Tim Wolfe, the president of the entire University of Missouri system since 2011, resigned Monday morning following a series of student and faculty protests calling for his ouster, including a hunger strike. Each demonstration was fueled by growing racial discontent on campus. Over the last month, protests over the response to instances of reported racism—particularly those relating to black students who as of 2014 made up about 7 percent of the 35,000 students at the flagship campus—have swelled, according to The Maneater, a Missouri student news source.
Racism on campus, reported the New York Times, has come in a number of forms, such as when a group of men yelled racial slurs in September at the president of the Missouri Students Association, who is black. Earlier this month, the Legion of Black Collegians, a black student government group whose mission it is to “heighten the cultural consciousness” on campus, was exposed to the similar verbal abuse while practicing for homecoming “when a white man walked onto their stage and used racial epithets about the black students,” reported the Times. Wolfe was reportedly dismissive of their concerns, though he asserted otherwise.
On Oct. 24, a swastika was drawn using human feces in the bathroom of a campus dormitory. Months prior, in April, a similar instance occurred in a separate residence hall when someone drew “images of a swastika, a triangle with an eye on top, and the word ‘heil,’ ” reported The Maneater. More anti-Semitic messages appeared the next day.
Senior Thalia Sass, 21, the president of the Jewish Student Organization at the University of Missouri’s main Columbia campus, said that a number of minority student groups offered their support after the swastika incident in October. “When [racist acts] like this happen, there’s a really strong community within all these minority organizations,” she said. “If one is attacked it’s like we are all attacked.”
Concerned Student 1950, an activist group named after the year the first black student was admitted to the university, has been conducting a sit-in on campus since Monday, Nov. 2. That same day, graduate student Jonathan Butler, 25, has been on an “indefinite” hunger strike, which he announced on Facebook, calling for the removal of Wolfe. Numerous faculty canceled classes, too, opting for teach-in about race instead.
But perhaps the biggest boost to the growing call for Wolfe to step down was a public boycott coming from the University of Missouri football team. On Saturday night, after a full slate of college football games had been played, about 30 players announced solidarity by refusing to play the next game until Wolfe stepped down or was removed. On Sunday, its head coach Gary Pinkel tweeted his support as well, complete with an image of the entire team.
Today, after Wolfe announced his resignation, swarms of students held each other in a circle and sang “We Shall Overcome,” an anthem of the African-American civil rights movement.