Missouri President Resigns Amid Student Criticism of Systematic Racism

November 10 15:04 2015 Print This Article

It all started when the undergraduate student body president at the University of

Missouri was racially abused on September 11th. Payton Head, an African American,

was walking home when “some guys riding on the back of a pickup truck decided

that it would be okay to continuously scream n— at me”. Head wrote about the

incident on Facebook and it went viral. It took a week for the university to respond.

After a series of ‘’racist, sexist and homophobic’’ events occurred, as described by

Missouri graduate student Jonathan L. Butler, a group was formed on campus to

hold demonstrations in protest of how the school handled bias related incidents. The

group named themselves Concerned Student 1950, which was the year the

university accepted its first black student. Up until yesterday, Butler, an African

American, went on an 8-day hunger strike to protest the school’s failure to address

racism. “I already feel like campus is an unlivable space,” he said. “So it’s worth

sacrificing something of this grave amount, because I’m already not wanted here.

I’m already not treated like I’m a human.”

In October a white student climbed on stage and racially abused a group of black

students doing a skit. Later, a swastika drawn with human feces was found smeared

on a bathroom wall. It wasn’t the protestors who blocked the president of the

University of Missouri’s car during the homecoming parade that really got the tables

turning. Footage shows Tim Wolfe looking unfazed and silent, although he

apologized a month later for his reaction. Nor was it the list of demands handed in

by protesters in late October, which included Wolfe’s removal as president. It seems

the meeting between the protestors and Wolfe on Oct 27 also had little effect. If

anything, Wolfe managed to anger protestors even further when asked at an event

last week to define “systematic oppression”. His response? “Systematic oppression

is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success”. Video

footage shows a student yelling, “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression,

Tim Wolfe? Did you just blame black students?”

It was only until last Saturday night when African American football players

announced they were going on strike that there was any indication that the demand

of his removal would be met. In less than 36 hours, Tim Wolfe announced he’d step

down. Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also said he would resign, effective at the end of

the year. So what raised the stakes?

If the Missouri Tigers failed to play Saturday’s game, they are contractually obliged

to pay $1 million to Brigham Young University. If the strike lasted to the end of the

season, it would cause a monopoly effect, including losses to CBS who pay $55

million a year for televised rights to the Southeastern Conference, which the Tigers

joined only 4 years ago. Andy Schwarz, an economist, said, “the issues at Missouri

are far more important than college football, but the Missouri athletes showed that

the color that matters most is green.” He also added, “The one place where young

minority voices have economic power is sports.”

Other tensions including Butler’s hunger strike, cancelled classes, boycotts, petitions

and an official letter from the Missouri Students Association on Monday, is what

finally propelled Wolfe’s resignation. “This is not the way change comes about,”

Wolfe said in his announcement. “We stopped listening to each other.” He also

urged the university faculty and students to “use my resignation to heal and start

talking again to make the changes necessary.”

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