Alumni group seeks to ‘end divisiveness’ at Mizzou
UPDATE: The Truth Matters MU Facebook page was temporarily disabled Wednesday after having been flagged for potential “hate speech” by site administrators. In a press release issued before the site was restored, Jones blamed lobbying by “Black Lives Matter agitators and MU protesters” for causing the confusion.
A newly-formed alumni group is working to change the conversation over racial issues at the University of Missouri from one of “divisiveness” to one of “unity.”
“This is not the beloved Mizzou many know,”
Truth Matters MU, or #UNITYMU as it is known on Twitter, is a group of alumni that describes itself as “sensitive to issues of discrimination,” yet believes that many of the alleged incidents that inspired the recent protest movement were fabricated in order to promote racial tension, and is offering the counsel of its members to promote a reasoned resolution to the crisis.
“This is not the beloved Mizzou many know,” Russ Jones, a 1982 Mizzou graduate and founder of Truth Matters MU, said in a press release. “How are administrators, and the nation for that matter, supposed to take seriously issues of discrimination when the facts seem to say something very different?”
The press release gives several examples of the protesters’ alleged mendacity, noting that student body president Payton Head recently admitted to having spread unsubstantiated rumors of KKK activity on campus through social media, and that graduate student Jonathan Butler—whose hunger strike helped precipitate the resignations of university President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin—greatly exaggerated claims that he was hit by Wolfe’s car (as seen at about the 3:45 mark of the embedded video) while protesting at the Homecoming parade.
“I grew up in Kansas City and lived through riots in the 60’s and 70’s, and this was starting to look eerily familiar,” Jones told Campus Reform. “A lot of alumni were caught off-guard by claims of systemic racism, because that hasn’t been their experience.”
Jones made clear that the purpose of Truth Matters MU is not to disregard legitimate instances of racism, but rather to distinguish them from falsified reports so that reasonable solutions can be pursued.
“If there are issues, they need to be dealt with reasonably, but there’s nothing reasonable about this,” he said. “The false claims are nullifying potentially valid claims.”
So far, the group has attracted more than 700 “likes” on Facebook, and while Jones conceded that the tally “doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all supporters,” he also noted that “we have a method of vetting them, and it’s safe to say that a good 80 to 90 percent of the people are supporters.”
In addition to its skepticism that Mizzou has a problem with “systemic” racism, the group also believes that First Amendment rights are being threatened by the protesters’ tactics, the most notable example being visiting communications professor Melissa Click, who was caught on video calling for “some muscle” to remove a student photojournalist from the protest area.
In a separate incident reported by Campus Reform, a Christian preacher alleged that he was punched by a protester merely for expressing his opinion in a public space, while numerous sources have reported that protesters created a “blacks-only healing space” at which white students—even those supporting the protesters—were not allowed.
“We’re starting to hear from students, and from parents who are concerned about the safety of their children,” Jones told Campus Reform. “Students are concerned that if they disagree with some of the claims, they’ll be pegged as racists.”
In response to those fears, which he considers valid based on the hostile reactions he himself has received, Jones said the group is “helping to partner alumni with students who have expressed their fear, kind of like a Big Brother/Sister thing,” and has already heard from more than 30 alumni who are interested in participating.
At root, he said, the group’s members are motivated by concern that the protests are bring public shame to their alma mater, as exemplified by a Columbia Tribune article posted to the Truth Matters MU Facebook page reporting that 62 percent of Missouri voters in a recent survey said that they oppose the protesters’ message and have a more negative view of the university as a result.
Already, Jones told Campus Reform, a highly-ranked football prospect has decided against attending Mizzou due to the hostile climate on campus, and he predicts that the development office will be the next department to experience fallout.
“They were concerned about losing $1 million if they forfeited the game against BYU, but I think now they’re going to find that that would have been a drop in the bucket compared to what they’re going to lose,” he mused. “You can’t tell me the development office at Mizzou isn’t really, really concerned right now.”
Jones thinks his group can help the university find a solution to the matter by providing the wisdom, experience, and (most importantly) perspective of alumni.
“Sometimes you can get into your own bubble and lose sight of the bigger picture,” he pointed out, “so sometimes it’s helpful to have outside voices come in.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete