Mizzou president resigns

Students and faculty members protested inaction from leaders on racial issues for weeks.

Following months of student protest and controversies at the University of Missouri, its system president resigned Monday morning. Soon after the announcement, a crowd of more than 500 rallied at the schools Carnahan Quad, where students, faculty and other demonstrators chanted in celebration of their movements success.

Photo courtesty of Alexzandria Churchill of The Maneater

Following months of student protest and controversies at the University of Missouri, its system president resigned Monday morning. Soon after the announcement, a crowd of more than 500 rallied at the school’s Carnahan Quad, where students, faculty and other demonstrators chanted in celebration of their movement’s success.

Jackie Renzetti

A weekslong campus-wide cry for University of Missouri leaders to address racism at the school received an official response Monday morning with the resignation of the school’s system president.
 
Mounting racial tension, successive administrative controversies and more than a dozen student and faculty demonstrations led to the resignations of UM System President
Timothy Wolfe and Columbia Campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
 
Calls for the top leaders’ departure ramped up over recent weeks and garnered widespread support. Some who observed the protests from afar said it was powerful to witness the results of what has been a strained semester at Mizzou.
 
“I think this incident will focus more attention on issues of race and racism and intolerance on college campuses,” said Doug Hartmann, a University of Minnesota sociology professor. 
 
Kayla Goldfarb, a political science and global studies junior at the University of Minnesota, spent her first year of college at the University of Missouri. There, she said, she saw patterns of racial animosity unlike anything she had encountered in the Twin Cities.
 
Goldfarb said in her experience at the University of Missouri, instances of racial animosity weren’t handled productively. As she watched protests unfold from Minnesota this fall, Goldfarb said she was glad to see attention forcibly drawn to Mizzou’s campus climate.
 
“[Wolfe’s] response was to essentially ignore the problem,” she said. “And in an institution where racism is embedded in parts of the culture … it’s completely unacceptable.”
 
On Oct. 20, student group Concerned Student 1950 shared a list of demands for the University of Missouri that included calls for Wolfe’s immediate removal, mandatory campus-wide racial awareness and inclusion curriculum and increased funding for social justice centers.
 
The group’s disapproval of the University of Missouri’s response to concerns of campus racism was quickly echoed.
 
On Nov. 2, graduate student Jonathan Butler announced he would go on a hunger strike until the president’s removal.
 
Multiple academic departments  issued statements supporting the protests. On Monday, the Missouri Students Association formally called for Wolfe’s removal, and nine University of Missouri department deans requested the campus chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, step down.
 
“There’s just been a lot of outcry because the students at this university really, really believe that there is a serious problem with how administration is handling students’ complaints about discrimination and the fact that the campus is not inclusive,” said Elizabeth Loutfi, editor-in-chief of the campus’s newspaper, the Maneater. 
 
On Saturday, the University of Missouri’s black football players — backed by Mizzou Athletics — announced they were boycotting all football-related activities until Wolfe was removed.
 
“I was really surprised,” said University of Minnesota professor Hartmann, who has done research on sports and race in the United States. “Football is such an important part of American college life, and black athletes play such an important role in bringing that sport to us. The student-athletes leveraged their power to force people to pay attention.”
 
Their boycott marked a rare example of athletes expressing social dissent despite pressure to stay silent, he said. 
 
“From an athelete’s point of view, it’s kind of a signal of power and influence that athletes can have if they stay united,” Hartmann said.
 
Loutfi said support for the protesters has been largely widespread, although some segments of the student body disagree with the movement or may not be wholly aware. 
 
Some students, like Missouri business finance sophomore Derrek Trickel said he feels that students are split over whether Wolfe’s resignement will improve the campus climate.
 
“I think everyone’s on the same page that racism needs to stop,” he said. “But I don’t think everyone thinks that forcing him to resign was the best way to go about that.” 
 
University of Minnesota first-year Justin Miller said he followed the Mizzou athletes’ boycott and the president’s resignation.
 
“I was shocked. … No one was really expecting that reaction so fast and for him to take the action to step down,” Miller said. “I don’t see the issue as much here, but I think it’s a big step and that people are actually taking action and things are going a lot faster and people are siding with what’s right.”