Western takes extra step in overcoming former racial stigma

By Eboni Lacey

September 13, 2012

Four years ago, when I first came to Missouri Western, I never thought the university would have any racial problems or issues. Though racism was still very alive in society, I just didn’t see that here. This was until the Griffon News made light of a very dark situation.

Just two years ago, a racial issue took place between the Black Student Union and Western police, and the Griffon News covered it all. Members of the BSU felt as though students of color were being targeted after numerous students were arrested on campus and during public university events. In retaliation, former BSU president Leah Hayes started a petition requesting that campus police undergo diversity training. Though she was supported by Esther Peralez, former vice president of student affairs, the petition was ultimately denied. The reason stated was that the officers already go through training that included education of diversity. Although the issue was never formerly brought up again, a solution never came. Many minorities were fed up. However, there has been quite a change.

Western police department hired two police officers that are minorities. Beyond hiring these two officers, more African-American faculty were added to Western’s staff such as Student Life Director Isaiah Collier and Career Services Director Donnell Turner. There has also been an increase in foreign students and more and more ­­minorities are becoming student leaders and prospective figures such as student Senators D’Gimy Candio and Monterio Seewood, Center for Multicultural Education Leah Hayes and Keisha Caldwell as well as Western Playhouse actor Jeff Jones, Student Cinema Equipment Tech Carlos Gomez and Student Web Programmer Aliaksei (Alex) Yakimkou from Western’s Instructional Media Center. And for this, I’m extremely proud.

It’s very important that our university is represented by members of various racial backgrounds. As more and more students continue to call Western home, it’s vital for our face to be one that continually changes with more ethnic backgrounds in our forefront. As an African American student leader, I take pride in Western’s huge effort to make the campus diverse. I do not believe other schools are following these guidelines and making these changes, which makes me feel even stronger in my school.

Western even took the diversity effort a step further on Aug. 22 when Western held a Student of Color Orientation. This program was a “welcome” event and focused on skills, student success and retention. As this program was presented during the Board of Governor’s meeting late August, more programs and events like this will continue throughout the year.

So, what am I saying exactly? Frankly I admire Western for what they have done in these last couple years. Not only is the campus acting proactively in hiring more people with diverse racial backgrounds and cultures, but Western is seeing the importance of diversity, so that no student will ever feel racially threatened again.

Bravo, Western! I applaud you. And when I walk down that long aisle on graduation day this May, I will have even more confidence in myself and my school knowing that my school wants us all to win — no matter what color or creed. So fight on Griffons, we will all win one day, what a true victory Missouri Western State.