Missouri University President Timothy M. Wolfe, stepped down early Monday morning. Later in the day, the Columbia campus Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin also bit the dust. The issue was Wolfe’s lack of response to a recent spate of racist incidents on Mizzou’s campus, where graduate student Jonathan Butler’s protest received the support of Mizzou’s football team. Butler’s response to recent wave of bigotry came in the form of a hunger strike.
“I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”
It’s good to die for something worthy.
In truth, Wolfe was probably forced out by a set of unified stakeholders, from internal department heads to state legislators. The backstage strategic puppeteering in such high-press cases is amazing. Today, the unique role is litigating in the court of public opinion where evidence and personal bias gets shoved down a listener’s throat is powerful.
One key group was Concerned Student 1950, formed on Mizzou campus in response to racially-motivated incidents. (1950 referred to the year black students were first admitted to the University of Missouri.) Concerned Student 1950 demanded the removal of Tim Wolfe, whom they felt had not handled these incidents well, if at all. Butler noted:
“Students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” he said. “In each of these scenarios, Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou in a positive direction but in each scenario he failed to do so.”
Personal bias aside, “Bullshit!.”
Former Mizzou football player A. J. Ofodile raised a valid point. To Mr. Ofodile, the 1950’s-style oppression wasn’t apparent.
“Through this whole process I haven’t heard one example of any oppressive action or policy that is systemic in nature. I’ve seen tons of examples of individual bigotry and claims that those incidents weren’t handled appropriately but at this point I have to seriously doubt that people fully understand what systemic oppression really is.”
So this is the same Mizzou that’s so racist it elected a black man student body president and homecoming king? Or, are we to believe Mizzou racists systematically elected the black student body president only to hurl racial insults? Is this the same Mizzou that embraced gay defensive lineman Michael Sam in 2014? And nearly 18 months beyond Sam, Mizzou is fraught with racism?
Still, after hearing of Wolfe’s resignation, students danced where activists had set up a tent city. The football team announced that it was ending its strike and hundreds of students chanted in the sun, “I … am … a … revolutionary!” Social media users around the world joined in, tweeting more than 100,000 times the day’s protest.
While I believe incidents of racism must be addressed, what will be interesting is watching how Mizzou students and residents struggle with their response. Even if all the reports of racism prove accurate, Mizzou’s president shouldn’t have been adjudicated via a lynch mob mentality that served no meaningful purpose other than to inflame.
I propose that losing $1,000,000 of football revenue is what really forced Wolfe to resign, more cash than protest. Yes, football gold and the massive amounts of money pouring into the ol’ football coffer.
So I repeat what I wrote after the Ferguson Riots. After the cameras stop rolling, they’ll (Mizzou) be left nearly in nearly the same place they started. After all the sound bites and television interviews, someone will query, “What did we accomplish?“ Probably not a hell of a lot.
Real change requires effort and love. But no worry for Butler. Technically, Butler won. He received his pound of flesh. However, what Butler and others will learn is that whether right or wrong, every university has an adjudication process. And sometimes that very process is goddam slow. You can’t cure cancer via instant soup.
Mizzou will play the remaining three games. That’s approximately $3,000,000 bucks into the coffers. One University President was sacrificed unto the football gods. And football players run the university.
Good Lord! All hail the “Pigskin God.”