray that my Mizzou becomes one again. I hope that people on both sides can put their armor down and start an open, honest conversation about the systematic changes that need to happen at my beloved alma mater. I hope that we, as a Mizzou community, are strong enough to admit our flaws and accept criticism and change.
I hope that one day I can come home and truly see One Mizzou once again.
What I really hope, though, is that this week no longer exists as the Long, Terrible Week in my memory. I hope that, instead, I remember this week as The Week We Grew Closer as One Mizzou.
I hope, more than anything, that the events at Mizzou start a revolution. That, no matter who you are, where you’re from or what identity you choose, you feel welcome wherever you go.
That’s what we all deserve.
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