A series of protests at the University of Missouri related to race, workplace benefits and leadership resulted in the resignation of the president of the University of Missouri System and the chancellor of the flagship Columbia campus. The moves came after a series of events which included a hunger strike by a student and a boycott by the football team.
The first student protests occurred on September 24 at an event called “Racism Lives Here,” where protestors claimed nothing had been done to address the President’s concerns. On October 1, a second “Racism Lives Here” event was held with 40-50 participants.
An incident involving a drunken student on October 4 gave rise to more racial tensions. While an African American student group, the Legion of Black Collegians, was preparing for homecoming activities, a white student walked on stage and was asked to leave, as this event was strictly for black students only. Supposedly, while departing the premises the student said, “These n*****s are getting aggressive with me,” according to the LBC.
On October 24, a police officer responding to a property damage complaint reported that an unknown vandal had smeared feces in the shape of a swastika on a bathroom wall in a residence on campus.
On November 3, a student named Jonathan Butler launched a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until the president resigned. One of Butler’s stated reasons for this was that Wolfe’s car had “hit” him during a protest against Wolfe, the school’s homecoming parade, when the president was confronted by a group of students who had linked arms in front of the vehicle, although the video that was recorded for evidence showed that Butler advanced towards the front of the vehicle and that there was minimal contact. No police charges were filed in connection to the incident.
His statement said, “Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”
On November 7, with hundreds of prospective students flooding Mizzou’s campus for the university’s recruiting day, student protestors intervened with a “mock tour” where they recited racist incidents that occurred at MU beginning in 2010 with the dispersion of cotton balls on the lawn of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center along with more recent events such as the use of racial epithets against two young women of color outside of the MU Student Recreation Complex.
On November 8, black football players announced they would not practice or play until Wolfe resigns, possibly costing the university a fine of $1 million if they had to forfeit an upcoming game against Brigham Young University. The South Eastern Conference Football Commissioner issued a statement saying, “I respect Missouri’s student-athletes for engaging on issues of importance and am hopeful the concerns at the center of this matter will be resolved in a positive manner.”
Wolfe issued a statement on November 8 implying that he would not step down and that he was “dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues as they affect our campus community.”
On November 9, however, Wolfe announced his resignation. Chancellor Loftin announced he would resign at the end of 2015 to take a research role at the university. Student activists had not requested that he step down, but he was disliked by faculty members.
Submitted by Tyrone Lewis