Students debate how MSU should respond to story of Mary Jean PriceMar 1st, 2010 | By Nate | Category: Campus News, Featured Articles, News
by Nate Bassett
The story of Mary Jean Price was never forgotten, but failed to receive much attention over the years.
Dare To Excel, a promotional publication that reviews the history of the Missouri State University, mentions Price as the first African American applicant to Missouri State – and her rejection – but fails to detail the situation.
In light of the resurgence of interest in her story, students are surprised to learn about this forgotten part of the school’s history.
“She really needs to be brought to the limelight instead of being brushed off into history,” said Jeremy Fain, a member of the Delta Tau Christian fraternity. As far as recognizing the past, he said the school should at least do something to acknowledge her, because we all make mistakes. Still, he wonders, “Should we be responsible for the wrongs of the previous generation?”
But Terry Walls, son of Price, is very insistent on the need for reconciliation.
“If this is what we’re learning, we need to start re-learning,” he said. “It’s a sad commentary this type of apathy exists in 2010. You can’t rectify what you don’t recognize.”
Other students agree as well. Nursing student Stephanie Neuman suggested the school at least say something, maybe apologize outright.
Since the renewed interest in Mary Jean Price, Missouri State officials are still trying to figure out how to deal with this issue.
“Several individuals at the university have seen this story and found it historically interesting and personally inspiring,” Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President Paul Kincaid said in an emailed statement. “The university is still determining an appropriate response.”
Wes Pratt, Coordinator for Diversity Outreach and Recruitment, emailed that, “the best apology for any racial transgressions of the past” was to continue to improve diversity and provide and increase opportunities for all students at Missouri State.
Although diversity on campus has increased 36 percent in the last two years, African American students still only constitute about three percent of the student body.
And despite the assurances of university officials, Walls remains unimpressed.
When he found the letter, he says he was holding a piece of history, which was “no longer a mystery,” forgotten in the years of neglect.
“We have to learn from the past,” he said. “More things change, more things remain the same.”
His concern is that the mindset and apathy towards the issue perpetuate themselves for future generations. To hear students on campus say they have never heard of this story and see how racism continues to be an issue today brings legitimacy to his worry.
“An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere,” Walls said, citing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
To know that injustices have occurred is only half of his concern.
He believes Missouri State must come forward on the issue publicly to bring closure to the issue.