The University of Missouri’s alumni association announced last week that it was working to reinstitute its Black Alumni Network in response to numerous requests made in the weeks after racial tensions exploded on the school’s campus.
After all of the challenges and complicated situations the University of Missouri has faced in the last few weeks, it’s probably good that one element was a bit of a no-brainer.
Last week, the Mizzou Alumni Association (MAA) announced that it would form the Black Alumni Network for graduates of the university, in response to the recent events on campus—including protests against racism, a graduate student’s hunger strike, and the resignation of both the school’s president and chancellor over claims of inaction ithe racism claims.
“It all kind of worked together, and we’re looking forward to engage and involve those folks in Mizzou,” MAA Executive Director Todd McCubbin said in comments to the Columbia Missourian.
In some ways, the alumni network is simply making a comeback. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that the association had formed a network in 1979, only to see interest taper off in the mid-2000s. While MAA had continued to put its energy toward events specifically targeting the black community, recent events helped push the issue back out to the forefront.
With issues of racism surfacing both among current students and among alumni, more than 1,000 students signed a petition requesting the creation of a university-sanctioned alumni network for black graduates, as well as broader action to improve campus race relations.
“Many of us found ourselves protesting similar incidents on campus, and we find it highly unacceptable that many of these issues are not only continuing but have become more pervasive,” the letter stated, according to the Missourian.
Chelsea Drake Marks, the student who led the petition effort, told the Tribune that the network is for current students as much as it is for alumni and said that she would have benefited from having access to such a resource before her graduation in 2012.
“For black alumni, we know these things have been happening for years and years,” she explained. “Having alumni support is essential. You can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you came from.”
The rebirth of the Black Alumni Network comes as black students have been driven to organize in protest against their university. The group Concerned Student 1950, a reference to the year black students were first allowed to attend Mizzou, led the rallying cry against racism on campus.