With protests over issues of racial bias pervading the University of Missouri, black players on the school’s football team say they will not attend meetings or participate in games until the president steps down.
The school president, Tim Wolfe, responded by saying that there is a need for change. “It is clear to all of us that change is needed, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness and passion which have gone into the sharing of concerns,” he said. However, he did not indicate his intention of quitting.
Wolfe’s statement followed the assertion of the school’s Legion of Black Collegians that no participation in any “football related activities” will be shown by the players of color on the Mizzou football team till Wolfe “resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences.”
A group called “Concerned Student 1950,” titled after the year the first black student was admitted into the school, started the protests, as reported by Reuters. The group further claimed that racial bias existed on the school campus. Missouri started experiencing racial tensions last year when a white policeman killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson. The policeman was acquitted of the charges brought against him.
Wolfe acknowledged that racism did exist on school campus, and said that those concerns will be addressed. Jonathan Butler started the hunger strike last week “in opposition to having Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president.” Butler wrote in a letter when he began the strike, “Since Mr. Wolfe joined the UM system as president in 2012, there have been a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents.” He also wrote that the strike would continue “Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”
Wolfe said that he had met with Butler. In a statement, Wolfe said, “[Butler’s] voice for social justice is important and powerful.”
Last month, activists tried to approach Wolfe’s car during a homecoming parade in Columbia, but his car drove away. They also claimed that Wolfe’s car bumped one of the protestors. Wolfe apologized for the incident, saying that it appeared from his behavior like he didn’t care. “That was not my intention,” he said. “I was caught off-guard in that moment. Nonetheless, had I gotten out of the car to acknowledge the students and talk with them perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a graduate from the University of Missouri, said in a statement that measures need to be taken by the school’s administration. “At this point I think it is essential that the University of Missouri Board of Curators send a clear message to the students at Mizzou that there is an unqualified commitment to address racism on campus,” she said, NBC News reports.