By BETHANY SHERROW
Assistant News Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Inspired by both the protests that took place at the University of Missouri and the threats and social media attacks that followed, University of Central Missouri students took action Thursday by gathering for public discourse.
UCM students, faculty and administrators gathered in front of the Elliott Student Union to stand in solidarity with students at MU.
Arissa Calvert, a senior who is president of UCM’s Africana Studies Club, spoke to the crowd of more than 70 people.
“For us to come together as a campus community and as UCM, it means a lot to the whole state of Missouri,” Calvert said. “Every school in the state of Missouri, from Missouri State to UMSL to St. Louis Community College, every school has decided to demonstrate today.
“We are all standing in solidarity. We’re all showing our support. So, I want to thank everyone for coming out.”
Keyontae Richardson, a junior Africana studies minor, said MU’s administration did not respond quickly enough to students’ concerns.
“They’re still facing issues and trying to fight for equality on campus,” Richardson said. “This is to stand in solidarity, letting them know that we support them. They’re our fellow Missourian school, so we have to show our support for them.”
Daniel Patterson, a junior, also spoke about how UCM can move forward using the momentum from MU.
“Mizzou paved the way for us to step up and make a change,” Patterson said. “So, this is our opportunity not to let this go down and die out, but to speak about it.”
Part of Patterson’s remarks addressed efforts by MU graduate student Jonathan Butler, who went on a hunger strike last week when he said he would refuse to eat until the MU System president Tim Wolfe resigned. Wolfe stepped down from his role Monday amid campus protests and racial controversy at the MU Columbia campus.
“Jonathan, he made a statement by going on hunger strike, which is good and it paved the way for all of the universities to do something,” Patterson said. “But, this is our time now on our campus to do something as well.”
Patterson gave students a call to action and a call to build community on campus.
“We can speak to people, get our issues out there so people understand,” he said. “In order to move forward, we have to come together as a community.”
Patterson said the community at UCM is family, the only people who understand what he goes through day-to-day.
“I need to know my community so that if something were to happen, as a whole, we’re unified,” he said.
Patterson called for unity within the black community as well as the black community with others. He said whatever issues or hatred we have for each other needs to be alleviated.
“I came to this university to get a degree, just like you came to this university to get a degree as well,” he said. “I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like you put your pants on one leg at a time. At the end of the day, we’re no different. We need to understand that, and we need to be unified. Once we come together as a whole, we come together as a community.”
Daniel Gilmore, a freshman, closed Thursday’s remarks with a call to love and respect. He encourages people to come out of their comfort zone to make a true change in their community.
“I want you to realize that we’re fighting this fight together,” Gilmore said. “We must remain one because, most importantly, we need love. We need love and respect for each other.
“This is a fight that might get you out of your comfort zone and might make other people uncomfortable. Know that if you’re uncomfortable, you’re doing your job.”
Gilmore said change can happen at UCM.
“Change is never going to be immediate. It’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “Change is progression, change is love, change is helping other people understand. Creating dialogue, creating ways for other people to understand where we’re coming from when they can’t actually be in our shoes.”
UCM administrators like Deborah Curtis, provost-chief learning officer, and Shari Bax, vice provost for student experience and engagement, were among those standing in solidarity.
Curtis said that students at UCM are making a positive mark.
“We are particularly proud of our students who gathered today to express their thoughts and feelings about recent events at the University of Missouri in Columbia,” Curtis said. “Our UCM students engaged in such a positive and responsible approach to promoting social justice and understanding here at UCM. They have made this a better place for all of us through their conscientious advocacy today.”
Delia Cook Gillis, professor of history and director of Africana studies, also engaged with students at the gathering.
Gillis said the events at MU are near to her because, after graduating with a master’s degree from UCM, she earned her doctorate from the University of Missouri.
She presented an open invitation for anyone interested in learning and discussing the issue, by stopping by the African studies office.
“Anyone who wants to bridge barriers and come together for a very unified campus can come together to Wood 110, that’s where we’re located,” Gillis said. “It is a safe haven for people to come and talk about difficult issues.
“We just really support what has happened at Mizzou. We just want to continue to have the best campus climate that we can have here at University of Central Missouri.”
UCM students also gathered on Wednesday for a prayer rally in response to the MU campus protests and racial tensions.