University of Missouri appoints law professor Chuck Henson to oversee diversity


On Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in the wake of on-campus civil disobedience, Chuck Henson has been appointed interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity. His swift appointment came hours after protests by students, players on Mizzou’s football team threatening to forfeit this Saturday’s game against Brigham Young University – Missouri Tigers versus BYU Cougars (Nov. 14) – and a hunger strike by student Jonathan Butler. The demonstrations have been grabbing mainstream headlines all week and led to Henson’s appointment, fulfilling a pledge the University’s Board of Curators made addressing student and faculty protestors’ concern over systemic racism and assault, increasing the percentage of diverse faculty and staff at MU.

The resignation of the University of Missouri’s top administrator, president Timothy C. Wolfe, was met with tears, joy and even resentment by some. Wolfe was described as “distant and aloof,” not taking incidences of bias “seriously” and “slow to act” when students issued complaints about bigotry at the school. Many feel he failed to address the racial tension. His acknowledgement was saying the school would unveil diversity plans in April 2016 – too little, too late. The filthiest assault, a hate crime nevertheless, was made by a perpetrator, the artist behind the anti-Semitic drawing of a swastika on a wall using a handy tool, feces, in one of the residence halls.

Even though he took the first steps to the address the hatred, another top university leader stepped down on Monday, Nov. 9. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin will remain on the faculty in a lower position.

In the wake of this, the university promoted law professor and administrator Chuck Henson to a new, high-level diversity post to start addressing many of the concerns. Henson is currently the associate dean for academic affairs and trial practice in the School of Law. Addressing the student body and faculty, he knows there is no easy resolution, “I hope that a measurement for progress will be that people continue to talk to each other, that they’re happy and willing to talk to me,” he said.

Henson started working at the university in 2009, serving in many capacities: as an adjunct professor, visiting professor of law and trial practice professor of law. He was an honoree at the 27th Annual Lloyd Gaines Scholarship Banquet, and he also received the Graduate Professional Council’s 2014 Gold Chalk Award and the Division of Student Affairs Excellence in Education Award. He is an experienced trial lawyer with primary emphasis on employment litigation and commercial law matters: his studies focuses on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

Henson currently teaches Pretrial Litigation, Trial Practice and Advanced Trial Practice in the School of Law. He received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and his B.A. from Yale University in Economics and Political Science.

Now, the Columbia campus, the flagship of the four-campus system, can re-focus on its continued tradition of graduating scholars, corporate executives, business professionals and professional athletes while rectifying their issues with discirmination.

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