A statement released Sunday by University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe in response to calls for his resignation did little to quell anger among students protesting Wolfe’s response to incidents of racism on the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus.
Graduate student organizations at MU said they were “outraged” by Wolfe’s statement and called for a two-day walkout, Monday and Tuesday, in solidarity with the anti-racism activists on campus. Students said Wolfe and the University of Missouri System administration “doubled-down on ‘business as usual’ as the path forward for our troubled campus.”
In his letter Sunday, Wolfe said the UM System administration is working “around the clock” to find a way to address the student demands for change after a series of racist incidents on the MU campus.
“It is clear to all of us that change is needed, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness and passion which have gone into the sharing of concerns,” Wolfe said. “Clearly, we are open to listening to all sides, and are confident that we can come together to improve the student experience on our campuses.”
Wolfe is under mounting pressure from the student activist group Concerned Student 1950 to step down for his inaction regarding recent racist episodes. Those include separate instances of African-American students being called racial slurs and another incident in which a swastika was drawn with human faces on the wall of an MU residence hall.
One member of Concerned Student 1950, MU graduate student Jonathan Butler, has been on a hunger strike since Nov. 2 and said he will continue until Wolfe is removed from office or until his own life ends.
Concerned Student 1950 has held a number of demonstrations in the past month. In addition to calling for Wolfe’s ouster, the group submitted a list of demands to promote diversity and increase racial tolerance on campus.
Wolfe said in his statement that some of these demands have been added to the UM’s systemwide diversity and inclusion strategy, which will be revealed over the coming months.
Following Wolfe’s post, small groups of students and faculty were seen joining the students camping out on the Columbia campus.
Also on Sunday, the MU football team cancelled practice and head coach Gary Pinkel expressed support for his players’ decision to boycott all football-related activities until Wolfe resigns or is fired. Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians posted a photo on Saturday night showing more than 30 of the team’s black players with their arms locked. The photo was accompanied by a message announcing the boycott.
Gov. Jay Nixon and Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and an alumna of the university, have issued statements regarding the situation at MU.
McCaskill said the UM Board of Curators should “send a clear message to the students at Mizzou that there is an unqualified commitment to address racism on campus.”
Nixon said that the student concerns “must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”
The UM Board of Curators announced it will hold a brief public session at 10 a.m. Monday, which will be followed by a closed session.