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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Missouri State University has hired an investigator to conduct an independent review of allegations of racist treatment against the school's vice president of diversity and inclusion.
The Springfield News-Leader (http://sgfnow.co/1YWNhM7 ) reports the university's Board of Governors Chair Stephen Hoven announced Monday there would be an investigation of the treatment of Ken Coopwood, the university's first black vice president. Springfield law firm Ellis, Ellis, Hammons & Johnson has been contracted for the investigation.
An online petition claimed Coopwood has been the victim of hostile behavior by his own staff and has been discriminated against by the administration. The petition, which was started by local business owner Du'Sean Howard, was submitted Thursday to the school board. Howard said he considers the vice president to be a "close friend."
Howard says the allegations are based on several conversations with Coopwood. The petition called on the school board to "investigate Dr. Coopwood's experience since moving to Springfield," but said that, if needed, the petition would be brought to the attention of Gov. Jay Nixon.
"While we feel Dr. Coopwood has been treated fairly as an employee of Missouri State, in the interest of openness and transparency we have engaged an outside investigator to conduct an independent review of the allegations and charges that have been made via the petition," Hoven said.
Howard says he has accomplished his goal of drawing attention to Coopwood's situation, but will now step aside so the vice president can address any specific concerns.
Coopwood declined the newspaper's interview request but said in an email that he was "thankful for the support of the petitioners and their due diligence to bring sensitive matters to light."
Missouri State University President Clif Smart issued a statement after the board's meeting, saying supports the decision to engage an independent investigator to review the allegations.
Smart said, "I am confident the outcome will prove that we have treated him fairly and with respect."
School officials hope to have the investigation completed by Dec. 30.
Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com
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