Recently, students at the University of Missouri decided to take a stand against racism on campus. What began as a series of protests evolved into a campus-wide event that resulted in the resignations of the University President Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
“The phrase [protesters] have been using is ‘This is a movement, not a moment,’” said Mizzou student Kira Thomas.
Tensions have been building at the university throughout the year over racist attitudes present on campus. In September, Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head spoke out on Facebook after people in a pick-up truck shouted racist slurs at him.
“For those of you who wonder why I’m always talking about the importance of inclusion and respect,” the widely shared post reads, “it’s because I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here.”
At the University of Missouri’s homecoming parade, protesters blocked university President Tim Wolfe’s car in order to express their concerns. Police cleared the street, but one protester was tapped by the vehicle. No one was harmed, but protesters later voiced their beliefs that the police used excessive force in the incident.
This month saw a sharp increase in the size of the protests. On November 3, Mizzou student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike calling for Wolfe’s removal from office.
“The revolting acts that are occurring at Mizzou are a result of a poisonous infestation of apathy that has been spawning from University of Missouri system leadership,” said Butler a letter sent to the University of Missouri Curators on Monday, November 2.
On November 8, the University of Missouri football team announced that they would not attend practice or play for the school until Wolfe left office.
The next day, the Missouri Student Association’s executive cabinet called for Wolfe’s resignation, saying that the University had, “undeniably failed [them.]” Wolfe announced his resignation hours later.
“Generally people are surprised that he actually resigned,” Mizzou student Kira Thomas said. “I don’t think anyone thought anything would actually happen.”
On Tuesday evening, a series of threats began to appear on the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak.
“The threats posted on Yik Yak on Tuesday night scared everyone,” said Thomas. “[University officials] had the protesters pack up and go home for their safety.”
One of the posts read “I’m going to stand my ground tomorrow and shoot every black person I see.”
Another post read, “We’re waiting for you at the parking lots. We will kill you.”
Police arrested two 19-year-olds associated with the posts, Hunter Park and Connor Stottlemyre. The two men are students of Missouri University of Science and Technology and Northwestern Missouri State University, respectively.
“Campus was dead on Wednesday because everyone stayed in their dorms.” Thomas described. “A lot of African American students went home.”
Some nearby restaurants closed for the day, and a few professors cancelled class.
“Most professors didn’t cancel class,” Thomas clarified. “They just emailed everyone and told them there would be no penalty for missing on Wednesday because of the threats.”
The University of Missouri has named an interim president, Michael Middleton. Middleton was a former law professor, as well as the University of Missouri’s former deputy chancellor.
While administrators still haven’t taken direct action against racist attitudes on campus, the University of Missouri Board of Curators believes that Middleton, who had been working on diversity and inclusion on the main campus prior to being named interim president, is the most qualified to lead the campus at this time.