Racial tensions on University of Missouri’s campus resulted in the resignation of both the president and chancellor on Nov. 9.
Tim Wolfe, president of the university, stepped down in response to student protests and hunger strikes. In his resignation announcement, he took full blame for not taking action to alleviate racial problems on campus. Just an hour after Wolfe’s announcement Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin followed.
Wolfe said his decision came out of love, not hate. He urged the university body to listen to each other and stop the intimidation.
“This is not — I repeat, not — the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation,” he said. “Use my resignation to heal and start talking again.”
The president stated earlier that week he would not resign, regardless of student demands. However, this all changed when black players on the football team refused to compete until Wolfe resigned. Cancelling the Tigers’ upcoming football game could have resulted in a $1 million fine.
The protests, hunger strikes, boycotts and eventual resignations stemmed from years of racial issues and tension on the Mizzou campus.
Many black students at Mizzou said they have been threatened with physical violence from their peers. And, often times they are referred to with derogatory slurs.
Former faculty spoke out against the racial issues, saying it has been ongoing for years and involved in many of their reasons to leave the institution. Many former faculty felt threatened and said offensive slurs were hurled at them daily.
Overt acts of racism and vandalism have been ongoing and part of the campus culture.
In 2010, two white students – recreating images of slave plantations – distributed cotton balls across the lawn of the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.
In 2011, a white male student spray painted a racial epithet outside a residence hall building during Black History Month.
Recently, a swastika – drawn in feces – was found in a dormitory bathroom.
Protestors held their first event “Racism Lives Here” at the end of September. Several events were held and tensions erupted when a white male student refused to leave an event after being informed it was strictly for black students.
The student, reportedly intoxicated, walked on stage and said several derogatory things before being escorted by security. At the end of the month, students formed the group, Concerned Students 1950, in tribute to the first year Mizzou admitted black students.
On Nov. 7, hundreds of students flooded Mizzou’s campus during the university’s recruiting day. They recreated several incidents, including the cotton balls on the lawn of Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center.
During the protests, the students created “safe place” encampments. A student photojournalist, Tim Tai, tried to take photos of the event and was quickly confronted.
The protestors grew angry and told Tai he had no right to be there. Tai stood his ground, claiming his First Amendment right as the students were on public property.
In response, the protestors banded together and walked forward, forcing Tai to back away and eventually leave.
The protesters said they wanted privacy from media, and reporters invaded this safe space used for congregating and exchanging ideas.
Mizzou students and Black Lives Matters members showed more outrage on different social media platforms after the Paris attacks. Many members said the racial injustices at Mizzou are acts of terrorism, too.
The student protestors at Mizzou made several strides for improvement very quickly. Within a week, the president and chancellor resigned in accordance with their requests.
Change is still necessary to improve the culture on Mizzou’s campus. It is unfair that many of the black students do not feel safe on their campus. They do not feel safe at an institution they chose and pay to attend.
The student protestors had every right to defend themselves and stand agains the daily injustices they face on their campus.
Students should realize that these protests can create a real change on college campuses and throughout the country.