Students at Missouri State University accused the school’s president of harassment and intimidation this spring after he distanced the school from their posters raging against the “privilege” of white people, men, Christians, heterosexuals and”cisgenders” (non-transgendered people).

They also went after their president for having the audacity to thank the local police department for helping keep the campus safe, according to documents obtained by Heat Street under the Freedom of Information Act.

Pictures of the posters, created by students from the Residence Hall Association and the Student Government Association, surfaced in May and quickly garnered national attention. One poster claimed that “if you’re confident that the police exist to protect you, you have white male privilege.” Another said, “If you can expect time off from work to celebrate your religious holidays, you have Christian privilege.”

As news of the posters spread, creating an uproar over Twitter from the larger public, MSU’s president, Clif Smart, himself took to social media:







Shortly afterward, two MSU students, both undergrads whose names have been redacted, formally complained to the school’s “Bias Response Team”. They classified Smart’s tweets as “email/online harassment, intimidation.” One also deemed them a threat.

As one of the complaints stated, “Rather than taking a strong chance [sic] of supporting controversial posters asking students to be aware of their privilege, (Smart) shamed the students that had attempted to start this conversation of diversity, inclusion and cultural competence as well as pointing out where to file complaints. …Clif Smart refused to acknowledge the attempts of his students to produce a more culturally competent campus at Missouri State University and undermined said student’s safety and privacy in doing so.”

Another student ungrammatically wrote: “This attempt to shrug off his responsibilities in heping [sic] his student and fostering a campus where ALL students feel safe, Clif instead put the dignity and lives off [sic] the Executive Board of Residence Hall Association and pained [sic] a target on the back of all members of RHA and SGA. … The administration at Missouri State University should learn from this and no longer shame and undermine the efforts of those wishing to make a more culturally competent campus iif [sic] they wish to continue Missouri State’s Public affairs mission.”

After the students’ complaints, the Bias Response Team met with President Smart.

“I explained what happened and they closed the file without action,” Smart tells Heat Street. “I also met with the students and we discussed the entire situation, which resolved the matter.”

In a blog post published in May, Smart wrote that the public’s Twitter outrage was “unfortunate as we value both our students and their free speech rights and we respect and appreciate the important service the Springfield Police Department provides to our university.”

— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.