On Monday, University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, and system president, Tim Wolfe, stepped down as escalating protests over racism and bias incidents began to paralyze the campus. Protesters, angry at the response from Wolfe to their concerns, demanded his removal with a hunger strike, boycotts, and the football team refusing to play.
They got their demand.
The first one.
So while people around the country were reacting to the surprising news that protesters had toppled the leadership — whether with pride for students demanding an end to complacency about racism, or with disdain for the university system’s governing body for being “bullied” by students — the Concerned Student 1950 group of activists was digging in for the next round.
They demanded an immediate meeting with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, the University of Missouri System Board of Curators and the Mizzou faculty council to talk about shared governance.
And they demanded that a process be developed which would involve non-white students, faculty and staff in the selection of the next system president.
Several protest leaders did not immediately respond Tuesday morning to requests for interviews, but some have talked recently about changing the culture on campus that allows racism and ugly incidents to continue.
A spokesman for the university system wrote that “Board Chair Donald Cupps expressed an interest for the full board to meet with the members of the ConcernedStudent1950 group, and is trying to find a date to make that happen.”
A spokesman for the governor responded by e-mail: “The Governor is always open to hearing from Missourians about their perspectives on the challenges we face and their ideas for moving the state forward.”
Ben Trachtenberg, the chair of Mizzou’s faculty council and a member of the faculty council that represents all four universities in the state system, said that both groups have already reached out to Concerned Student 1950, named for the first black undergraduate to attend the school, to express their willingness to talk with them about shared governance.
“There’s no reason why faculty wouldn’t want to meet with a group of well-motivated students who have been thinking about how the university should be run,” Trachtenberg said Tuesday morning. “There’s a lot to be done. I think people of goodwill need to come together and talk things over. People need to get together and talk to each other.”
As for their second demand, he said, “I think it would be a smart idea for there to be some student input into the selection of the next system president.
“I suspect the first group the Board of Curators might want to reach out to is student government, to suggest some names.”
At Mizzou, the president of the undergraduate student body is Payton Head, who ignited the issue of racism on the Columbia, Mo. campus when he posted on social media about anti-black and anti-gay slurs people yelled at him. On Monday, the Missouri Students Association which he leads formally called for Wolfe to be removed.
Trachtenberg said that student leaders at all four campuses could be involved in the selection of the president: “I think there should be some student involvement in this important decision.”
There were other signs of change on campus, as well. On Tuesday, the university announced the appointment of an interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity, and said he would begin work immediately.