Tim Wolfe, University Of Missouri President, Resigns Amidst Allegations That He Failed To Address Racism At The School
After weeks of student protests and, recently, faculty walkouts, Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri President, will resign, according to a tweet from ABC News. The Board of Curators, which acts as the university's governing board, held an emergency meeting Monday after one student went on a hunger strike and faculty said that they would cancel classes to support students in their efforts to force the school to address a culture of racism and racial harassment, according to USA Today. "Use my resignation to heal and start talking again," Wolfe said during his resignation speech, according to The New York Times.
Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student at the university, was on the eighth day of his hunger strike Monday and said that he would not eat until Wolfe resigned, according to USA Today. His action spurred others to join the cause. Over the weekend, about 30 football players said they would refuse to play until Butler started eating — a decision that head coach Gary Pinkel tweeted support for, according to ABC News: "The Mizzou Family stands as one." If the team hadn't ended their strike by Saturday, it would have forfeited a game with Brigham Young University and would automatically forfeit $1 million for breaking a contract between two universities, according to the The Washington Post.
That loss, some students and faculty suggest, is what made the system president listen up, even though students have been protesting since October, when members of Concerned Student 1950 approached Wolfe at the homecoming parade. Concerned Student 1950, which is named for the first year that the university admitted a black student, tried to talk to Wolfe about recent instances of racism at the school, but he drove away while they tried to talk to him, according to ABC News. Recently, black students on the predominantly white campus have been subjected to racial slurs and a swastika was painted on a residence hall wall with feces, according to the Times. In a separate incident in October, a group of black students were rehearsing a skit when a white student jumped onto the stage and started shouting racial slurs, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Wolfe said that the university was working on diversity and inclusion strategy for the university that would be released in April, but that wasn't enough for students, according to ABC News. On Friday, as Wolfe left a fundraising event, a small crowd of black students surrounded Wolfe and asked him if he knew what systematic oppression was, according to the Post. "I will give you an answer, and I'm sure it will be a wrong answer," Wolfe said.
A student responded sarcastically, asking if he would Google the term, but then Wolfe fired back, according to the Post: "I will give you an answer, and I'm sure it will be a wrong answer. Systematic oppression is when you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success..."
This enraged the students. One said, "Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe? Did you just blame black students?" but Wolfe turned his back to them, according to the Post. And faculty at MU, system leaders, and even state representatives seem to think that Wolfe has turned his back one too many times. Rep. Caleb Jones, a Republican who represents Boone County, where the university's Columbia campus sits, told the Post that Wolfe's resignation became necessary:
The lack of leadership Mizzou has been dealing with for months has finally reached the point of being a national embarrassment. It's time for a change in leadership and start the healing process.
Concerned Student 1950 presented a list of demands that the university meet. It included demands for a "comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum," for black people to represent 10 percent of the faculty and staff by 2017-2018, and a request that funding be allocated to provide specialized counseling services to black students who have dealt with racism on campus, according to a tweet from Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson.
It's unclear when a new system president will be appointed, but tensions on the University of Missouri campus certainly won't dissipate overnight.