Among the multiple staff changes announced at the University of Missouri on Monday was the resignation of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who oversees the flagship Columbia campus. Loftin's announcement came just hours after University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe stepped down amid public outcry and student protests.
Loftin, whose given name is Richard, is relatively new to the MU campus. After working as the vice-president and subsequent president of Texas A&M, Loftin only joined the Missouri community in February 2014, when he took the role of chancellor. In this position, Loftin oversaw the main MU campus and reported directly to Wolfe, who was the president of the larger system, which includes three other campuses.
But as racial tensions grew on the campus and students turned their attention on Wolfe, professors increasingly became disenchanted with Loftin's administration. In early October, the English department, citing a "dereliction of duty," conducted a vote of no confidence in regard to Loftin's leadership abilities, becoming the first department to publicly call for his resignation. Since then, nine other deans drafted a letter to Loftin and the Board of Curators calling for him to step down as well, claiming he fostered a "toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation."
It's not the first time Loftin has been publicly addressed by the university. In early September he was under fire after waiting a week to respond to an incident involving the Missouri Students Association president, who reportedly endured racial harassment while walking home. In October, campus organizations sent Loftin two separate letters asking him to speak out against a climate of racial tension that had led to a student drawing a swastika on the wall of a bathroom using human feces.
In calling for his resignation, students and professors also cited several recent university changes, including the elimination of health insurance for graduate student, decreased tuition waivers for working graduate students, the elimination of the vice chancellor for health services position, and the university's decision to end contracts with Planned Parenthood.
However, some students, including Jonathan Butler, the graduate student who went on a hunger strike to remove Wolfe from office, acknowledge that Loftin has been willing to listen to students in the past. "I'm critical of Chancellor Loftin because he does play a crucial role in what happens on campus, but in the meetings I've seen with him, he's actually more willing to understand how systems of oppression, how racism and all these things work," Butler said when asked why he didn't call for Loftin's resignation.
In the past, Loftin has acknowledged acts of racism on the MU campus. In his response to the incident involving the student association president, Loftin called for mandatory diversity training. "It's enough. Let's stop this," Loftin wrote. "Let's end hatred and racism at Mizzou. We're part of the same family. You don't hate your family."
Loftin's resignation is not immediate; he will step down from his current position, effective January 2016. In addition to Loftin and Wolfe's resignations, the Board of Curators announced several other changes, including the installation of a Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity officer, a review of all policies, support for campus members impacted by racism, and renewed support for hiring minority individuals, and creating campus based task forces. In addition, Loftin, who has a Ph.D. in physics, will transition to a research position within the university.
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