- The Washington Times - Monday, November 9, 2015

The University of Missouri president and chancellor stepped down Monday after weeks of unrest over ambiguous accusations that they had been insufficiently responsive to racial “oppression” on campus.

University system President Tim Wolfe stepped down after weeks of campus protests, including a hunger strike and boycott by 30 black football players who accused him of showing “negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences.”

Hours later, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who leads the Columbia campus, announced that he would step down at the end of the year after nine university deans called for his resignation.

In response, thousands converged on Carnahan Quad to sing “We Shall Overcome.”

“To those who have suffered, I apologize on behalf of the university for being slow to respond to experiences that are unacceptable and offensive in our campus communities and in our society,” Board of Curators Chairman Donald Cupps said in a statement. “Significant changes are required to move us forward. The board is committed to making those changes.”

But critics said the specter of university officials forced out for not doing more to combat “systemic racism” on the flagship Columbia campus demonstrates the waning authority of university administrators and the growing power of left-wing protest groups.


SEE ALSO: Ferguson protests influence actions at University of Missouri


“They just bullied this president into resigning,” said iHeart radio talk-show host Michael Brown, a former Bush administration official. “It now looks like the students and the football team are running the campus.”

The Federalist’s Robert Tracinski said the episode “makes sense only as a raw power play, as student agitators demonstrating that they can get rid of anybody they want to, that they run this place.”

Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said the episode shows that campuses have become “places where the malcontents are beginning to run [things], and it’s my contention that the universities have sown their own fate here.”

He linked the protests and walkouts at the Missouri campus to the continuing upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri, over the August 2014 shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer.

“It’s all an extenuation, a continuation of what started boiling over in Ferguson, Missouri, which is 120 miles down the road, down I-70,” Mr. Limbaugh said on his show.

The turmoil appears to stem from three incidents: In the first, Student Government President Payton Head said in September that several people in a pickup truck screamed a racial epithet at him. A month later, the Legion of Black Collegians said a drunken white student disrupted their gathering and used a racial slur.

In the third incident, a swastika was found drawn in feces on a bathroom wall. More than a dozen universities nationwide have reported swastikas on campus buildings, often on Jewish fraternity houses.

Mr. Loftin responded to the incidents by ordering mandatory diversity and inclusion training starting next year. In the ensuing protests, however, he and Mr. Wolfe were blamed for a lack of proactive leadership to head off such incidents.

Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction, but in each scenario he failed to do so,” said Jonathan Butler, a graduate student who launched a hunger strike Nov. 3.

In its letter calling for Mr. Wolfe’s resignation, the Missouri Students Association said, “While no isolated incident led to this moment, the continued offenses at the University of Missouri have accumulated into irreparable damage to the student experience.”

Before any of the incidents, however, Mr. Wolfe was under fire for budget cuts that included the end of health care subsidies for graduate students and the university’s decision to cut ties with the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.

A businessman and former head of Novell Americas, Mr. Wolfe was also a less-than-popular choice with the faculty when he was appointed president of the four-campus system in 2012, given that he had no background in university administration and held only a bachelor’s degree.

After an Oct. 26 meeting with Mr. Wolfe, the newly formed student protest group Concerned Student 1950 issued a statement saying, “Wolfe verbally acknowledged that he cared for Black students at the University of Missouri, however he also reported he was ‘not completely’ aware of systemic racism, sexism, and patriarchy on campus.

“Not understanding these systems of oppression therefore renders him incapable of effectively performing his core duties,” the statement said.

Mr. Tracinski said the protesters’ response reminded him of “the old rule about totalitarian revolutions: first, you go after the counterrevolutionaries, then you go after the insufficiently enthusiastic. So Wolfe had to be removed for failing to show immediate and total compliance toward their political agenda.”

In the most highly charged protest, Mr. Wolfe was blocked by a dozen demonstrators as he drove his car in the Oct. 10 homecoming parade. Protesters said his car bumped into one of them.

Mr. Wolfe later apologized for not getting out of his car, which was part of the parade, to talk with the group. He said he was “caught off guard.”

Concerned Students 1950 responded with a list of demands, calling on Mr. Wolfe to resign as well as to “acknowledge his male white privilege.” Other demands included that the future system president and chancellors “be selected by a collective of students, staff, and faculty of diverse backgrounds.”

“Not only do our white peers sit in silence in the face of our oppression but also our administrators who perpetuate that oppression through their inaction,” said Concerned Students 1950, whose title refers to the first year black students were admitted to the university.

The group also called for overhauling the curriculum, saying it must be “vetted, maintained and overseen by a board comprised of students, staff and faculty of color,” and increasing funding for campus social justice centers.

Mr. Cupps on Monday announced a list of initiatives that the university system plans to undertake in the next 90 days, including the system’s first chief diversity, inclusion and equity officer, a full review of policies related to student and staff conduct, and more support for those who have experienced discrimination.

Over the past two weeks, Mr. Wolfe repeatedly reached out to students and faculty and vowed to address the “systemic and pervasive issue of racism in society and the effects it has on our campuses is to engage in dialogue.”

“The frustration and anger that I see is clear, real, and I don’t doubt it for a second,” Mr. Wolfe said at a press conference announcing his resignation. “Please, please, use this resignation to heal, not to hate, and let’s move on together for a brighter tomorrow.”

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