Current and prospective Mizzou students reflect on tension

Several incidents related to anti-Semitism and racism have occurred on or around Mizzou’s campus. 

Alec Baris, Senior, Marquette High School

Despite recent allegations of racism and anti-Semitism at the University of Missouri– Columbia, which culminated in the resignations last month of President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Mizzou remains a popular college choice for many Jewish students in the St. Louis area.

“I chose Mizzou because it is a great in-state school, close to home, and I’m interested in pursuing communications through (its) highly ranked journalism school,” said Caroline Smith, a senior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School. “The events in the news didn’t make me second guess my decision about attending Mizzou.”

Caroline looks forward to going to the school next year, and feels that the experience will be a positive one. Similarly, Parkway Central senior Elena Bernstein says the actions on campus have not swayed her from attending Mizzou next year.

“The protests going on have not changed my mind, but they have definitely made me wonder about my safety next year,” Elena said. “However, I am not worried about going there given the recent circumstances. But I am definitely as nervous as any incoming freshman would be.”

Ladue graduate and current Mizzou freshman Aaron Bry has seen the unrest firsthand. Bry attends Mizzou on a scholarship and is enrolled in its journalism program. He says he has found the environment on campus to be generally warm and inclusive.

“So far, everything I have seen has led me to believe that our campus is very inclusive and involved,” said Bry. “Every day I learn about a new club or organization that is open to anyone. Apart from the swastika being drawn in a bathroom on campus, I have not experienced any level of discrimination based on religion. With that being said, I do feel a greater ability to empathize with those being discriminated against.”

Elena hopes that other prospective students will not be influenced by the recent campus protests and resignations. She sees Mizzou as a wonderful place for learning, with a great campus close to home.

“I am hoping it will blow over soon,” Elena said. “I don’t want what’s happening to sway people away from how great Mizzou really is.”

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Bry has felt very safe as a Jewish student on campus. Though he has seen some protests on the way to class, he has enjoyed his first semester and has had a positive experience so far.

“Another benefit for Jewish students at Mizzou is the diversity,” Bry said. “While you can easily meet other Jewish students, you are forced to be with and interact with students of all economic backgrounds, races and religions.”

Elena looks forward to joining this community next year. She thinks that Mizzou is a place where people should feel free to express themselves.

“The pride and spirit the students have is amazing,” Elena said. “I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

Of course, the Mizzou protests were not the first time that the state of Missouri has garnered national attention for race relations. The police shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on Aug. 9, 2014 in Ferguson and subsequent tension exposed many teens to the subject of racism.

“I was more numb to the event after witnessing all the Ferguson riots,” Caroline said. “In regard to the problem of race and prejudice at Mizzou and other college campuses, I think awareness and change is always a good thing.”

Bry said the way to truly fix the problem is to stand together regardless of our differences.

“I think in general, on college campuses and everywhere, people need to realize that while we are all inherently different, whether it be by race, religion, or economic background, we are all also inherently similar,” Bry said. “We all share basic needs and have individual rights that are at the basis of our country. Everyone deserves the right to feel accepted.”

 

Ali Gold and Sydney Tischler contributed to this story.