Some University of Missouri Faculty Members Walk Out in Solidarity With Students

PHOTO:A walkout at the University of Missouri is seen in this photo, Nov. 9, 2015. PlayESPN
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Members of the "Concerned Faculty" group at the University of Missouri walked out today in support of student activists who say the school has done too little to address their concerns about racism and racial intolerance on campus.

The group released a statement Sunday night, planning to meet at the Carnahan Quadrangle at 10 a.m. local time.

"We, the concerned faculty of the University of Missouri, stand in solidarity with the Mizzou student activists who are advocating for racial justice on our campus and urge all MU faculty to demonstrate their support by walking out on Monday November 9 and Tuesday November 10, 2015 along with other allies such as the Forum on Graduate Rights," the statement said.

The group said it would "be present throughout the day to respond to student questions in the form of a teach in."

The news comes as football players at the university had said they wouldn’t participate in team activities until university President Tim Wolfe was removed from office, as the team's head coach, Gary Pinkel, tweeted in support of his players, "The Mizzou Family stands as one."

Wolfe resigned later this morning.

The ConcernedStudent1950 protest organization, which says it has represented every black student at the university since 1950, when the first black student was admitted, released a list of demands Oct. 20 that included Wolfe's removal, as a part of a protest over the way the university handles racial harassment.

Black graduate student Jonathan Butler held a week-long hunger strike in support of the protest.

Gov. Jay Nixon weighed in Sunday, saying the "concerns must be addressed."

"Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state," he said. "Our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding. These concerns must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion."

The governing body of the University of Missouri system announced late Sunday that it was calling a special meeting for 10 a.m. today, and that part of the meeting might be closed to the public. According to the announcement, Missouri law allows the group to meet in a private "executive session" to discuss topics such as privileged communications with university counsel or personnel matters.

A statement from Wolfe on Friday said: "Today I again had the opportunity to meet with MU graduate student Jonathan Butler who continues a hunger strike protesting the inequalities, inequities, and obstacles faced by students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri. I am very concerned about Jonathan’s health. His voice for social justice is important and powerful. He is being heard and I am listening. I am thankful for the leadership provided by him and the other student leaders in raising awareness of racism, injustice, and intolerance. This afternoon I also met with representatives of several student groups and I value their input and hear their voices.

"Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable," the statement said. "It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff. I am sorry this is the case. I truly want all members of our university community to feel included, valued and safe."

Wolfe also apologized for an incident during the school homecoming parade on Oct. 10, during which a protest group temporarily stopped the parade and, according to ABC affiliate KMIZ-TV, Wolfe's car allegedly bumped into one of demonstrators.

Besides Wolfe's removal, the group's list of demands included a comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum and an increase of black faculty and staff to 10 percent by the academic year 2017-2018.

Wolfe said Sunday the university has begun work on a system-wide diversity and inclusion strategy.

"The majority of items listed on the Concerned Student 1950 List of Demands were already included in the draft of the strategy," he said.

"We are open to listening to all sides, and are confident that we can come together to improve the student experience on our campuses," Wolfe said. "We want to find the best way to get everyone around the table and create the safe space for a meaningful conversation that promotes change. We will share next steps as soon as they are confirmed."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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