COLUMBIA, Mo. – The president of the University of Missouri System says he is resigning amid student criticism of his handling of racial issues. President Tim Wolfe said Monday his resignation is effective immediately.
The announcement came at a special meeting of the university system’s governing body, the Board of Curators.
Black student groups have been complaining for months about racial slurs and other slights on the system’s overwhelmingly white flagship campus in Columbia. Their efforts got a boost over the weekend when 30 black football players announced they wouldn’t participate in team activities until Wolfe was removed.
About 30 players made their thoughts known Saturday night in a tweet posted by Missouri’s Legion of Black Collegians.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’ ” read the tweet. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience.”
The players’ move is the latest salvo in a spiraling debate over the experiences of African-American students at Missouri, who have complained of inaction on the part of school leaders in dealing with racism on the overwhelmingly white campus.
Black student leaders have complained of students openly using racial slurs and other incidents. In August, someone used feces to draw a swastika, drawing condemnation from black and Jewish student organizations.
One student is on a hunger strike demanding action. Graduate student Jonathan L. Butler started the hunger strike last week, demanding Wolfe’s removal.
He wrote Missouri officials that “students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” according to the Missourian newspaper in Columbia. “In each of these scenarios, 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.”
On Sunday, Butler accused the school’s leadership of not caring for the student body.
“I’m in this because it’s that serious. We’re dealing with humanity here. And at this point, we can’t afford to continue to work with individuals who just don’t care for their constituents,” he told CNN.
“Regardless of what happens with my life, people are really starting these conversations that are necessary and that’s what’s going to bring about the change in the long term,” Butler said.
It’s not clear what repercussions, if any, could come to the football players if they refuse to play in Missouri’s next football game against Brigham Young University on November 14. Some have called for the students to lose their scholarships.
The school’s athletics department said Saturday that it supports the right of student athletes to “tackle these challenging issues.”
Head football coach Gary Pinkel seemed to be more direct, tweeting a photo Sunday of dozens of white and black students standing arm in arm with the message, “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.”