By Tyler Kingkade and Travis Waldron, the Huffington Post
University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe announced Monday that he would resign, amid calls from students, faculty and lawmakers for him to step down.
Wolfe faced pressure to resign because of how he has handled racial tensions on campus, as well as other issues.
More than 30 black players on the Mizzou football team announced over the weekend they would not practice or participate in any team activities until Wolfe resigned. State lawmakers joined the calls for his resignation on Sunday, and some graduate students and faculty members staged a walkout on Monday.
The university’s governing body, the board of curators, met in an emergency meeting Monday to discuss what to do, as the student government issued a statement calling for Wolfe to leave.
Wolfe said at a press conference announcing his resignation that his decision “comes from love.”
“The frustration and anger that I see is clear, real, and I don’t doubt it for a second,” he said. “I take full responsibility for this frustration. I take full responsibly for the inaction that has occurred. I’d ask everybody, from students and faculty and friends, to use my resignation to heal and start talking again, to make the changes necessary.”
Students from the Legion of Black Collegians, the Black student government, and a movement known as Concerned Student 1950 began protesting after a series of racially motivated incidents on campus.
The president of the Missouri Student Association, Payton Head, who is Black, said in September that white students hurled racial slurs at him as he walked on campus.
In October, a white man interrupted a Legion of Black Collegians rehearsal for a homecoming play. When the Black students tried to get him to leave, the students said he responded, “These niggers are getting aggressive with me.”
Days later, on Oct. 10, Black students confronted Wolfe during a homecoming parade. They interrupted the parade, stopping in front of the car Wolfe was traveling in, and began to speak about incidents of racism from the university’s founding up to 2015.
Some white parade watchers shouted at the students to move on, and the driver of Wolfe’s car attempted to drive around them, clipping two students in the process.
Wolfe remained silent during the parade incident and took close to a month to issue a statement and an apology. He only did so after one of the protesters, graduate student Jonathan Butler, launched a hunger strike on Nov. 2 that he said would continue until Wolfe resigned.
Butler began his protest several days after a swastika was drawn with feces in a new residence hall.
“My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention,” Wolfe said on Nov. 6. “I was caught off guard in that moment. Nonetheless, had I gotten out of the car to acknowledge the students and talk with them, perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
But students continued to criticize the president’s reaction to the series of racist incidents on campus and made his resignation one of their chief demands, though they are also seeking further changes to how the university approaches diversity and race relations.
Concerned Student 1950 has called for more faculty and staff of color and improved mental health resources on campus as well.
Black student protests at the University of Missouri are part of a growing national movement, said Shawn Ginwright, an associate professor of Africana studies at San Francisco State University and expert on youth activism.
We are witnessing the inevitable next mass movement in America led largely by black youth,” said Ginwright. “The movement for Black lives is beyond the Black Lives Matter organizing and expands across issues, and is also global.
“For example, #feesmustfall in South Africa has galvanized young people in a way we have not witnessed since the movement to end apartheid,” he continued. “The president and the board recognize this momentum and what happened at the University of Missouri is a recognition that a movement for justice is underway.”