University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has resigned from his position following protests from students over his failure to address racist incidents on campus. Graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike last week in a push for Wolfe’s resignation.
“Students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” Butler wrote in a letter to the University, according to the Missourian newspaper. Also in the letter, he cited “a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents that have dynamically disrupted the learning experience” at the school, such as the use of homophobic slurs towards minority students (who make up 17% of the student population), cancelling Planned Parenthood contracts, as well as a swastika drawn in feces found in a residence hall on campus last month.
In support of Butler, the university’s football team vowed to sit out of games and practices until Wolfe was removed from his position. Their decision was fully supported by their coach.
“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,'” the Legion of Black Collegians wrote on Twitter. “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.”
— LBC (@MizzouLBC) November 8, 2015
Wolfe acknowledged the protests but initially refused to step down. He issued a statement on Sunday in which he said he is “dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues.” He added that “racism does exist at our university, and it is unacceptable.” Students expressed dissatisfaction with this response, calling for action instead of dialogue. They believe that as President, he has failed to implement new policies such as cultural sensitivity training, or to increase minority presence (such as faculty and staff) on campus. Wolfe then officially announced his resignation at a special meeting on Monday.
Wolfe’s resignation is a positive step forward, albeit a small one.
“I was just so overwhelmed about what this truly means … that students who want to go to college and get an education can now have a fighting chance at having a fair education on a campus that is safe and inclusive,” Butler told CNN when he learned of the news. “I wish you guys could be on campus to see the love that is permeating among the students, staff and faculty.” The University football team will resume practice Tuesday.
Of course, this call for celebration assumes that Wolfe’s successor, and all others in positions of authority, will learn from his mistakes and move beyond dialogue to take action.