University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe has resigned.
Wolfe announced his decision during a Board of Curators meeting on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus on Monday.
“I’m resigning as president of the University of Missouri System,” Wolfe said while reading a statement. “My motivation in making this decision comes from love. I love MU, Columbia where I grew up, the state of Missouri. I thought, prayed about this decision. It’s the right thing to do.”
Wolfe had been at the center of protests on the Missouri campus as students, faculty and student-athletes called for his resignation following several racist events on campus and what some perceived as Wolfe's inaction.
The movement, called Concerned Students 1950, was spearheaded by graduate student Jonathan Butler, who on Nov. 2 decided to go on a hunger strike until Wolfe resigned and changes went into effect in the way the university handled racial issues. The Missouri football program officially joined the movement Sunday after the program announced that it was standing with its African-American student-athletes who, a day before, said they would not participate in football activities until Wolfe resigned. Sunday evening, faculty walked out in protest and Missouri lawmakers called for Wolfe to step down.
“To our students, from Concerned Students 1950 to our grad students, football players and other students, the frustration and anger that I see is clear, real and I don’t doubt it for a second,” Wolfe said. "To the faculty and staff who have expressed their anger, their frustration, it too is real.
“So the question really is, why did we get to this very difficult situation? It is my belief we stopped listening to each other. We didn’t respond or react, we got frustrated with each other and we forced individuals like Jonathan Butler to take immediate action or unusual steps to effect change.”
African-American students started asking Wolfe and other University of Missouri System leaders for more education about racial relations as racial tension started to escalate on campus. In September, Payton Head, the head of the Missouri Students Association, said people driving by him in a truck called him racial slurs. Another group of students said racial slurs were yelled at them while they practiced for a play. On Oct. 24, a swastika made of feces was smeared on the wall of a dorm bathroom.
Efforts to contact Wolfe or get him to listen to African-American students appeared to fall on deaf ears, so protesters picketed in front of his vehicle during the homecoming parade. Still, no changes were made and no discussions were open, so Concerned Students 1950 issued a list of demands, which included Wolfe’s resignation, and Butler began his hunger strike.
An emotional Wolfe did not make any excuses for the events of the past couple months, but did note that the way everything had unfolded was not the proper way to affect change.
“This is not, I repeat not, the way change should come about,” Wolfe said. “Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation. And we have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening. And quit intimidating each other through either our role or whatever means that we decide to use. Unfortunately, this has not happened and this is why I stand before you today and I take full responsibility for this frustration and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred.
“Use my resignation to heal and to start talking again. To make the changes necessary and let’s focus on changing what we can change today and in the future, not what we can’t change, which is what happened in the past.”
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