There has been a deluge of news recently coming out of one of my old alma maters. The University of Missouri has weathered several months of student complaints over the school administration's failure to address acts of racism and racist vandalism that have occurred on campus. The problems appear to be linked to continuing high emotions in the state over last year's killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white policeman. Freguson, a suburb of St. Louis, is about a two-hour drive from MU's main campus at Columbia.
Matters began coming to a head at the campus in Columbia a couple of weeks ago when a graduate student went on a hunger strike to protest the lack of substantive action on the matter by the University. After failing to gain a meeting with University President Tim Wolfe, several students formed a human chain in front of Wolfe's vehicle in the school's recent homecoming parade in an unsuccessful effort to force a meeting.
This past weekend, in anticipation of the school's Board of Regents emergency meeting over the escalating situation which was scheduled for Monday, thirty-two black football players from MU held a news conference and essentially announced that they were going on strike and would not play ball until University President Tim Wolfe either resigned or was fired. If the students, who were backed by members of the coaching staff, had been successful in disrupting the school's football schedule, it would have cost the University millions of dollars in forfeited contracts. Wolfe responded at the Board's meeting Monday morning by stating that he was resigning "out of love" for the students at MU.
Tim Wolfe's resignation was followed a couple of hours later by the resignation of the school's chancellor, R. Bowin Loftin.
And so student protest, a once-proud staple of social upheaval in the 1960's, has been brought to bear on a contemporary situation - and it has triumphed with amazing rapidity. Those who were college students in the 1960's, my generation, should be very proud of what the young people at the University of Missouri have been able to achieve. Their on-the-ground learning has been massive, and the University of Missouri at Columbia will be a more accessible and better balanced center for higher learning due to their hard work and passion for justice.
Hey Tigers, keep 'em concerned and honest. You guys rock!