Racial discrimination has been stirring on the Missouri campus lately, causing strikes, boycotts and turmoil from the students and faculty.
It began when African-American Missouri Student Association President Payton Head said he was verbally abused when walking on campus in September. It took nearly a week for the university chancellor to address the incident, leading to a student protest.
Furthermore, in October, a student yelled a racial slur to members of the Legion of Black Collegians while they were working on a play in the campus plaza. Additionally, a student smeared a swastika on a new residence hall wall using feces.
Despite these explicit acts of hate, the university downplayed the incidents, causing more criticism toward administrators.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike, saying that because of his neglect of these racial disputes, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe should step down. Following this act of protest, Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades issued a statement that Missouri did not practice Sunday and indicated “it was clear” that the Tigers “do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating.”
In light of the recent racial conflicts concerning police brutality, neglecting acts of racism should not be the answer from a university president. It has been 15 months since the fatal shooting of African-American Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, which is just two hours west of the University of Missouri.
This event ignited protest and strikes nationwide. Knowing this effect of racism, President Wolfe should have taken the matter of recent on-campus racism more seriously and urgently.
Wolfe issued a statement apologizing for his reaction at Missouri’s homecoming parade when the ConcernedStudent1950 group approached his car, which struck one of the protestors.
“My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention. I was caught off guard in the moment,” he said. “I am asking us to move forward in addressing the racism that exists at our university — and it does exist.”
This statement did not stop the students and players’ protests, which they maintained would not end until the president resigned. The students are troubled not only by these racist acts but by the overwhelming white population on campus, which is 77 percent white and seven percent black.
According to a Columbia, Missouri, newspaper, Butler stated his discontent of university officials.
“In each of these scenarios, 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,” he said.
Because of the large support for the football players at the university and in the nation, it is believed that their actions can help cause a difference for their campus. Wolfe resigned on Thursday, Nov. 9, after which the Missouri football team announced it will play this weekend.
This act of courage from the players has sparked a change and could be potential for more change in the future from other teams around the country.