Mizzou president Tim Wolfe resigns, Missouri lawmaker reactions split

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe announced Monday morning that he’ll step down, following massive racial unrest on Mizzou’s campus that crescendo-ed with a football strike, protests, student walkouts, faculty no-confidence votes and a hunger strike.

Lawmaker reaction came in fast and furious after Wolfe’s statement, with some Show Me State legislators subtly expressing remorse at Wolfe’s decision.

In his resignation speech, Tim Wolfe called his departure the “right thing to do” and took “full responsibility” for the actions — and inaction — of his administration in responding to minority student concerns of racism on campus in Columbia, Missouri.

People form a human chain to keep journalists out after University of Missouri student Jonathan Butler ends his hunger strike Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 after the resignation of Univeristy of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe Monday, in Columbia, Mo. The protesters had set up a tent city on the Mel Carnahan Quad on the MU campus. (Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian via AP)
People form a human chain to keep journalists out after University of Missouri student Jonathan Butler ends his hunger strike Monday, Nov. 9, 2015 after the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe Monday, in Columbia, Mo. The protesters had set up a tent city on the Mel Carnahan Quad on the MU campus. (Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian via AP)

Wolfe fought back tears as he quoted from scripture, reading Psalm 46:1 and imploring the crowd, “Please, please use this resignation to heal, not to hate. And let’s move forward together.”

Top Missouri lawmakers reacted to Wolfe’s predicament, uniformly agreeing that racism has no place on Mizzou’s campus but disagreeing over Wolfe’s complicity.

Governor Jay Nixon (D-Mo.), whose previous lackluster Ferguson response garnered broad criticism, released a statement less than an hour following Wolfe’s press conference, demanding “respect and tolerance for all” at Mizzou. Nixon called Wolfe’s move, “A necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus.”

Senior Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted that there’s “hard work and healing” ahead for the school’s students and faculty. McCaskill, a graduate of the school, also issued a statement determining that Wolfe’s move was, “The right decision to help the University turn the page, and for its leaders to recommit to ending racism on campus.”

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) echoed calls for an “open and meaningful dialogue” going forward, but avoided a direct mention of Wolfe.

Congresswoman Vicky Hatzler (R-Mo.), who represents Mizzou’s hometown in Washington and attended the university, diagnosed racism as “the heart of the matter,” saying that recent instances of racial signs and slurs are, “Far beneath the character of the school and students.”

Hartzler seemed to passively defend Wolfe, reasoning that the scourge of racism must be addressed as a whole, “Not just one person’s handling of a situation.”

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R-Mo.) denounced on-campus racism and urged calm in a tweet Sunday, but told students demanding Wolfe’s firing that, “Our universities cannot be run by individuals’ making demands or using extreme actions.” Kinder continued, “The Board of Curators is in place to make informed decisions and govern, and they must be free to do so. Otherwise chaos ensues, and no student is served by that.”

Jonathan Butler, center, enters a car as he leaves the University of Missouri campus Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, after he ended his hunger strike now that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe has officially resigned, in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe has been under fire for his handling of race complaints that had threatened to upend the football season and moved Butler to go on a hunger strike. (Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian via AP)
Jonathan Butler, center, enters a car as he leaves the University of Missouri campus Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, after he ended his hunger strike now that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe has officially resigned, in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe has been under fire for his handling of race complaints that had threatened to upend the football season and moved Butler to go on a hunger strike. (Justin L. Stewart/Columbia Missourian via AP)

Wolfe’s resignation followed a closely watched meeting of the UM Board of Curators, who oversee Wolfe and the state’s university system. A shift appeared inevitable after a major faction of the Mizzou Tigers football team refused to practice or play until Wolfe’s removal. Furthermore, Jonathan Butler gained national attention for staging a hunger strike as #ConcernedStudent1950, and a solidarity walkout was planned for Monday in protest of aforementioned racial grievances and the university’s planned cancellation of grad student health care subsidies.

A replacement for Wolfe has not been announced as of this story.

Editor’s Note: This article’s author graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia.

 

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