Dear Campus Community,
The events of the past months, weeks and days have been jarring and traumatic for African Americans and communities throughout the country. I know our Mizzou family is hurting as events continue to unfold. I am hearing from many who are feeling frustrated and hopeless about whether real change can happen.
Our student leaders in the Legion of Black Collegians and Missouri Students Association have recently released powerful and important statements that speak to our students’ concerns and their commitment to help the Mizzou community get through these heart-breaking days and take meaningful steps toward our own progress on inclusive excellence. I have begun meeting with these groups and others to ensure that even during the summer and the challenges of COVID-19, that we will work together to support and care for our fellow Tigers.
On Thursday, the three other chancellors in the University of Missouri System and I condemned recent acts of racism around our country and shared our commitment to our values of inclusion and respect. The next day, I learned of a video posted on social media of high school students. In the video, they are laughing while they appear to be simulating the choking of one of them. One student is heard saying “I can’t breathe.” One of the students in the video had previously been admitted to the University of Missouri and had been preparing to attend classes here beginning this fall. Given the similarity to the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the video is both shocking and disturbing.
Upon learning about the video, we began an immediate investigation into the matter through our Office for Civil Rights & Title IX. The student was informed that she would be suspended during the investigation. We have received numerous emails and social media posts from members of our community and the public who felt hurt and dehumanized by the video. The student made the decision today to rescind enrollment at Mizzou and will no longer be attending.
The investigation was triggered because of possible violations to our non-discrimination policies. Our process ensures that we learn the facts of a situation and that they are carefully considered within the context of the First Amendment, which protects a wide range of expression, including some that many of us find reprehensible. Our Tiger community also follows a code of conduct that we expect Mizzou students, faculty and staff to live up to as part of our core values of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence.
University leaders and I remain committed to combatting discrimination and racism in all its forms. We stand with Tigers everywhere and with the thousands of other people who are peacefully raising their voices and want to make this world, this university, an inclusive place for everyone. We have important work to do.
Mun Y. Choi, PhD
President, UM System and Interim Chancellor, University of Missouri