Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon speaks at UMSL

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon addresses the events in Ferguson during a press conference held at UMSL. (Photo by Bob Samples)

We have all watched the recent events in the greater St. Louis region with intense sadness and disbelief. While these events have not affected the campus physically, emotionally our hearts and thoughts are with those grieving – many of whom are our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

I want to applaud and thank you all for your continuing efforts to comfort those affected by these incidents in Ferguson and other areas of the greater St. Louis region. Your collective action speaks well of the University of Missouri–St. Louis and reinforces our standing as a formidable community partner.

Yesterday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon held a series of meetings with elected officials, law enforcement officers and members of the clergy, as well as a press conference on our campus. The choice of UMSL was not made by happenstance. Governor Nixon reached out to us because of our reputation of inclusion and community engagement and betterment. I appreciate the governor’s confidence in us and have pledged that UMSL will provide leadership to bring about positive change.

It was an easy pledge to make, because I know you’re already providing that leadership.

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson

Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald S. Johnson addresses the media at UMSL following Gov. Jay Nixon’s announcement that Johnson would take over security in Ferguson. (Photo by Bob Samples) (Click image to enlarge.)

The current situation has – to varying degrees – taken a toll on us all. I am delighted that the clinical staffs of our Center for Trauma Recovery and Community Psychological Service have offered free trauma and counseling services to those affected by recent events in Ferguson. Community Psychological Service also will be working with the Association of Black Psychologists to offer free psychological first-aid/crisis intervention to the Ferguson community. Please take advantage of this offer as you deem necessary and share the information with friends and family members who may be in need of this type of assistance. Call 314-516-6738 to arrange an appointment.

Students and their families understandably have inquired about campus operations and safety. Anticipating this activity, student affairs staff prepared and distributed a letter this week about campus safety operations and the outstanding UMSL environment. Here is a version of that letter used by staff to speak with students.

The Regional Business Council is a consortium of presidents and chief executive officers of mid- to large-sized companies in St. Louis. This week the RBC announced the creation of the Reinvest North County Fund, which will provide immediate relief to small businesses hurt by this tragedy and provide school districts with appropriate resources to show their children the importance of education. UMSL is an inaugural donor to the fund and will help determine the appropriate projects to receive funding.

Individually or as part of a campus delegation, students, faculty and staff have been to Ferguson to help in the clean-up effort and to deliver food or supplies to the homebound and those involved in peaceful protests. And, as I was writing this note, I received – as you did – an email today announcing a campus-wide food drive to replenish supplies at St. Stephen’s Food Pantry in Ferguson. Way to go!

UMSL is nationally ranked for the quality of its faculty. As local, national and international news provide coverage and try to make sense of the situation, they have appropriately reached out to UMSL faculty to discuss policing, poverty, racial tensions and the history of the region. Our PR team has done a good job connecting and tracking these activities. You can view a list of those faculty media appearances on UMSL Daily.

Learning from the current situation and devising strategies to avoid a repeat is perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university community. I am pleased to say that the Chancellor’s Cultural Diversity Council is planning a forum to look at the diversity issues surrounding the Ferguson situation. The council plans to involve UMSL faculty, students, alumni and community leaders. I know this will be just one of many UMSL forums, classes or research projects on this subject. I look forward to participating in and learning from each.

When I started this message, it was not meant to be a listing per se because so much is happening so quickly. One minute after hitting “send,” I am sure that I’ll receive 50 emails about activities/events I’ve missed. But that’s all right. You are certainly a creative and energetic group. And this campus and community is the better for it.

I wanted to build on and reinforce my note to you earlier this week. I am convinced more than ever that that you and UMSL are primary reasons that the St. Louis region is a great place to live, learn and work. We will learn from the situation in Ferguson. We will emerge as a better university. We will emerge as a better community.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.