Missouri and Racism Back in the News: Mizzou President Resigns
University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned Monday morning following mounting pressure from students and faculty over his mishandling of racism at the school’s campuses.
“I take full responsibility for this frustration and inaction,” Wolfe said Monday aftera series of scheduled walkouts and protests, includingone student declaring a hunger strike, due to theuniversity’s lack of response to several documented incidents of racism.
According to the students involved in the protests, a gathering for the Legion of Black Collegians was interrupted when an intoxicated white student yelled racial slurs at the group. In a recent incident, someone drew a swastika on a dormitory wall using feces.
Students tried to get Wolfe’s attention at a homecoming parade last month, where protestors attempted to block his car. The protestors alleged that Wolfe kept driving and bumped into one of the students with his car. No injuries were reported from the incident.
The student activists who had been leading the protests formed a group called Concerned Student 1950. 1950 was the first year the university admitted Black students.
Despite admitting Black students to the university for over half a century, though, the campus remains overwhelmingly white. In the fall 2014 semester, 77 percent of students enrolled were white, while just 7 percent were Black, according to theuniversity’s website. Full-time staff members see similar numbers: 75 percent were white, and only 3 percent were Black.
The students presented alist of demandsto the university, one of which addresses the school’s lack of diversity: “We demand that by the academic year 2017-2018, the University of Missouri increases the percentage of black faculty and staff campus-wide to 10%.”
Players on the university’s football team also teamed up with the group and said they would not participate in any football-related activities until their voices are heard. The team sent a tweet over the weekend with a statement.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'”the tweet read. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!”
The players garnered the support of head coach Gary Pinkel as well, who said in atweetof his own, “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players. #ConcernedStudent1950.”
One student even participated in a hunger strike. Graduate student Jonathan Butler sent a letter to the UM System Board of Curators that read, in part, “During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.” He engaged in the strike for seven days.
Faculty members joined the fight, too. The Concerned Faculty group said in a statement late Sunday that they would participate in a two-day walk out.
“We, the concerned faculty of the University of Missouri, stand in solidarity with the Mizzou student activists who are advocating for racial justice on our campus and urge all MU faculty to demonstrate their support by walking out on Monday November 9 and Tuesday November 10, 2015 along with other allies such as the Forum on Graduate Rights,” the statement read.
Faculty members said they would use the day to “respond to student questions in the form of a teach in.”
The situation even captured the attention of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon. “Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state,” he said. “Our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding. These concerns must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”
On Sunday, Wolfe said that he had already begun working on a diversity and inclusion strategy for the university and said, “The majority of the items listed on the Concerned Student 1950 List of Demands were already included in the draft of the strategy.”
However, Wolfe met privately with Concerned Student 1950 late last month anddid not agreeto any of the demands when they were initially presented to him.
According to Wolfe’s statement, “Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable. It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff.” It is unclear why, if racism is a “long-standing” problem in the eyes of the president, it has taken this long to acknowledge.
Issues regarding racism have recently plagued other universities around the country as well.Yalerecently came under fire after members of a fraternity said they would only admit white girls to their party. Prior to that, the president of theUniversity of Louisvillereceived some unwanted attention after hosting a Halloween staff party where guests dressed in stereotypical Mexican attire and wore sombreros, ponchos and fake mustaches. AndSUNY Plattsburgh’s newspapersparked outrage when a cartoon depicting a Black student walking through a run-down urban neighborhood was published on the front page.