Jordan A. Sprogis
This story was also contributed by Jessica Pascale, Alana Branch, Dakota Sarantos, Shiny S. Patel, and Emilia Dabrowski.
Since 1950, race has been an issue at the University of Missouri.
Students of color, black students especially, can recall dirty looks, vandalism and racial slurs. Senior Briana Gray woke up one morning and found a photo of a lynched black woman on her dormitory door, according to the New York Times. Once, her white roommate played derogatory music in their room as she sang along, emphasising the racial slurs. Another time, Gray was asked if black people had greasy skin because slaves were forced to sweat a lot.
This is just one of many stories at the university.
During this past week, students of color decided to fight back against the racist treatment.
Protests began at Mizzou’s Homecoming Game, where students fought to bring attention to the systematic racism that exists every day on their campus. According to the Daily Mail, there is video evidence from the game that blatantly shows the negative reaction by students and faculty that was spurred as black students were trying to protest.
“I haven’t seen anything besides the protests. The athletes were told to stay away because the threats were targeting us,” said an anonymous Mizzou student athlete to The Echo.
On Wednesday, students live-posted on Twitter and Facebook as white students rode around in pick-up trucks chanting “White power!” and blocked one student from leaving the parking lot as she tried to evacuate.
Now-former university president Tim Wolfe and former chancellor R. Bowen Loftin have been criticized for not responding to the racist activity that occurred during the fall semester.
Concerned Student 1950 leader’s hunger strike
Jonathan Butler, a graduate student at University of Missouri and leader of Concerned Student 1950, went on a week-long hunger strike in early November to protest against Wolfe, asking him to resign for not reacting to the racial problems on campus.
Before starting his week-long hunger strike, Butler updated his will and signed a do-not-resuscitate order.
“I really took some time with consulting my spiritual leaders, my pastors and other mentors about this decision, and knowing that I am truly committed to this change, that’s what I really set my heart on doing,” said Butler.
He announced his hunger strike through a letter to the university on Facebook.
When Wolfe resigned from his position on Nov. 9, Butler ended his strike and announced it via Twitter: “The #MizzouHungerStrike is officially over!”
Although Butler’s hunger strike drew a lot of attention, he asks that the students do not focus on it, but instead on the issues that made the students feel that protesting this way was necessary.
“It is disgusting and vile that we find ourselves in the place that we do,” he said.
When Butler started at Mizzou as an undergraduate in business administration, he immediately began to feel unsafe in his community.
“I felt unsafe since the moment I stepped on this campus,” Butler told CNN. “My first semester here, I had someone write the n-word on my wall. I’ve been, physically, in altercations with white gentlemen on campus.”
Concerned Student 1950 issues demands for the university to fulfill
Along with peaceful protests this past week, Concerned Student 1950 issued a list of demands for the university to fulfill.
Among these demands were the resignation of President Wolfe, an admission to negligence to the complaints made by the black community, for a committee of students and faculty to select future presidents of the university, an increase in African-American faculty members, and a plan to make the campus more inclusive.
Concerned Student 1950 is a student-run organization at the University of Missouri who has made it their mission to lead a fight against racial hostility. The name refers to the year that black students were first admitted to the university.
They have been protesting since September, when the President of Missouri Students Association (MSA) was called a racial slur by a group of fellow students. Once they noticed that other black students and organizations were getting the same treatment, they decided that it was enough and racial hostility had to be officially addressed at the university.
Mizzou’s football strike
On Nov. 7, over 30 members of the school’s football team announced they would not take part in football games or practices until Wolfe was out of power. Canceling its Saturday game against BYU would cost the university $1 million, according to USA Today. The coach supported the players’ decision.
The above tweet by football coach Gary Pinkel shows the football team after the team’s decision to protest. It has the hashtag #ConcernedStudent1950, but Pinkel told sports radio station WHB that it was wrongly inserted by an assistant who helps manage the account.
When asked if Pinkel supported Concerned Student 1950, he said, “No, not at all. That had nothing to do with it. It was about a young man that was really struggling and that is what it is about.”
“That organization can do what they want to. That’s not a judgment on them at all,” he added.
After Wolfe announced his resignation, the athletic department announced that the football team would return to the field by Tuesday to prepare for its game on Saturday, Nov. 14, against BYU.
“This was strictly about me supporting my players and nothing else,” said Pinkel.
University president Tim Wolfe resigns in response to students’ pleas
President Timothy M. Wolfe stepped down due to racial tension Nov. 9.
This comes as a pleasant surprise to students and faculty who’ve protested over the plethora of issues – one of them being racism – that the campus had been riddled with throughout the years and to the ignorance of its leaders. What may have been the push for the 23rd president’s resignation, who joined the University in 2012, was the Missouri Tigers football team, whose plans to boycott had sparked media attention.
During a conference, Wolfe willingly took full responsibility of the current situation, stating, “It is my belief we stopped listening to each other; we didn’t respond or react. … Use my resignation to heal and start talking again.”
The chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, also stepped down on Monday, and will fill the role as Mizzou’s director for research facility development by the end of the year, according to CNN. Both resignations show signs of change for the university, especially African-Americans.
Following Loftin, associate professor Dale Brigham also resigned after a student emailed to explain that she would be absent for Thursday’s exam since she was too scared to come to campus after threats were made.
Brigham responded that if students do not come into class, then the bullies “win” and there will be an exam held regardless of her attendance. The student was horrified by this response and screenshotted the email, thus making it go viral:
The tension doesn’t end there: over at Ithaca College in New York Wednesday morning, activist group “People of Color” demanded that President Tom Rochon also resign due to his lack of efforts on addressing racial issues on campus. “People of Color” conducted a solidarity walk including hundreds of students plus faculty, and on their Facebook page the message is clear in that it is “vital to fight against both covert and overt racism in all places of education and empowerment.”
Claremont McKenna College, a small liberal arts school in California, also conducted a similar protest on Wednesday, where “CMCers of Color” asked their faculty — especially Dean of Students Mary Spellman — to create a better environment for the students of color.
Threats on Yik Yak
On Tuesday, students began seeing threats towards the black community on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media website that only works in proximity to schools and universities.
On Wednesday, two suspects, Hunter Park, 19, and Connor B. Stottlemyre, 19, were arrested.
Stottlemyre was arrested on suspicion of making a terrorist threat after he allegedly posted one of the threats. He was arrested around 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning in his dormitory on the Maryville campus.
Park was also arrested for his social media threats at about 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning at the Columbia campus. He has been taken into custody at Boone County Jail and is being held on a $4,500 bond.