Mizzou chancellor to resign from position at end of 2015

University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, the head administrator for the school’s campus, said Monday that he will resign at the end of the year, adding that he will start a new position Jan. 1, 2016. According to university newspaper, the Columbia Missourian, Senior Vice Chancellor Hank Foley will act as interim chancellor for the new year.

The announcement came hours after University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe announced his resignation the same day amid criticism over his handling of racially charged incidents on the predominantly white campus in Columbia, Missouri.

“This is not, I repeat, not, how change should come about,” Wolfe told reporters in a news conference Monday, adding that change should arise from listening to each other. “I take full responsibility for the inaction, and I take full responsibility for the frustration that has occurred.” The president’s resignation is effective immediately.

Video by the Washington Post

Wolfe’s removal capped a months-long student movement that demanded the ouster of its university system president after protesters said he failed to adequately address the mounting racial tensions at the system’s flagship campus, including several students reporting they were the targets of racial slurs this semester. In one notorious instance, a swastika was drawn in human feces on a dormitory wall.

Monday’s announcement also came a day after the university’s faculty members urged professors to support a two-day walkout beginning the same day and stage a teach-in at the Mel Carnahan Quadrangle, the encampment site of the Concerned Student 1950 protesters. (The group’s name is a reference to the year that the first black student was admitted to Mizzou.) Black graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike last week to raise awareness of the unrest on campus. Butler announced just before noon that he would end his hunger strike, following Wolfe’s resignation, according to the Associated Press.

Over the weekend, more than 30 black players on the school’s football team said they refused to play until Wolfe left his position, a decision Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel supported on Twitter.

On Monday, the Missouri Students Association addressed the Aug 9 shooting of Michael Brown in a letter to the university’s System Board of Curators. The student’s group said the school’s bureaucracy responded to that shooting with silence, and criticized what they called a lack of systematic support from Wolfe and other university leaders “to create spaces for healing.”

“While no isolated incident led to this moment, the continued offenses at the University of Missouri have accumulated into irreparable damage to the student experience,” the letter said.

For his part, Wolfe said on Friday that he had met with students, including Butler, while also acknowledging that racism was “a long-standing, systematic problem” that affected everyone on campus.

The president also apologized for his reaction when a group of protesters approached him in his car at a homecoming parade. Rather than get out of the car to talk to the protesters, Wolfe’s driver revved the engine and kept driving, according to the university newspaper, the Columbia Missourian.

“My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention,” he said in his statement Friday.

After a football team boycott later that weekend threatened a $1 million contract forfeit, mobilization for his resignation escalated among staff and faculty. Wolfe said in a statement Sunday that the university was working on a “diversity and inclusion strategy” that it planned to unveil in 2016.

Wolfe’s response proved too inadequate for protesters.

Samuel Cohen, associate professor of Mizzou’s English Department, was one of the administrators who called on the school’s leaders to do more.

Cohen said faculty members followed the students’ lead on calling for Wolfe’s resignation, adding that the students inspired the sense that we not wait for leaders to have a dialogue on these issues.

“You see negative comments on social media about how ridiculous it is to expect a university system president to stop random guys in pick-up trucks from yelling the n-word. I think that’s a misunderstanding of what students, and now staff and faculty, are asking for,” Cohen said. “We don’t expect individual incidents to be addressed by a system president. We expect someone to talk about the problem, to try to educate himself or herself and to try to get us to educate each other.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, in a statement released Monday, called Wolfe’s resignation a “necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus.”

“There is more work to do, and now the University of Missouri must move forward — united by a commitment to excellence, and respect and tolerance for all,” he said in the statement.

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