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November 10, 2015

Student protests result in university president’s resignation

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University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe announced his resignation Monday amid protests over the university’s handling of racial discrimination and slurs on campus.

Students called for the administration to create a more inclusive environment for minorities and adopt a zero-tolerance policy for acts of bias and discrimination.

Similar unrest broke out at Yale University recently after an email about appropriate Halloween costumes upset students.

In recent weeks, students at Mizzou have held multiple protests and sit-ins calling for an improved campus climate. Graduate student Jonathan Butler also held a hunger strike and 30 members of the school’s football team announced a boycott on team activities until Wolfe stepped down.

“I take full responsibility for this frustration, and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred,” Wolfe said during his resignation announcement.

As protesting students celebrated Wolfe’s resignation, the football team said it would end its boycott and Butler ended his hunger strike. The campus’ chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, announced later Monday evening that he will also step down at the end of the year.

The events and protests in nearby Ferguson last year following the death of Michael Brown helped inspire many black students and faculty members to demand that the university administration better address racial bias, according to Vice President of the University of Missouri student body Brenda Smith-Lezama.

Although the resignations are a partial victory for students, Smith-Lezama said school administrators now need to take on the task of creating a more inclusive campus for all students, rather than turning to students for solutions as they have in the past.

“I can’t go to school full-time, work and then on top of that do an administrator’s job as well,” Smith-Lezama said.


Vocab

resignation – an act of giving up a job or position in an official or formal manner

inclusive – open to everyone, not limited to certain people

systemic racism – discrimination that takes places based on the ways in which society is structured, which ends up giving advantages to some and disadvantages to others

Warm up questions
  1. What are some reasons people have protested in U.S. history?
  2. Would you join a protest? Why or why not?
  3. What are some steps schools could take to address problems of discrimination on campuses?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Do you agree with the recent actions taken by student protesters at the University of Missouri? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe resigned?
  3. How did the events in Ferguson, Missouri, surrounding Michael Brown’s death affect student activism on the University of Missouri campus over the past year?
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