In 2011, Kenneth D. Coopwood Sr. was hired as the inaugural vice president of diversity and inclusion at Missouri State University. Before this appointment, Dr. Coopwood was director of diversity programming, assistant to the chancellor and an adjunct faculty member in the School of Education at Indiana University Northwest in Gary. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master of public administration degree, and a doctorate in educational administration, leadership and foundations, all from Indiana State University.
In 2014, Missouri State University received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. A year later, Dr. Coopwood was selected by INSIGHT into Diversity to receive its Diversity Visionary Award.
But in 2015, an online petition alleged that Dr. Coopwood had been subjected to discriminatory treatment on the basis of his race. The petition, which was placed by a local businessperson who is a friend of Dr. Coopwood, said that the university’s diversity officer was subjected to despicable and hostile behavior by his own staff and was discriminated against by the administration.
In response, the university initiated an independent investigation by a reputable law firm. On December 30, a report on the allegations was given to the board of trustees at Missouri State. The report concluded that there was no credible evidence that Dr. Coopwood had been treated unfairly.
On January 4, Dr. Coopwood announced that he would leave his post on April 30 and would be on leave until that time. In a statement, Dr. Coopwood said that “I agreed to the investigation and actively participated in it. I think the investigative team took the matter seriously and conducted a thorough investigation. While I accept the investigation and its findings, I have decided it would be best for me to pursue other professional opportunities.”
Clif Smart, president of Missouri State University, told the Springfield News Leader that after the allegations and the investigation “it was a mutual decision that it was going to be a challenge moving forward.”