Freshman enrollment at the University of Missouri has fallen by 35 percent since 2015, when racial tensions triggered protests and hunger strikes.
The administration at the University of Missouri—commonly called Mizzou—has publicly stated that the decline in enrollment is a backlash from the 2015 protests and families associating the university with racism and anarchical protests, the New York Times reported.
Recent Stories in Culture
"The general consensus was that it was because of the aftermath of what happened in November 2015," said Mun Choi, the new system president, referring to the climax of the demonstrations. "There were students from both in state and out of state that just did not apply, or those who did apply but decided not to attend."
The protests and hunger strikes ultimately drove the university president and campus chancellor to resign.
Mizzou was experiencing growth prior to the 2015 incidents, constructing new buildings and dormitories. However, with budget cuts and a decline in state funding resulting from loss in enrollment numbers, the university will be temporarily closing seven dorm buildings and cutting more than 400 positions in staff and nontenured faculty members.
Although students of all races have condemned the university, the drop in 2016 fall enrollment was much higher among black students at 42 percent than white students at a 21 percent drop.
Whitney Matewe, an African-American student who will be entering her senior year in the fall, said her parents asked if she wanted to transfer after the protests and strikes. The only reason she said she stayed was because of the prestigious journalism school at Mizzou.
Matewe told the Times that she understood why black students would want to transfer to a campus where they did not feel "invisible."
"Being ‘the other' in every classroom and every situation is exhausting," Matewe said.
White students' decline in enrollment has also hurt the university, as they make up the majority of students on campus. Tyler Morris, a white student, told the Times he decided against the University of Missouri because he was afraid of being stereotyped as a bigot just because he was white.
The Times reported that college counselors predict that Mizzou may have a hard time recovering from the 2015 protests because of the regional reputation they held. Students that live farther away and are from out of state could choose to go to a university that is the same scale as the University of Missouri but has a better reputation.
However, the administrators stay hopeful as current students at Mizzou did not transfer out in large numbers, indicating that the protests looked worse from the outside.
Mizzou has appointed a chief diversity officer who has promised to double the percentage of minority faculty members by 2020 and will require diversity training for all faculty and staff members and the incoming students.