University of Mis­souri chief re­signs af­ter race protest

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

COLUMBIA: The University of Mis­souri’s pres­i­dent stepped down on Mon­day af­ter protests by the school’s foot­ball team and other stu­dents over what they saw as his soft han­dling of re­ports of racial abuse on cam­pus. Tim Wolfe’s high-pro­file res­ig­na­tion was the lat­est shock to the state of Mis­souri, and the United States at large, which has been roiled for more than a year by racial ten­sions af­ter po­lice shot and killed an un­armed young black man in the state.

Un­rest at the university, widely known as “Miz­zou,” started on Sept 12 when Pay­ton Head, pres­i­dent of the Mis­souri Stu­dents As­so­ci­a­tion, said on his Face­book page that he was re­peat­edly racially abused on cam­pus by some­one rid­ing in a pickup truck. His post went vi­ral, and the lack of any strong re­ac­tion by Wolfe led to demon­stra­tions at the school’s home­com­ing pa­rade the fol­low­ing month, when pro­test­ers blocked the university pres­i­dent’s car, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal news re­ports.

Later that month, a swastika drawn in hu­man fe­ces was found in a university dorm build­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Res­i­dence Halls As­so­ci­a­tion. Protests reached a crit­i­cal point this week­end when the university’s black foot­ball play­ers re­fused to prac­tice or play un­til Wolfe stepped down, and some teach­ers and stu­dents threat­ened to walk out of class. In a tele­vised news con­fer­ence on Mon­day held to an­nounce his res­ig­na­tion, an emo­tional Wolfe said, “I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for this frus­tra­tion and I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ac­tion that has oc­curred.”“My de­ci­sion to re­sign comes out of love, not hate,” he added, quot­ing pas­sages from the Bible. “Please, please use this res­ig­na­tion to heal, not to hate.”

Wolfe, a for­mer soft­ware ex­ec­u­tive who joined the university in 2012, is the 23rd pres­i­dent of the four-cam­pus sys­tem. As a state school, it re­ceives pub­lic fund­ing. Up un­til Mon­day, Wolfe had shown no in­cli­na­tion to re­sign, although he had ac­knowl­edged change was needed and had planned a new “di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion strat­egy” to be re­leased next April. The university’s board also is­sued an apol­ogy on Mon­day and said that Chan­cel­lor R Bowen Loftin would re­lin­quish that role and take up the new job of direc­tor for re­search fa­cil­ity de­vel­op­ment on Jan 1.

“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,” said Don­ald Cupps, chair of the University of Mis­souri Board of Cu­ra­tors, in a state­ment. Cupps said the university would cre­ate the role of Chief Di­ver­sity, In­clu­sion and Eq­uity Of­fi­cer and start a full re­view of the school’s poli­cies on staff and stu­dent con­duct within the next three months.

Tigers threat­ened strike

The foot­ball team, known as the Tigers, sus­pended prac­tice on Satur­day and Sun­day, and more than 30 black play­ers had vowed not to re­turn un­til Wolfe re­signed or was fired. That would have been a fi­nan­cial hit to the university, which, un­der its con­tract, would have had to pay $1 mil­lion to next week­end’s op­po­nents, Brigham Young University, if the Tigers failed to play.

Mis­souri’s athletics depart­ment said on Twit­ter that foot­ball ac­tiv­i­ties would re­sume on Tues­day in prepa­ra­tion for Satur­day’s game. In ad­di­tion to the team’s ac­tion, stu­dent Jonathan But­ler held a week­long hunger strike, which he ended on Mon­day. “It should not have taken this much, and it is dis­gust­ing and vile that we find our­selves in the place that we do,” But­ler told re­porters on cam­pus af­ter Wolfe an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion. Protests on cam­pus had been led by a group called Con­cernedS­tu­dent1950, which says black stu­dents have en­dured racial slurs and be­lieves white stu­dents ben­e­fit from fa­voritism in many as­pects of cam­pus life.

The group, which takes its name from the year the university first ad­mit­ted black stu­dents, on Mon­day de­manded an im­me­di­ate meet­ing with the university’s fac­ulty coun­cil, Board of Cu­ra­tors and the gov­er­nor of Mis­souri to dis­cuss shared gov­er­nance of the school.“While to­day may seem bright to some, this is just a be­gin­ning in dis­man­tling sys­tems of op­pres­sion in higher ed­u­ca­tion, specif­i­cally the UM sys­tem,” Mar­shall Allen, a mem­ber of the group, told more than 500 peo­ple gath­ered on cam­pus.

“This was the right de­ci­sion to help the university turn the page, and for its lead­ers to recom­mit to end­ing racism on cam­pus,” US Sen­a­tor Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri, a Demo­crat and a grad­u­ate of the school, said in an emailed state­ment. Mis­souri Gov­er­nor Jay Nixon, also a Demo­crat, wel­comed the move. “Tim Wolfe’s res­ig­na­tion was a nec­es­sary step to­ward heal­ing and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion on the University of Mis­souri cam­pus, and I ap­pre­ci­ate his de­ci­sion to do so,” Nixon said in a state­ment. A ma­jor­ity of the ap­prox­i­mately 35,000 stu­dents at the university in Columbia, about 125 miles west of St Louis, is white. To­tal en­roll­ment at the university is 35,488, ac­cord­ing to the school’s web­site, in­clud­ing un­der­grad­u­ate, grad­u­ate and pro­fes­sional stu­dents. Last year, in the school’s most re­cent fig­ures avail­able, about 7 per­cent of stu­dents were black. Racial ten­sions in Mis­souri flared last year when a white po­lice­man in the St. Louis sub­urb of Fer­gu­son killed an un­armed young black man and a grand jury brought no charges against the of­fi­cer. The shoot­ing kin­dled na­tion­wide soul-search­ing and protests about the treat­ment of blacks by law en­force­ment.

Re­cent prob­lems at the university started with the shoot­ing in Fer­gu­son, Justin Honore, a 20-year old sopho­more from Dal­las, told Reuters amid cel­e­bra­tions on cam­pus. “There was a lot of racial tension around the Fer­gu­son is­sue. A lot of the stu­dent body are from the St. Louis, Fer­gu­son area,” said Honore, who is black. “When a lot of that was go­ing down, they felt very hurt and judged that peo­ple were jump­ing to con­clu­sions about their com­mu­nity, about who they were.”Racial ten­sions have dogged other Amer­i­can schools as well re­cently. Yale University saw small-scale protests last week af­ter a fra­ter­nity turned away black guests at a Hal­loween party, say­ing, ac­cord­ing to re­ports at the time, that only white women would be ad­mit­ted. — Reuters

COLUMBIA: Tents re­main on the Mel Car­na­han quad on the cam­pus of University of Mis­souri - Columbia in Columbia, Mis­souri. University of Mis­souri Sys­tem Pres­i­dent Tim Wolfe re­signed yes­ter­day amid protests over racial ten­sions at the university. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.