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The Year in Brief: Protests and boycott topple MU leaders, put race in focus



In brief

Student protests on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia led to the November resignations of Tim Wolfe, the University of Missouri System president, and R. Bowen Loftin, chancellor of the system’s flagship campus.

Those departures and the events surrounding them thrust the university into the national spotlight and brought issues of race into focus.


The Year in Brief offers a look at Missouri’s most important business stories of 2015 and previews how those stories could play out in 2016 and beyond. 


In October, 11 black students, calling themselves Concerned Student 1950, published a list of demands aimed at addressing MU’s racial climate. The demands included Wolfe’s firing or resignation. He, the students said, had responded inappropriately to their protest at MU’s Homecoming parade and had not adequately addressed racism in the UM System.

Loftin, though not a target of Concerned Student 1950’s demands, had drawn criticism for his handling of several issues, including health insurance subsidies for graduate students.

In early November, graduate student Jonathan Butler, a member of Concerned Student 1950, began a hunger strike, saying he would not eat until Wolfe was gone. Students also formed an encampment on a campus quadrangle and organized walkouts and boycotts.

Butler and his group gained prominent backing on Nov. 7, when black players on MU’s football team said they would boycott football activities until Wolfe was out of office. A day later, coach Gary Pinkel posted a tweet supporting his players. The following day, Wolfe and Loftin resigned.

In the future

Entering 2016, longtime university administrators Mike Middleton and Hank Foley are serving as interim UM System president and MU chancellor, respectively. They lead a group of eight interim administrators guiding the system or its Columbia campus.

The selection of Middleton, the third African-American to graduate from the MU Law School and a founder of MU’s Legion of Black Collegians, earned applause from student activists.

The UM System Board of Curators proposed eight new initiatives in response to concerns about diversity and discrimination. Law professor David Mitchell will lead a new, systemwide task force on diversity and inclusion, one of the eight initiatives.

Student activists continue to press administrators about their concerns, but Middleton has cautioned against expecting transformation overnight. “If you expect immediate change in the culture on our campuses,” he told the Columbia Missourian, “that’s probably asking too much.”

In a video

In a tweet

On Saturday evening, the Legion of Black Collegians tweeted a photo of black MU football players expressing solidarity with Concerned Student 1950. By Monday afternoon, both Wolfe and Loftin had stepped down.

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