"A lot of emotion. Two years prior was kind of the climax in a way, and it also kind of marked the place where we hit rock bottom."
Those were the words of Mizzou junior Erica Winston when I said that Thursday marked two years since former UM System President Tim Wolfe resigned. She was only a freshman at the time of the 2015 protests, but insisted "we all felt the impact."
On Nov. 9, 2015, Wolfe announced his resignation following on-campus protests and a hunger strike.
While two years have gone by, the consequences of those events are still affecting the university. Enrollment is at its lowest in at least 10 years, and Mizzou's reputation is still recovering.
"We made some mistakes in how we reacted to the student protests," Curator David Steelman said. "It's not that they weren't serious but we didn't do what we needed to do to maintain a sense of calm and a sense of dignity at the University of Missouri. You make mistakes, you have to pay for them."
In spite of the consequences, progress has been made. The university now has new permanent leadership. UM System President Dr. Mun Choi started in March 2017, and Chancellor Alexander Cartwright took over in August after four different chancellors in under two years.
"We have to focus on excellence," Cartwright said. "I think that when you think about excellence, it also permeates into our climate."
The climate still isn't great at Mizzou. A 2016 survey found that only 66 percent of the MU community feels comfortable on campus. However, leaders said it's important to take the timing of the survey into context.
Students have said people are more willing to have difficult conversations
"There's a greater inclusive mindset on campus and I see students taking a greater effort to understand people who might be different than them. So that's a huge plus," Winston said.
The new administration wants to be clear--they are more than willing to listen.
"If you want to be successful, you have to have people trust that you have their best interest in mind," Cartwright said.
"If you don't get the proper treatment from your organization, come to us, any one of us, any one of us, and we will look into that matter very carefully," Choi insisted.
That attitude is encouraging to the entire MU community.
"I see the university going forward," Winston said. "I think we can only go up from here."