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Missouri president resigns amid escalating protests

By The Sports Xchange
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Missouri president resigns amid escalating protests
Thirty-two African-American Universiy of Missouri football players, say they will not practice or play until University Systems President Tim Wolff resigns, in Columbia, Missouri on November 7, 2015. A message sent out on a twitter account says, “The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere’ We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!” The Twitter account for the school's Legion of Black Collegians posted the message and photo. Mizzou student Jonathan Butler has been staging a hunger strike, saying he won’t eat until Wolfe steps down. Butler has been critical of the system president for the way he’s handled several racial incidents on campus. Photo by University of Missouri/UPI | License Photo

University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe resigned Monday amid escalating criticism and protests over his handling of racial issues on campus.

At least 32 Missouri football players planned to boycott all team activities until Wolfe stepped down.

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Missouri's next game is Saturday night against BYU at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Canceling the game could have cost the school about $1 million. Players confirmed Monday that the game will be played as scheduled and they will return to practice Tuesday.

Wolfe is the president of all four University of Missouri campuses.

A few hours after Wolfe announced his resignation, R. Bowen Loftin, the chancellor of the University of Missouri flagship campus in Columbia, announced he will step down from his position at the end of the year to take a new position.

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Deans of the nine university departments called for Loftin's removal.

The announcement of Wolfe's resignation, effective immediately, came at a special meeting of the university system's governing body, the Board of Curators. Missouri is the state's largest school with an enrollment of more 35,000.

"My motivation in making this decision comes from love," Wolfe said at a news conference. "I love MU, Columbia, where I grew up, the state of Missouri. ... It's the right thing to do.

"I take full responsibility for the actions that have occurred. I have asked everybody to use my resignation to heal. Let's focus in changing what we can change today and in the future, not what we can't change in the past."

Graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike last Monday, saying Wolfe should step down after failing to respond to student concerns about racial tension on campus.

Butler, appearing on CNN after Wolfe's resignation, said his strike is over.

"This is a great first step towards change," Butler told CNN.

Tensions were high on campus Monday with students camped out in solidarity, faculty members staging a walkout and canceling classes and members of the football team threatening to boycott the rest of the season.

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"It is my belief that we stopped listening to each other," Wolfe said during his statement. "We didn't respond or react. We got frustrated with each other and we forced individuals like Jonathan Butler to take immediate action, unusual steps to affect change. This is not -- I repeat, not -- the way change should come about. Change comes from listening, learning, caring and conversation and we have to respect each other enough to stop yelling at each other and quit intimidating each other. Unfortunately this has not happened."

A group of black football players announced Sunday on Twitter that they wouldn't participate in any practice or game unless Wolfe resigned.

"The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe 'Injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere.' We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experience. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!," the players' statement read Sunday.

Black student groups have complained of racial slurs and other incidents on campus. Frustrations flared during a homecoming parade Oct. 10 when black protesters blocked Wolfe's car. He did not get out and talk to the protesters as they were removed by police.

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Wolfe, 57, gave no indication Sunday in a statement that he would step down. He is a Missouri graduate who was named president in February 2012.

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel pledged support via Twitter on Sunday, posted a team photo, including coaches and what appeared to be all players on the roster, with interlocked elbows.

"The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players. #ConcernedStudent1950 GP."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement that Wolfe's resignation was "a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus."

"There is more work to do, and now the University of Missouri must move forward -- united by a commitment to excellence, and respect and tolerance for all," Nixon said.

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