Tim Wolfe, the president of the University of Missouri System, announced his resignation Monday morning amid growing criticism from student activists and their supporters regarding Wolfe’s response to incidents of racism on the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus.
His announcement came at an emergency meeting of the UM System Board of Curators. Wolfe said he takes full responsibility for the student and staff frustration over the university leadership’s failure to react to the concerns.
A group of student activists called Concerned Student 1950 had been calling for Wolfe to resign or be removed from office for the way he handled recent racist episodes. One member of Concerned Student 1950, MU graduate student Jonathan Butler, started a hunger strike on Nov. 2 and said he would continue until Wolfe was no longer in office.
“We stopped listening to each other,” Wolfe said at a press conference. “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.”
Wolfe asked for his resignation to be used “to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary.”
“We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening and quit intimidating each other,” he said.
Over the weekend, members of the MU football team pledged their support for Concerned Student 1950, saying they would boycott all football-related activities. Coach Gary Pinkel backed his players in their protest.
Students and faculty organized a walkout on Monday, which wound up taking place at the same time as Wolfe’s announcement that he would step down.
Following Wolfe’s resignation, Concerned Student 1950 took to the stage in the Traditions Plaza on the Columbia campus and demanded more say in the selection of the new president.
The student activists asked for “an immediate meeting with the UM System Faculty Council, Board of Curators and the governor of Missouri to discuss shared governance and create a system of holistic inclusion for all constituents.”
Concerned Student 1950 added that students, staff and faculty of color “must be involved” in appointment of the next UM system president. The students added that their demands “must be met in totality” to more forward and heal the university’s wounds of racism.
Earlier Monday, graduate student Jonathan Butler announced that he ended his hunger strike shortly after Wolfe’s resignation. He said it should not have taken that long to see change and “it’s disgusting and vile that we find ourselves in the place that we do.”
This is a developing story. Missouri Business Alert will have more updates throughout the day.