University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe resigned from his position today amid racial unrest. His decision comes two days after black student-athletes on Missouri’s football team boycotted all team activities until he submitted his resignation. Their actions, or lack thereof, followed graduate student Jonathan Butler’s decision to starve himself until Wolfe departed the institution. Butler, who stated he was willing to die for the cause and even updated his will, began his peaceful protest one week ago.
The move comes after weeks of racial tension, including numerous complaints of harassment and racially-driven slurs and attacks. The most notable of the incidents came when a swastika was drawn on a dormitory wall using feces on Oct. 24. The football players’ involvement, supported Pinkel and many other student-athletes, increased national attention on the school and state.
“The primary concerns of our student-athletes, coaches and staff has been centered on the health of Jonathan Butler and working with student leaders to find a resolution that would save a life,” head football coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mack Rhoades said in an athletic department statement. “We are hopeful we can begin a process of healing and understanding on our campus.”
— Coach Gary Pinkel (@GaryPinkel) November 8, 2015
Many members of the local, state and national government were also among those that called for Wolfe to step down, saying he has not effectively and responsibly led the university through the unrest and could not be relied upon to take the actions necessary to ensure all students, faculty, staff and others were treated fairly. This is the same state that saw the brutal Ferguson riots escalate out of control last year.
Wolfe, raised in Columbia and a graduate of the school, took over as president in Feb. 2012 and was clearly shaken as he took the podium during a press conference prior to the start of a special Board of Curators meeting on Monday morning. The board accepted his resignation.
“My motivation in making this decision comes from a love of Columbia where I grew up and the state of Missouri,” an emotional Wolfe said. “I thought and prayed over this decision. It is the right thing to do … The frustration and anger I see is real, and I don’t doubt it for a second.”
Many of the protests and other demonstrations against Wolfe have been led by Concerned Student 1950, a student-run organization that seeks to ensure racial equality and all individuals are treated with respect, dignity and professionalism.
Missouri governor, Jay Nixon, who supported Wolfe’s resignation, said the following in a statement, “Tim Wolfe’s resignation was a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus, and I appreciate his decision to do so. 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.”
The university has not released information on how or when they plan to replace Wolfe.