UMKC Chancellor Morton has own history of student activism

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s chancellor sat down with students on Wednesday to hear their concerns in the wake of the events in Columbia.

Leo Morton is the first African American chancellor at UMKC, and a man who protested for civil rights when he was a college student. Chancellor Morton took over as at UMKC in 2008, the right man for the job after he says the university had its own crisis involving race.

In 2006, UMKC did a racial climate survey, and would later create an Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The same office the University of Missouri’s main campus in Columbia, only created this week after racial tensions boiled over.

“We are where we are because of what we’ve been through,” Morton said.

The same can be said for Morton himself, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, a mile from the jail where Dr. Martin Luther King was jailed.

“I knew one of the girls who died in the 16th Street bombing,” he told FOX 4’s Dave D’Marko.

Though they were different times, Morton like the students at MU protested when he was in college for the rights of African Americans.

“It affected everyone so I understand a lot of the issues,” he said.

Despite his experiences, and the groundwork already laid at UMKC, he says calls from former President Wolfe for insight only came recently.

Morton says he has no interest at the two newly open positions in Columbia, but is concentrating on what he and students can work together to do to improve race relations and the campus as a whole in Kansas City.

“We’re facing a crisis of sorts and if a year from now we want to look back and say we didn’t waste it, and we really made progress, what’s it going to look like?” Morton asked.

Morton says the students main concerns at the listening session were for greater diversity among professors and students and creating an open forum for communication.

He’s planned another listening session next month.

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