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Probe debunks claim Missouri State’s top black official suffered ‘racist treatment’ from peers


Missouri State University spent an estimated $40,000 of taxpayer money to pay a group of attorneys to investigate whether its vice president of diversity and inclusion was discriminated against because he is black, a claim the executive at the public university made via a friend and a Change.org petition.

The end result of the month-long investigation in December? In effect, complaints alleged in the petition of “racist treatment” were baseless.

That’s the takeaway from a recent article in the Springfield News-Leader on the matter, which notes Dr. Ken Coopwood, the university’s vice president for diversity and inclusion, effectively lodged these accusations even though:

a) His salary is $120,402 (a little less than other VPs, but still $20,000 more than the average salary for diversity VPs);coopwood

b) His division’s operating budget was increased from $280,456 in 2013 to nearly $400,000 this year;

c) The university paid $180,000 to renovate Coopwood’s office suite;

d) and in sum, the public university has spent about $1.2 million on various diversity initiatives in recent years.

All that from the attorney’s report, which concluded after interviewing dozens of employees, scouring stacks of emails, reviewing personnel files and more, that Coopwood was not discriminated against.

“The bottom line is that the report does not find evidence to support claims of discrimination and we are absolutely confident that this conclusion is accurate,” Stephen Hoven, chair of the MSU Board of Governors, told the Springfield News-Leader.

Coopwood was hired in 2011 by the university as its first permanent vice president for diversity and inclusion. At the time, he was given charge of the office for institutional equity and compliance, multicultural student services, the Multicultural Resource Center and the Disability Resource Center, according to a campus press release.

But in 2014, those divisions – along with the Title IX office – were removed from his immediate supervision, which may have in part prompted the complaint.

According to the attorney’s report, however, the institutional equity and compliance division was moved to report directly to the MSU president’s office to give it more involvement in Title IX compliance efforts in the wake of nationwide concerns over sexual assaults on college campuses, the Springfield News-Leader reports.

“According to the investigation, the [additional] restructuring of Coopwood’s job was ‘due to ongoing complaints by personnel with the division for Diversity and Inclusion and to allow Dr. Coopwood to focus on strategic initiatives instead of day-to-day student programs,'” the newspaper added.

Coopwood did not respond to a request from the Springfield News-Leader for comment.

UPDATE: On the afternoon of Jan 4., Dr. Coopwood announced his resignation from Missouri State.

“I agreed to the investigation and actively participated in it,” Coopwood stated. “I think that the investigative team took the matter seriously and conducted a thorough investigation. While I accept the investigation and its findings, I have decided it would be best for me to pursue other professional opportunities.”

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.