- Someone called the student body president the N-word.
As the Missourian notes, the outcry at Mizzou can be traced back to Sept. 12, when Missouri Students Assn. President Payton Head posted a note on his Facebook page about how a man on a pickup truck repeatedly called him a racial epithet while he was on campus.
Last night as I walking through campus, some guys riding on the back of a pickup truck decided that it would be okay to continuously scream [the N-word] at me. I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society. … I’ve experienced moments like this multiple times at THIS university, making me not feel included here.
Head concluded with a call to action.
Is it weird that I think that I have the right to feel safe here too? If you see violence like this and don’t say anything, you, yes YOU, are a part of the problem. It’s time to wake up Mizzou.”
The post went viral, with more than 800 likes and almost 2,000 shares by Monday. Responses to the post showed that Head’s experience wasn’t isolated. “Same thing happened to me,” one student wrote. “You live and learn. Smh.”
- Other students also were targeted.
Other students began to share their brushes with racism. On Oct. 5, the Legion of Black Collegians, the school’s black student government, posted this letter about racism on Twitter.
The letter described an incident during which a drunk, white man interrupted a play rehearsal and was overheard on his phone, using a racial epithet while saying the students were "getting aggressive with me," a Black Collegians member named Naomi Collier wrote. She added that a safety officer “was aware of the entire situation, even admitting to hearing the racial slur,” and that the group was “sorely disappointed” when the officer only walked “at a moderate speed” instead of running after the man, who was not identified.
We feel that this incident is completely heinous and unacceptable. We were … made victims of blatant racism in a space that we should be made to feel safe.
Naomi Collier, Black Collegians member
- The chancellor posted a video.
In response, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin responded on Twitter and by posting this video condemning racism:
He also announced mandatory diversity training for job searches, a campus climate survey and a search for a “vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity.”
- Students called for a stronger response.
To many students, the chancellor's response was insufficient. A group of students who each called themselves “Concerned Student 1950,” referring to Mizzou’s first year admitting black students, blocked President Tim Wolfe’s car during homecoming to protest the administration’s handling of racial issues, the Missourian reported.
The students blocked the street, chanted and sang.
We’ve sent emails, we’ve sent tweets, we’ve messaged but we’ve gotten no response back from the upper officials at Mizzou to really make change on this campus. And so we directed it to him personally. That we are here. We want to make our presence known, that we are here and we deserve respect, we deserve humanity.
Jonathan Butler, Missouri graduate student
- The students demanded the president’s firing.
The protesters circulated a list of demands, which the Missourian published. The group called for Wolfe’s firing, more black faculty and staff, and an apology.
Butler published a letter on Twitter signed by Concerned Student 1950 describing the protest.
“As Tim Wolfe’s driver began to try to go around us, we moved the line in front of the vehicle and even allowed some of our bodies to be hit to ensure we were heard,” Butler wrote. “While closing in a solidarity chant, Columbia Police Department (CPD) officers arrived and immediately threatened us with pepper spray and forcefully shoved us back from the car though we were not violent.”
- A swastika was found.
In late October, another incident occurred: A swastika drawn with human feces appeared on the wall of a campus bathroom, further escalating the protests.
- A student embarked on a hunger strike.
On Nov. 2, graduate student Jonathan Butler announced on Facebook that he would be starting “an indefinite hunger strike in opposition to having Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president.” He pledged to not consume 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.”
Wolfe responded by issuing a statement saying he hopes “that Mr. Butler will consider a different method of advocating for this cause.”
Students supported Butler by camping out on the Carnahan Quad.
One day into it, Butler posted on Facebook that “It's officially been 24hrs of the #MizzouHungerStrike. My body is holding up and my spirit is strong from all the support I've seen. I love you all dearly. Please remember this strike is not directed towards Chancellor Loftin and his staff or even Mr. Wolfe and his staff this is directed towards the University of Missouri Curators who have the power necessary to make change and remove Tim Wolfe from office.” In addition to the racial slurs and the swastika, he listed the stripping of Planned Parenthood services from campus as well as #ConcernedStudent1950 protesters being threatened with pepper spray as triggers.
- Protesters boycotted their own school’s services.
The Concerned Student 1950 protesters organized a boycott of University of Missouri merchandise, events and dining services, and on Nov. 5, the group organized a protest before the Missouri-Mississippi State football game. “Join us in the revolution,” students chanted, according to the Missourian.
That same day, Head posted a slideshow of racist remarks made on social media.
- The football team declared its support.
On Saturday night, black members of the Mizzou football team announced their support of the protests, and said they would boycott Mizzou activities.
More stories about the football team's protest:
But at least one student thought they might obscure the deeper movement:
- The student government told the board to fire Wolfe.
On Sunday, the Missouri Students Assn. posted a public letter to the University of Missouri System Board of Curators describing the school’s pattern of greeting racism with silence since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown. They concluded: “We formally demand the immediate removal of UM System President Tim Wolfe.”
On Sunday evening, the #WolfeGottaGo campaign continued to grow. Last night, Newsy posted this video about it.
On Monday, Wolfe resigned.
I take full responsibility for this frustration and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred. Use my resignation to heal and start talking again.
Loftin said he would step down from the administration to lead research efforts by the start of 2016.
Butler ended his hunger strike.