New questions about University of Missouri leadership have come to the fore, and efforts to combat campus racism have entered a new phase following a tumultuous Monday in Columbia.
The day saw Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri’s four-campus system, announce his resignation during a morning press conference and R. Bowen Loftin, chancellor of MU’s flagship campus in Columbia, follow suit hours later.
Their resignations came amid growing unrest following a series of racist incidents at MU, which sparked increased activity — and louder calls for leadership changes — by student activists and their supporters.
Now, the UM System and its most prominent institution begin the search for new leadership as the system’s curators and others in the campus community seek to address concerns aired by student activists.
The group Concerned Student 1950, formed to address racism on MU’s campus, led the push for Wolfe to resign.
The students expressed displeasure with the president’s inaction following recent racist episodes at MU. Those included separate instances of African-American students being called racial slurs and a swastika being drawn with human faces on the wall of an MU residence hall.
Graduate student Jonathan Butler, one member of Concerned Student 1950, started a hunger strike on Nov. 2 and said he would continue until Wolfe was no longer president. Some students set up tents on MU’s Carnahan Quadrangle last week to support Butler and the movement.
Concerned Student 1950 also initiated a boycott of MU, saying it would not spend money on campus until Wolfe’s departure.
Over the weekend, black members of the school’s football team announced their own boycott, vowing to refrain from football-related activities until Wolfe’s exit. Coach Gary Pinkel supported his players’ move.
Wolfe’s departure ended Butler’s hunger strike, and activists hailed it as an important step. But the resignation was just one item on a list of demands established by Concerned Student 1950. The students’ desires also include more diversity among MU faculty and staff, and more of a say in the governance of the university.
The UM Board of Curators on Monday rolled out a series of initiatives to address some of the concerns expressed in recent weeks by MU students and employees. The measures aim to ensure the UM campus network is “free of acts of hatred” and embodies “a culture of respect,” Donald Cupps, chair of the UM Board of Curators, said at a press conference Monday.
The board announced the appointment of a “chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer” on each campus of the UM System.
Curators also pledged to provide additional support for students, faculty and staff who have experienced discrimination or intolerance on campus, as well as additional support for hiring diverse faculty and staff members. There will be mandatory diversity, inclusion and equity training for all faculty, staff and incoming students at MU, the board added.