Many residents in our area have been loyal to the University of Missouri during their lifetime.
Some folks have gone to college in Columbia, have seen several family members go through its doors, and likely are fans of the multiple sports teams on the campus.
While supporters have always wanted the world to see the benefits of what the university has to offer, I don’t think anyone could have imagined the national attention the campus has received in the past week.
Racial tensions hit a climax as one black student went on a hunger strike and the football team began a boycott of their own activities for change, which resulted in the resignations of both President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
So how did the University of Missouri get to this point?
I believe it started with black student groups not feeling like anybody was listening to their concerns.
Then came the revelations of Missouri Students Association President Payton Head.
Head told a Columbia newspaper that in the Spring he was called the “N-word” for the first time ever when he was near a fraternity house.
Then in September he had repeated racial slurs shouted at him when walking down the street as a pickup passed by.
On October 5, the Legion of Black Collegians reported more racials slurs being said to them by an apparently drunk white student.
In recent weeks, there was an incident involving a swastika being drawn in human feces in a dorm bathroom as well as reports of two trucks flying Confederate flags when driving by protest sites.
In the middle of these situations came a Homecoming Parade protest on October 10 by a group of students called “Concerned Student 1950.”
This is a reference to the year black students were first admitted to the university.
This group stood in front of President Wolfe’s convertible where he sat with his wife on the parade route.
A video posted on the web shows a demonstration that blocked the parade for at least 10 minutes.
President Wolfe missed out on an opportunity here as he could have gone to talk with protesters and offered to set up a time to talk. Instead he watched everything unfold from his car before eventually protesters were told to leave the street by police.
The protesters were peaceful but filled with some angry emotion that wasn’t the best thing for the kids to witness on the parade route.
President Wolfe said in his recent statement that he regretted his reaction or lack thereof at the MU Homecoming Parade.
Then beginning November 2, a graduate student named Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike. Butler said he was willing to die of starvation unless a change was made.
He met two times with the Wolfe before the strike and once during it.
Then came last Friday night in Kansas City when students approached President Wolfe and asked him if he knew what systematic oppression was.
He first said “I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer.”
He then told students “systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success” and then walked away and students reacted negatively to his response.
One said “did you just blame us for systematic oppression?”
A list of demands were then released by Concerned Student 1950 on Sunday.
The list included the want for Wolfe to provide a handwritten apology followed by a second demand for university officials to remove him as president.
Some other demands included the university increasing its black faculty percentage to 10% campus-wide, a 10-year strategic plan for diversity curriculum and training with focus on promoting a more safe and inclusive campus, and funding increases for social justice centers.
With a week into Butler’s hunger strike, the University of Missouri football team then joined in solidarity vowing to not play football until Wolfe was out of office. MU faculty also staged a walk out.
Chancellor Loftin said the university plans to require diversity training for all new students in January along with faculty and staff.
I wanted to give our readers a little bit of a timeline to understand how this situation grew in intensity so quickly.
At the end of the day, it was apparent that the university could not move forward without President Wolfe stepping down. He even knew this. So what now?
It appears the search for a new president and chancellor might now include a diverse group having a chance to meet with prospects during the hiring process. Attention has been brought in a major way to the concerns of black students on campus.
And once again, racism is a major topic in the mainstream media.
While it appears our country is light years ahead of where it once was in regards to race relations, it doesn’t appear the concerns of racism are going away any time soon.