Black Student Solidarity Fuels Resignation of University President

Posted November 13, 2015

Jonathan Butler (Ctr.), a grad student at the Univ. of Missouri went on a hunger strike until the president resigned.

Jonathan Butler (Ctr.), a grad student at the Univ. of Missouri went on a hunger strike until the president resigned.

Missouri protests expose racism at colleges across US

NEWS ANALYSIS – Tim Wolfe, president of the University of Missouri, announced that he was resigning from his post after Black students, tired of his inaction, demanded he step down so that racial issues on the campus could be addressed.

Wolfe’s resignation happened two days after African-American football players announced that they would refuse to play until Wolfe’s resignation.
Black football players at the University of Missouri joined calls demanding the ouster of the president of the state’s four-campus university system over alleged inaction against racism on campus.

About 30 players made their thoughts known though a photo that was posted to Twitter by the Univ. of Missouri club, Legion of Black Collegians.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’ ” read the tweet. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experience.”

Missouri has had several controversial incidents since students arrived on campus this fall.

In September, an African-American student said he was racially abused while walking, and the university did not address the incident for nearly a week.

In October, a student yelled the N-word at members of the Legion of Black Collegians as they prepared to participate in the homecoming parade. Later that month, someone smeared feces in the shape of a swastika on a bathroom wall.

Students demanded an apology since the #ConcernedStudent1950 action took place on Oct. 10. Then, about 10 African-American Mizzou students linked arms in front of the red convertible that Wolfe was riding in during the parade. They took turns reciting points in history where fellow and past students had endured discrimination – all the way up to September 2015 when Missouri Students Association President Payton Head was called the n-word when walking near campus.

Instead of talking with students, Wolfe tried to drive around them, a video of the demonstration shows. Wolfe’s driver didn’t get past the line, but he did succeed in hitting one of the student demonstrators with the car.
Wolfe also watched as on-lookers manhandled the students and yelled at them, the video shows. Columbia police also threatened the peaceful protesters with pepper spray, only a few feet from where Wolfe remained seated.

Wolfe’s handling of the incidents drew protests from students. Jonathan Butler, a grad student, started a hunger strike calling for Wolfe to leave his job.

The governing board of the University of Missouri strategically named a Black law professor who was deputy chancellor emeritus to serve as interim president of their university system.

Michael Middleton, who recently retired from the university after 30 years, earned bachelor and law degrees there was selected to lead the school through this troubled time.

“We all must heighten our focus, improve our culture …and share the responsibility to see our university advance in healthy ways built upon respect for others,” Middleton said. “I am energized. We need to get our community together, working together.”

Middleton, 68, promised that incidents of racial harassment will be dealt with quickly. “We hope at some point this kind of turmoil will dissipate,” he said.

Capilouto Meets with Black University of Kentucky Students

University of Kentucky President, Eli Capilouto.

University of Kentucky President, Eli Capilouto.

On November 12, University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto held a dinner in his home to meet with 25 graduate and undergraduate students to get the pulse of racial tensions on campus.

In a letter addressed to ‘’Campus Community’’ Capilouto said, ‘’Although this gathering had been on the calendar for several weeks, the timing was ideal for the three-hour dialogue that occurred.’’

Capilouto said that students ‘’laid bare the uncertainty, anxiety, and – in many cases – fear that comes day-after-day with being a member of an underrepresented part of our UK family.’’

UK students took to social media in support of Black University of Missouri students and following the national trend of sharing their experiences with racism on campus using the #NotJustMizzou hashtag and including the #WeAreUK hastag.

Standing with signs that said “I will not be your token Black’’ and “When you walk into Memorial Hall and you are constantly reminded of the racist history of Kentucky…and the enslavement of your ancestors’’ several students gave a glimpse of campus life from their perspective.

There were many pictures posted of the Ann O’Hanlon (1908-1998) mural that was painted inside Memorial Hall in 1934 and remains there today.
The painting is a rare “fresco’’, which has been the argument against removal for several decades.

An online blog, “Kentucky Fresco’’ exemplifies the ignorance of many who desire to save art at all cost, even using the shameful practice of trivializing the artist’s relationship with Black slaves and servants.

“ O’Hanlon’s fresco also depicts quite a few African Americans. Her relatives had African American servants throughout her childhood; therefore, she had a great deal of respect for them. At this time, it was well before racism had reached Kentucky.’’

Nationwide, students from schools including Yale, Bowie State, Univ. of North Carolina and Univ. of Washington, posted images of their support and ability to relate to issues of racism, discrimination and the use of micro-aggression as intimidation.

Rev. Al Sharpton who was has championed Black civil rights issues said, “[Missouri students] showed the nation and the world that they have the right method — a method that civil rights groups used for years — a collective strategy of all, utilizing economic leverage along with a disciplined, focused and determined non-violent movement.’’

Many campus protesters have worn Black Lives Matter shirts, showing the continuation of the movement to stop aggression and violence against Blacks in the United States.