Students at the University of Missouri gather in protest to show support for those marginalized in the campus community.

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Oide, published in “The Maneater”

Students at the University of Missouri gather in protest to show support for those marginalized in the campus community.

BSM alum scores touchdown in journalism

December 30, 2015

As the former print Editor-in-Chief of the Knight Errant, there is no doubt that 2014 BSM alum Will Jarvis had a prominent presence in the school community. Now, as a sophomore at the University of Missouri (Mizzou), it is not surprising that the BSM graduate brings his talents to his college campus.

As a writer for one of Mizzou’s school papers, The Maneater, Jarvis covers the football beat, meaning he writes articles about football games and activities. “Last year, I did the basketball [beat] and then volleyball [beat] in the fall. Basically, I go to every game,” Jarvis said.  Although he has covered several different sports teams, Jarvis admits that lately all focus has been directed to one topic.

Racial tension has escalated on both on Mizzou’s campus and in the state of Missouri. With its roots as a slave state, Missouri has progressed slowly in regards to racism, only admitting African American students into the school as late as the 1950’s. “There is definitely rooted racism that’s just for the university, but in the past five years, there has been a lot of racial tension. Like in 2010, there was this cotton ball incident where two white students threw cotton balls into the Black Culture Center,” Jarvis said.

The campus is not, however, an isolated place for horrific racial incidents. “Of course, last year was Ferguson, which happened like two hours east of Mizzou. I think that has a lot bigger role in [these events] than people think, because a lot of the black population here is from the same area,” Jarvis said.

Recent events at Mizzou have highlighted the racial disparities on its campus. These events have finally exposed the broken administrative leadership that has left students of color feeling that they have less respect than their white peers.

Frustrated by the lack of leadership by President Tim Wolf, a group was formed called the “Concerned Student Group,” the same band of students at the roots of the nationally trending hashtag “#ConcernedStudent1950.” Then, graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike to protest the racial inequities on campus. All of these events, Jarvis admits, led to administrative changes, but were not as influential as a football strike. The football team stood together and refused to practice or play until Tim Wolfe stepped down from his position.

“One Saturday night, I looked on Twitter and saw that Anthony Sheryls, a football player from Mizzou, had tweeted that the student athletes on the football team would not resume any activities until Tim Wolf resigned or was taken out of office,” Jarvis said.

This event, however, did not cause radical change. In fact, it was the morning after Jarvis saw the tweet that things began to escalate.  “The same guy tweeted a photo of the entire team, saying that he stood with his players in unity. By Sunday night, there were national reporters from every news outlet in the country. By Monday morning, there was a huge rally on one of the quads and then the president resigned at 10:30 that morning,” Jarvis said.

As the racial tensions grew, so did the momentum for student-activated change. “There is definitely rooted racism that’s just for the university, but in the past five years, there has been a lot of racial tension. Like in 2010, there was this cotton ball incident where two white students threw cotton balls into the Black Culture Center,” Jarvis said

The protests by the football team were not what made the administration crack. It was the potential financial loss the university would suffer. By forfeiting a single game, the university would lose, on average, $1,000,000. With the threat of lost revenue on the line, university administrators reached an important tipping point.

When the tweet was posted about the football players’ strike,  Jarvis was the first to write about it for The Maneater. His online story quickly picked up hits as other major news outlets began writing about the topic. Despite having the first byline on a story that became nationally recognized, Jarvis takes a humble approach about his article: “I really don’t think I had an impact when I wrote the article. We wrote it in a little over 15 minutes,” Jarvis said.

It is clear to see that the last few months of his college career have been impactful for this BSM alum. Jarvis does not forget his BSM roots: “I think my participation on the KE staff helped prepare me for this situation. You learn a lot on the staff. [I’ve also learned not to] just listen to one source. Form your opinions as you wish, but just know that if you’re going to have an opinion, that you really know what you’re talking about. Just read a lot about it and get a lot of different opinions on the matter before forming your own,” Jarvis said.

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