Top 5 Words of the Year

From “concerned” to “muscle,” these are the words that capture the year at MU.

Calling for “muscle” sparked a national debate over the First Amendment, labeling graduate student workers as “kids” voting in a “mock election” infuriated unionization activists, and adding “because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success” to a definition of systematic oppression unraveled an administration. In a year of major upheaval at MU, these were the five words that stood out the most:


This was the year of the protest. Activists calling themselves “Concerned Student 1950” and their advocates and allies protested MU and UM System administrations’ response to instances of racism on campus, overt or otherwise. Students were (and are still) concerned that the university’s attitude and racial climate had not come far since MU began allowing black students to enroll in 1950.


Systemic and systematic racism were big topics this year, especially when former UM System President Tim Wolfe failed to give a satisfying definition of systematic oppression to protesters. Systematic is defined by Merriam-Webster as “using a careful system or method.” Systemic means “of or relating to an entire system.” Systemic racism is a set of ingrained disadvantages to a race in a society or system. Systematic refers to something more deliberate and planned.


There were a lot of popular trends this year: Pocket Points, unnecessarily running for president, shooting things into trash cans and yelling “Curry!” But MU has embraced the trend of the interim administrator. MU started the spring semester with 15 administrators in an interim role, including interim Chancellor Hank Foley and four deans. Even the Missouri Students Association adopted the trend, with interim leaders Payton Head and Bill Vega stepping in after Haden Gomez and Chris Hanner resigned over controversies surrounding their campaign for office.


When Melissa Click called for “muscle” to remove a student from the Concerned Student 1950 campsite, she likely didn’t know how big of a deal that word would become. The former assistant communication professor who clashed with photojournalist Mark Schierbecker would be charged with third-degree assault, lose her job and become the temporary public face of the university because of it.


Graduate rights activists have spent the entire year fighting for their rights as workers. They call themselves employees of the university. Administration prefers to call them students, “scholars” or “kids”. The difference is a big one: Employees can collectively bargain for health care, child care options and affordable housing. And that’s what graduate workers intend to do now that they voted to unionize in April.

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