Missouri Western releases a statement regarding confrontation

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Missouri Western has just released this statement regarding the confrontation in Blum yesterday:

Dear campus community:

Many of you have seen a video on social media showing a student’s reaction to a hat worn by a campus visitor. This video raises complex issues of free speech and expression. While we continue to gather information about the circumstances surrounding the video, I’d like to offer some preliminary thoughts:

At Missouri Western, our campus family shares six core values: Service, Quality, Enthusiasm, Freedom, Respect and Courage. I’d like to focus on two of those:

Freedom – We promote the free exchange of ideas that makes education liberating and democracy unique.

Respect – We act as individuals and as a campus community with respect for diversity and for the best in human potential.

Additionally, we have recently reaffirmed our commitment to diversity:

As a student-centered learning community Missouri Western is dedicated to inclusion and the promotion of diversity as essential to our mission as a public university. This commitment contributes to transforming lives and demonstrates our values of freedom, respect and courage.

As a campus community, we cherish the freedom of expression guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, and we have an obligation to protect that freedom for our students, employees and visitors.

Equally important is that we exercise our freedom of expression in a way that respects the inherent worth of each individual on our diverse campus. Ideally, we would express our views and listen to views different from our own not with an intent to start or win an argument, but to understand and be understood.

That can be a challenge in a community like Missouri Western’s, where we have such a diversity of backgrounds and opinions. But it is vital. It is my hope that this incident can spark a period of reflection and conversation that will deepen all of our understanding of these two core values, freedom and respect.

We will continue to gather facts about the incident. Students have planned a gathering at noon Monday, April 1 in the Blum Student Union Lobby, and members of my administrative team plan to attend and hear their concerns. Also, Student Affairs has planned a listening session at 5 p.m. Monday in Blum 222-223 for anyone who would like to discuss the issues in that setting. Vice President for Student Affairs Shana Meyer and I are also happy to meet with anyone individually if that’s more comfortable. You may call my office at 816-271-4237 or Vice President Meyer’s office at 816-271-4433 to schedule.

Thank you for participating in this important educational conversation.

Robert Vartabedian, President