Student concerns began to surge this fall
Complaints about racism and other issues boiled over
The student protests that led to Missouri University System President Tim Wolfe’s resignation Monday have a long history, but began to boil over in earnest this fall.
Here’s a timeline of major events that led up to Wolfe’s resignation:
2010 – Two white students scatter cotton balls outside the campus Black Culture Center. The school’s student newspaper, The Maneater, quoted a school official as saying, “This incident was much more, in our view, than a childish prank.”
August 9, 2014 – A police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, about 120 miles from Columbia, shoots and kills unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, launching the Black Lives Matter movement and sparking heightened discussion of racial issues on campuses across the nation, including Missouri.
September 12 – Student Government President Payton Head uses Facebook to broadcast his frustration with bigotry, anti-homosexual and anti-transgender attitudes at the school after people riding in the back of a pickup truck screamed racial slurs at him. “For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect, it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here,” he wrote in the widely shared post.
September 17 – Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the top resident official on the Missouri campus, issues a statement deploring “recent incidents of bias and discrimination.” He calls them “totally unacceptable.”
September 24 – Students protest, saying university officials had done nothing to address to Head’s concerns.
October 1 – A second “Racism Lives Here rally” is held on campus. “White silence is violence, no justice no peace,” protesters chanted, according to a report by the Columbia Missourian newspaper.
October 4 – A drunken white student disrupts an African American student group, the Legion of Black Collegians, preparing for homecoming activities and uses a racial slur when they asked him to leave. “Not only did this individual disrupt our rehearsal, but we were also made victims of blatant racism in a space that we should be made to feel safe,” the group said. Loftin issues a statement the next day, saying “racism is clearly alive at Mizzou.” “What we have done is not enough. Every member of our community must help us change our culture,” he said.
October 8 – Loftin orders diversity and inclusion training for students and faculty in 2016. “This training will inform all of us about the diversity of our campus and the organizations present on campus and make us conscious of how to be inclusive in our words and behaviors,” he wrote. In an open letter to Loftin in the campus newspaper, student leader Jonathan Butler welcomes the announcement as “a step in the right direction,” but criticizes the chancellor for not acknowledging the work of African American students in developing diversity programs and for failing to acknowledge the breadth of racial issues on the campus.
October 10 – In a pivotal incident, protesters block Wolfe’s car during the Missouri homecoming parade to voice their concerns. Wolfe doesn’t respond to their complaints, something he later apologizes for, and his car taps a protester – inflaming passions. No one was hurt, but protesters later accused police of using excessive force to clear the street. Head, the student body president, later posted that Wolfe “smiled and laughed” during the protest. “He laughed,” Head wrote. “In our faces. This is your president. This is America. 2015.”
October 20 – The student group Concerned Student 1950 – named for the year African-American students were first admitted to the university – issues a list of demands. Among them: an apology from Wolfe, his removal from office and a more comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum overseen by minority students and faculty. There is no immediate response from administrators.
October 24 – Another incident roils the campus. Someone uses feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a residence hall. A similar incident had occurred in April, but with ashes, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
October 26 – Wolfe meets privately with Concerned Student 1950 members, but doesn’t agree to meet their demands, according to the Missourian.
November 3 – Butler launches a hunger strike, saying “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.”
November 4 – A student boycott in support of Butler begins.
November 6 – Wolfe issues an apology to Concerned Student 1950. “Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable. It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff,” he says. But that night, in Kansas City, he angers protesters who ask him if he knows what “systematic oppression” is. “It’s – systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” he said, prompting disbelief from protesters. “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe?”
November 8 – Black football players announce they won’t practice or play until Wolfe is removed. The Athletic Department, Coach Gary Pinkel and many white players quickly announce their support for the protest.
November 9 – The Missouri Students Association’s executive cabinet calls for Wolfe’s ouster, saying the system’s administration “has undeniably failed us.” Hours later, Wolfe announces his resignation.