University of Missouri President Timothy W. Wolfe resigned on Monday after months of protests and complaints against his seemingly uncaring attitude towards racist happenings on campus.
The protests, including a hunger strike and threats by the football team to boycott the rest of the season, were organized by a group of students called “Concerned Students 1950.” When approached by the press, the group would not respond, saying only that they “want to control the narrative.”
Wolfe urged students and faculty to “use my resignation to heal and start talking again.” In addition to Wolfe’s capitulation, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced that he would be stepping down at the end of the school year.
Thousands of students swarmed Carnahan Quad after Wolfe’s announcement, cheering and pumping their fists into the air.
Antagonism against Wolfe and UM leadership stems from repeated accusations that President Wolfe was not sensitive to racist happenings on campus. Black students, including the student body president, complained of consistent racist behavior.
UM leadership also came under fire for cutting ties with Planned Parenthood and making last minute changes before the start of the current school year that affected graduate students’ benefits and tuition.
Black students (which make up 7% of the student body) were upset that the school did not respond to the death of Michael Brown. “In the following months, our students were left stranded, forced to face an increase in tension and inequality with no systemic support,” reads a statement by the Missouri Students Association. “Over the last 16 months, the quality of life for our students has only worsened.”
The straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, was a blatant symbol of hatred scrawled in a bathroom: a swastika drawn in human feces.
Meanwhile, black conservative groups are furious with Wolfe for giving in to student demands. “This isn’t going to provide healing. This is appeasement,” said Horace Cooper of Project 21. “What we’ve witnessed is a racial, totalitarian hostage taking. We have watched folks who are making demands based on unreasonable offenses that they have identified…” Cooper hopes that other schools will view UM as an example of what not to do. “If this cancer is not cut off now, it is only going to metastasize,” he said.
The school is also receiving criticism for turning to the campus police force for help. Less than two days after Wolfe’s resignation, UM sent out an email instructing students to contact police if they feel offended by “hurtful” words. The email asks students to call the MUPD, describe the incident, and describe all persons involved.
What constitutes as “hurtful” is unclear. Considering the fact that other schools have listed words like “man up,” “illegal immigration,” and “welfare queen” as aggressors, I predict MUPD will be receiving a lot of phone calls…
Many view the school’s email as an infringement on the First Amendment. Just yesterday, a sports reporter for Columbia Daily Tribune tweeted: “The University of Missouri is now threatening police force against speech.”
College isn’t always a pleasant experience. And despite any institution’s best efforts, no school can completely eliminate bullying and racism. Professor Thom Lambert shares a similar opinion in his letter Supporting my Mizzou Students. In the letter, he explains that the school has been “badly weakened” by this experience and that he hopes it can recover. He believes most students understand that “free speech means more than the freedom to express view with which you agree.”
“So, Mizzou students, I support you,” reads the end of the letter. “But I will not coddle you. You’re adults and should be treated as such.”
You can read the entire letter by clicking the link below.