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Now that the University of Missouri’s president has resigned and the chancellor has announced that he’ll step down at the end of the year, hopefully students’ concerns will be addressed. Of all Concerned Student 1950’s list of demands, there is one that particularly impressed me because of its urgency in requiring a plan of action:

“We demand that the University of Missouri composes a strategic 10 year plan by May 1, 2016 that will increase retention rates for marginalized students, sustain diversity curriculum and training, and promote a more safe and inclusive campus.”

Improving graduation rates at Mizzou for students of color couldn’t come a moment sooner. At Mizzou, graduation rates for African American students, for example, have declined since 2009 (from 60 percent to 54 percent), and the gap between white student graduation rates and those of black students has grown to 17 points (in 2003, it was 13 points).

I’d bet that some of the same concerns the students have raised about the campus being an unwelcoming and hostile place for African American students contributes to these declining and disappointing grad rates. In other words, you don’t learn well in a place where you don’t feel wanted or your learning is undervalued. Colleges with high grad rates are places where campus leaders — from the president’s office to dean offices to department chairs, faculty, and staff — understand it’s their jobs to get all their students to graduation.

Concerned Student 1950’s insistence that Mizzou’s college leaders get to work immediately on improving retention for students of color and other underrepresented students should be taken seriously. It’s time for Mizzou to step up and accept its responsibility.

Photo credit: Wikimedia.

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