University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe announced his immediate resignation this morning. Wolfe’s decision to resign comes in the wake of mounting opposition to his inaction regarding several prominent instances of racism on the university’s campus.
In a speech to the University’s Board of Curators, Wolfe acknowledged the increasing calls for his resignation and took responsibility for his administration’s inaction in handling the school’s systematic race issues. Seeming to hold back tears, Wolfe spoke on the resignation and the need for candid discussions about race on campus:
My motivation in making this decision comes from love. I love MU, Columbia, where I grew up, and the state of Missouri. I have thought greatly about this decision, and it’s the right thing to do. …
So the question really is, is why did we get to this very difficult situation[?] It is my belief we stopped listening to each other. We didn’t respond or react. We got frustrated with each other, and we forced individuals like Jonathan Butler to take immediate action and unusual steps to effect change. This is not, I repeat not, the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation. We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening, and quit intimidating each other. …
Unfortunately this has not happened. And I just want to stand before you today, and I take full responsibility for this frustration, and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred.
Most of Wolfe’s speech was transcribed by the Columbia Missourian, a community-based publication run in tandem with the university’s school of journalism.
Wolfe’s resignation was one of a number of demands put forth by protesting students and community members late last month. The campaign began with a student group, Concerned Student 1950, which is named for the year a black student was first admitted to the university. It was a response several incidents, including a swastika drawn in feces on a bathroom wall, a white student interrupting black students rehearsing a skit to shout racial epithets and Wolfe allegedly ignoring protesters who blocked his car during homecoming weekend. NPR published perspectives from a student and professor examining their own experiences with the campus’s ingrained racism. Notably, Missouri Student Association president Payton Head also recently shared his own experience with being called a racial slur, via this letter:
We are publicly releasing our letter to the University of Missouri System Board of Curators. @umsystem @umcurators pic.twitter.com/CqsWMAZVwK
— M.S.A. (@MSAmizzou) November 9, 2015
Wolfe mentioned University of Michigan graduate student Jonathan Butler in his resignation speech. Last week, Butler began a hunger strike in protest of Wolfe’s handling of campus racism.
Protesters gained a significant ally in the school’s football team, which pledged its support via Twitter this weekend after several of the team’s black players announced that they were going on strike until Wolfe resigned and the school meaningfully addressed Concerned Student 1950’s demands:
The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players. #ConcernedStudent1950 GP pic.twitter.com/fMHbPPTTKl
— Coach Gary Pinkel (@GaryPinkel) November 8, 2015
Although ESPN reports that the players and team staff were not actually united in their support of protesters, the action seemed to draw the attention of national media outlets and hasten Wolfe’s resignation. Watch a vieo of Wolfe’s resignation speech above, courtesy of the Washington Post.
(H/t NBC News, Washington Post, Columbia Missourian, Columbia Daily Tribune, NPR, ESPN)
*UPDATE: According to video of the aformentioned protesters blocking Wolfe’s car duing Homecoming weekend, Wolfe’s car appeared to have grazed at least one protester while trying to evade them. Additionally, the aforementioned black student group who had their skit rehearsal interrupted by a white student screaming epithets is the Legion of Black Collegians, a historic black student group. The interrupted rehearsal was for the group’s own Homecoming performance. They were involved in mobilizing against Wolfe as well.