SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) – A Missouri State University diversity official accused of discrimination has been disciplined by the school but will keep his job, the university said.
The university would not say how Juan Meraz, assistant vice president of multicultural affairs, was disciplined in response to a student complaint that he had made discriminatory remarks against black students, treated some students unfairly and harassed and intimidated her, The Springfield News-Leader reported Friday.
Meraz on Friday apologized and promised to do better in the future.
"It was never my intent to hurt this student or other students at Missouri State with language that was unprofessional and offensive," wrote Meraz, the university's highest-ranking Hispanic official. "As a member of a historically excluded group, I have felt the sting of words and actions many times in my life, which is why I understand that I let the students down with my words."
Meraz's apology was part of a statement the university released to the News-Leader. University officials acknowledged the school needed to improve its handling of complaints and will remain open to meeting with students to discuss their concerns. The statement did not respond to specific allegations against Meraz.
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The student-led Springfield Coalition for Minority Advancement had pushed for Meraz to be fired. On Thursday, the student who made the complaint, Monica Villa Meza, said she was frustrated by the university's response and would consider seeking a remedy outside of the university. Earlier this month, the coalition said if Meraz was not fired, it would consider taking legal action.
"I no longer have any faith in Missouri State University when it comes to handling these issues," Villa Meza said. "They have shown they are more concerned with protecting the university's name than students, and it makes me question how far they are willing to go to protect someone who has clearly violated the policies put in place and goes against everything the university is supposed to stand for."
In its statement, the school said Villa Meza's description of her "experience and confusion" in filing a complaint made the university realize that "even our best intentions to provide support can sometimes result in confusion."
School officials said it was their hope that Meraz's apology would be a "first step to begin the process toward a resolution."