Missouri president, flagship chancellor step down after student pressure

'I have asked everybody to use my resignation to heal,' president said

The president of the University of Missouri System resigned Monday, effective immediately, amid criticism of his handling of racism and discrimination on the flagship Columbia campus.

"I take full responsibly for the inaction that has occurred," Tim Wolfe said in his announcement to the Board of Curators. "I have asked everybody to use my resignation to heal. Let's focus in changing what we can change today and in the future, not what we can't change in the past." 

Also on Monday, the system's board announced that R. Bowen Loftin, chancellor of the Columbia campus, will resign his post in January. The board added that it is launching several initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion on campus.

For months, students complained of systematic racism on campus that is 77% white, 7% black. In September, the student government president had racial slurs hurled at him on the street. Last month, someone used human feces to draw a swastika in a dorm bathroom.

Students say the president's responses were neither timely nor substantial.

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During the school's homecoming parade in October, a group of protestors surrounded the president's car and he declined to address them. On Friday, shortly after meeting with student activists, Wolfe was confronted by another group of students who asked him what he thought systematic oppression is.

"I will give you an answer and I'm sure it will be a wrong answer," Wolfe said. "Systematic oppression is because you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success."

Escalating protests

On Nov. 1, Mizzou graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike, pledging not to eat until Wolfe stepped down. As the movement on campus grew, about 30 football players said they would not participate in team activities until Wolfe resigned or was fired. The school earned $30 million this year alone in Southeastern Conference revenue.

The move would have cost the school more than $1 million if the team forfeited the upcoming game against Brigham Young University, which will be played in the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs' stadium. 

The athletic director and football coaches voiced their support for the boycott, too.

On Sunday evening, Wolfe issued a statement that he was listening to student demands and a full response strategy would be announced in spring.

However, many faculty members staged a walkout on Monday and instead hosted a teach-in on race relations. And on Monday morning, the undergraduate student government association called for Wolfe's removal

By midmorning Monday, Wolfe had resigned from the position he held since 2012 (ESPN.com, 11/9; Eligon; Pérez-Peña, New York Times, 11/9; Peralta [1], "the two-way," NPR, 11/8; Peralta [2], "the two-way," NPR, 11/9; Peralta [3], "the two-way," NPR, 11/9; Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/9; Woodhouse, Inside Higher Ed, 11/10; Vinograd, NBC News, 11/9; Terlep, Belkin, Wall Street Journal, 11/8; Terlep, Belkin, Wall Street Journal, 11/9; Mosendz, Newsweek, 11/9).

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