University of Missouri President Resigns: ‘We Stopped Listening to Each Other’

November 9, 2015 Updated: November 9, 2015

Facing the pressure from student protests and a boycott from the school’s football team over accusations that he was not doing enough against racial injustice, University of Missouri Tim Wolfe announced his resignation.

Wolfe made the stunning announcement Nov. 9 at a special board of curators meeting to address growing protests and the football team walkout. The board voted in favor of his resignation.

“I am resigning as president of the University Missouri system,” said Wolfe, according to a video of his statement. “My motivation in making this decision comes from a love of Columbia where I grew up and the state of Missouri. I thought and prayed over this decision. It is the right thing to do.”

In elaborating why he is leaving, Wolfe noted that the “frustration and anger I see is real, and I don’t doubt it for a second.”

The ConcernedStudent1950 protest group, which said it represents every black student at the university since 1950, issued a list of demands last month after a series of racist incidents on campus, including a swastika that was smeared in a bathroom. The second demand was Wolfe’s resignation.

Wolfe’s resignation is the culmination of two months of unrest over the university administration’s response to complaints about alleged racial slurs and harassment. Many students, including ConcernedStudent1950, said school officials, namely Wolfe, didn’t do enough in addressing their concerns.

“Why did we get to this very difficult situation?” Wolfe asked during his resignation speech. “It is my belief we stopped listening to each other. We didn’t respond or react.”

“Change comes from listening, learning, caring, and conversation. We have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and start listening, and quit intimidating each other through either our role or whatever means that we decide to use. Unfortunately, this has not happened and that is why I stand before you today and I take full responsibility for this frustration and I take full responsibility for inaction that has occurred,” Wolfe said.

The boycott of the Tigers football team and the potential loss of millions of dollars in revenue due if the team didn’t play, was the final nail in the proverbial coffin of Wolfe’s presidency. Most of the black players on team announced over the weekend they would not take part in team activities in expressing solidarity for Johnathan Butler, a black student who went on a hunger strike calling for Wolfe’s resignation.

“Our focus right now is on the health of Jonathan Butler, the concerns of our student-athletes and working with our community to address this serious issue,” said a statement from football coach Gary Pinkel and Missouri Athletic Director Mack Rhoades about the boycott.

A contract between Missouri and BYU reveals that if the Tigers canceled the Nov. 14 game, they’d have to pay a fine of $1 million to Brigham Young University, according to a document obtained by the Kansas City Star on the agreement. 

The Alabama Crimson Tide (with the ball) against the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 6, 2014. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Alabama Crimson Tide (with the ball) against the Missouri Tigers in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 6, 2014. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The morning of Monday, Nov. 9, thousands of students and faculty gathered at the Speaker’s Circle to discuss racism and to apply pressure on Wolfe and the school’s board of curators, which has the power to hire and fire the president, according to accounts posted on Twitter. The crowd cheered when Wolfe announced his resignation.

Meanwhile, Butler, via Twitter, announced that he would eat again for the first time in a week, saying the strike “is officially over.”

On Nov. 8, elected officials and legislators started to weigh in on the matter. Republican Rep. Steve Cookson said in a statement that Wolfe “can no longer effectively lead” and should resign.

Now, the board of curators will have to look for a new president.