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University Of Missouri President Resigns After Protests


The man who presided over the University of Missouri system has stepped down. Now the chancellor says he will resign by the end of the year. The announcements follow protests over the school's handling of several racially charged incidents. Many students there see today's events as a surprising David-and-Goliath-type victory. Frank Morris of member station KCUR reports.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Racial issues are not new to MU. Conner Lewis, a history grad student here, says just this semester, racial slurs were openly hurled at the student body president who's black and others. There's also been hateful racist graffiti.

CONNER LEWIS: I think that racial questions at the campus have been particularly simmering for the past year since what occurred in Ferguson. This has been something that has been boiling under the surface for that long.

MORRIS: It was the administration's response to those tensions viewed by many as slow, even tone-deaf, that played a key role in today's surprising events. In October, protesters stopped Missouri University System president Tim Wolfe during the homecoming parade and confronted him over the tension. He declined to engage them and later apologized. Then, a week ago, grad student Jonathan Butler launched a hunger strike. As that dragged on, students set up tents on campus. Some grad students and teachers walked out. Many on the football team went on strike, all calling for Wolfe to resign.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Going to call the meeting to order. I would like to...

MORRIS: That led to a hastily called meeting of the University of Missouri's Board of Curators, and it didn't take long before there was this announcement.


TIM WOLFE: I'm resigning as president of the University of Missouri System.

MORRIS: Wolfe says he's leaving out of love for the university and the state of Missouri. He says he takes racial issues seriously and seemed clearly pained by the turn of events this semester.


WOLFE: It is my belief we stopped listening to each other. We didn't respond or react. We got frustrated with each other, and we forced individuals like Jonathan Butler to take immediate action or unusual steps to effect change. This is not - I repeat, not - the way change should come about.

MORRIS: But the change that did come about was joyously celebrated by thousands of protest supporters on campus.


MORRIS: Jonathan Butler, the student staging a hunger strike, told CNN that his effort was worth it.


JONATHAN BUTLER: Because we've been fighting as underrepresented students for so long, and to see that there's a clear stance on racism and clear stance on inequality on campus is huge. I mean, my initial reaction is - my body got a little bit more faint because I was just so overwhelmed because of what this truly means.

MORRIS: Organizer Andrea Fulgiam says the students still have a long way to go.

ANDREA FULGIAM: I expect to see this all the time.


FULGIAM: It does not stop here, OK? We still have policies we have to implement. We don't stop fighting because that's what they want. We have to make sure that we ensure that campus will be OK for everyone.

MORRIS: Protesters say that includes LGBT students and faculty as well as racial minorities. Clearly the football team's action had an impact.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) We shall overcome. We shall overcome.

MORRIS: An students like Brian Lushbough learned that sometimes, they do have unexpected clout.

BRIAN LUSHBOUGH: I think the times are changing. I thinking, you know, people aren't afraid to stand up for what they think is right. And it's - I'm speechless, honestly.

MORRIS: As are a number of students here who forced the system president, Tim Wolfe, to immediately resign and R. Bowen Loftin, chancellor of the MU campus, to announce that he's stepping down at year's end. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Columbia, Mo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.
Frank Morris
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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