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Investigators Find No Evidence that Missouri State Discriminated

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. ― An investigation has found no evidence that Missouri State University discriminated against the top Black official at the school.

The Missouri State Board of Governors hired outside investigators after an online petition alleged that Ken Coopwood, vice president of diversity and inclusion, was subjected to “despicable and hostile” behavior by his staff. His supporters also alleged the school administration discriminated against Coopwood and marginalized him by restructuring his job a year ago. A summary of the investigator’s report was released Thursday, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

In the summary, investigators wrote, “Based upon our investigation, we find no credible evidence which leads us to conclude that Dr. Coopwood has been discriminated against because of his race in connection to his employment at the university.”

Stephen Hoven, chairman of the Board of Governors, said investigators interviewed 38 people, including 12 suggested by Coopwood, and reviewed dozens of documents.

“We are extremely pleased with the manner with which the allegations were investigated,” Hoven said in a news release. “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.”

Hoven said the board continues to support school president Clif Smart, who has said he never “mistreated nor discriminated against” Coopwood.

“I am pleased that the report supports our assertions that Missouri State strives to be a diverse and inclusive campus,” Smart said in the news release.

The newspaper said Coopwood did not respond to an email Thursday seeking comment on the investigation and had previously declined to answer questions about either the petition or his treatment at MSU.

Coopwood became the university’s first Black vice president in October 2011 when he was named vice president of diversity and inclusion, which the university touted as part of its efforts to improve diversity on the Springfield campus.

Springfield business owner DuSean Howard started a petition on in late November after he several conversations with Coopwood, whom he said was a close friend. The petition alleged Coopwood was paid less than his White peers, had been “racially profiled as incompetent” and that his job was restructured to reduce his effectiveness.

Howard declined to participate in the Missouri State investigation but said he was “gratified” the school investigated the concerns.

“We asked for an investigation and that’s what we got,” he said. “I don’t know where else we can go from here and what else we can do. It’s up to Dr. Coopwood to push this forward, if he wants to.”

Missouri State officials said they consider the matter closed.

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