University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe Resigns and Chancellor Steps Aside Amid Protests

PHOTO: University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe participates in a news conference in Rolla, Mo. on April 11, 2014.PlayJeff Roberson/AP Photo
WATCH University of Missouri President Resigns

The University of Missouri's president, Tim Wolfe, and chancellor have stepped aside amid protests over alleged racial injustice on campus, capping a round of protests, including a hunger strike, aimed at shedding light on the school's inaction.

The moves came as the school's Board of Curators announced a series of changes, including a Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer; a full review of university policies as they relate to staff and student conduct; a campus-based task force to develop diversity, inclusion and equity strategies; and mandatory diversity, inclusion and equity training for all faculty, staff and future incoming students.

They also came after members of the school's football team got involved in the cause, saying that members of color wouldn't play until Wolfe was removed.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said this afternoon he will be transitioning to another position in the university to assist in the school’s research facility. Hank Foley, MU senior vice chancellor for research and graduate studies was named interim chancellor for the MU campus. An interim system president was not yet announced.

This change in leadership and policy was sparked after the ConcernedStudent1950 protest organization released a list of demands last month, that included Wolfe's removal, over the way the university handles racial harassment.

Wolfe resigned this morning at a Board of Curators meeting at the Columbia, Missouri, campus, saying he takes "full responsibility for inaction that has occurred."

"My motivation in making this decision comes from love," he said. "I love M.U. Columbia, where I grew up, and state of Missouri. I have thought and prayed about this decision. It's the right thing to do."

"Why did we get to this very difficult situation?" Wolfe asked this morning. "It is my belief we stopped listening to each other. We didn't respond or react.

"I take full responsibility for this frustration and I take full responsibility for inaction that has occurred," Wolfe said.

As president of the University of Missouri system, Wolfe oversaw four campuses: Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis.

Gov. Jay Nixon said he appreciated Wolfe’s decision to resign, calling it a “necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus.”

“There is more work to do, and now the University of Missouri must move forward – united by a commitment to excellence, and respect and tolerance for all," Nixon said.

Wolfe's resignation brought an end to black graduate student Jonathan Butler's week-long hunger strike.

PHOTO: Jonathan Butler, center, enters a car as he leaves the University of Missouri campus, Nov. 9, 2015, after he ended his hunger strike in Columbia, Mo.Justin L. Stewart/AP Photo
Jonathan Butler, center, enters a car as he leaves the University of Missouri campus, Nov. 9, 2015, after he ended his hunger strike in Columbia, Mo.

Besides Wolfe's removal, the ConcernedStudent1950 group's list of demands asked for several other changes, including a comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum and an increase in black faculty and staff.

Missouri running back Russell Hansbrough tweeted Saturday night that the athletes of color on the football team would "no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experiences." The team's head coach, Gary Pinkel, then tweeted a photo Sunday of the entire team showing support.

In the wake of Wolfe's resignation, Mizzou Athletics said today that football activities will resume Tuesday. "The primary concern of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has been centered on the health of Jonathan Butler and working with campus leaders to find a resolution that would save a life," Mizzou Athletics said. "We are hopeful we can begin a process of healing and understanding on our campus."

Pinkel said this afternoon that he "got involved because I support my players and a young man’s life was on the line."

"And basically that’s what it came down to," Pinkel said. "My support of my players had nothing to do with anyone losing their job.”

Athletic director Mack Rhoades said, while there would have been financial ramifications if the football team didn’t play their upcoming came, the financial aspect was not his focus. Rhoades did not share the specific amount.

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