Mizzou: How Did We Get Here?

Madalynn Owens, Yearbook Editor

Columbia and the University of Missouri were thrust into the spotlight this fall after racial tensions sparked into protests on campus. Articles and investigations from national and local news outlets like the Huffington Post, CNN, Kansas City Star, and The Columbia Tribune were flooded with negative publicity surrounding Columbia’s own University of Missouri. As news of racial controversy at Mizzou spread throughout the nation, Battle English classrooms discussed the events. It is important for all community members to know the truth of the events leading up to the electrically charged situation we are left with today.

September 12, 2015: While this is not the beginning of racial issues at Mizzou, this is the first trace of recent public controversy surrounding the University. Payton Head, Missouri Students Association president, posted about being called racial slurs by a group on campus on Facebook. The post quickly went viral as it was shared by thousands of people.

September 16, 2015: Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin tweeted, “Let me be very clear about where I stand as Mizzou’s chancellor: one biased incident is too many. The incidents that I have heard about – both blatant and subtle – are totally unacceptable.” This tweet was a response to many students and people around the area complaining about the university standing idly by during racially driven incidents.

September 24, 2015 1:00pm: The first “Racism Lives Here” Rally is held in Speakers’ Circle. This rally was accompanied with many signs criticizing the Chancellor for taking as long as he did to respond to Head as well as many signs stating #blacklivesmatter. The protesters later marched to Jesse Hall.

October 1, 2015: The second “Racism Lives Here” Rally is held at the Student Center. This rally focused on calling attention to the administration of the university for not taking appropriate actions against racism on campus.

October 5, 2015: The Legion of Black Collegians (LBC) tweet about being harassed and called the n-word while the group was practicing for their performance in Mizzou’s upcoming Homecoming parade. Chancellor Loftin later posted a video to Youtube about the incident. “We’re part of the same family. Don’t hate your family,” he said in the video.

October 6, 2015: Professors joined students in the sit-in at Jesse Hall hoping to call more attention to the need for administrative action of the racism issues at Mizzou.

October 7, 2015: A petition created in August to remove the statue of President Thomas Jefferson from Mizzou’s Quadrangle gains momentum. The hashtag #postyourstateofmind called Mizzou Students to place sticky notes including the words like “Slave Owner” and “Rapist” on the statue.

October 8, 2015: Chancellor Loftin announced that in January of 2016, diversity and inclusion training will be required of all admitted students. Similar training will be provided as soon as possible for all faculty and staff of the University of Missouri.

October 10, 2015: A group of eleven students, called Concerned Student 1950 (named after the first year black students were admitted to the University of Missouri) were ignored and then threatened with pepper spray after linking arms in front of University President Tim Wolfe’s car during the homecoming parade. Concerned Student 1950 was attempting to directly receive attention from Mizzou’s President about the racial issues. The group matched with T- shirts saying “1839 was built on my b(l)ack”. One member of Concerned Student 1950 was bumped with Wolfe’s car.

October 11, 2015: The third “Racism Lives Here” Rally is cut short when the University’s Police Department asked the gathering to leave Turner Avenue parking garage, where the event was taking place.

October 20, 2015 8:29 am: Concerned Student 1950 releases a list of demands to the University. The list demands President Tim Wolfe’s removal as well as increasing the number of faculty of color along with increasing diversity training. The student group gives Mizzou eight days to respond to their demands.

October 20, 2015 12:00pm: MU College Republicans launch a campaign to #StandWithJefferson, the group receives 143 signatures on a petition to keep the statue in Francis Quadrangle.

October 21, 2015 1:00pm: The University of Missouri holds a four hour long closed Board of Curators meeting in University Hall.

October 24, 2015 2:00am: A swastika is drawn in human feces in a bathroom in Gateway Hall. A similar event happened in April of 2015 at Mark Twain Hall.

October 26, 2015: Members of Concerned Student 1950 meet with Tim Wolfe. According to a statement by the student group, Wolfe “did not mention any plan of action to address the demand.”

November 2, 2015: Jonathan Butler announces that he will be going on a hunger strike. Butler’s strike will end either in his death or Wolfe being removed from office.

November 3, 2015: Wolfe issues a statement saying he is concerned for Butler’s safety and is continually having conversations to make Mizzou a safe place for all. Chancellor Loftin releases a report that he supports Butler’s right to peacefully protest.

November 4, 2015: Students siding with Butler boycott the University’s Student Center, including its food and apparel.

November 5, 2015 11:30 am: Students and faculty of Mizzou participate in a walkout around campus supporting Butler’s hunger strike, organized by Concerned Student 1950.

November 6, 2015: Many University departments and student groups voice their support of Concerned Student 1950 and of Butler’s hunger strike.

November 6, 2015 3:55pm: Wolfe releases a statement apologizing to Concerned Student 1950 due to his actions during the Homecoming Parade. He also voices his concern for Butler’s health.

November 6, 2015 9:30: Wolfe met with students at University of Missouri – Kansas City. Wolfe was asked what he thought systematic oppression was, and he replied, “you don’t believe that you have equal opportunity for success.” His statement caused anger from Mizzou students and people across the nation, many stating that Wolfe was blaming the oppressed.

November 7, 2015: At Meet Mizzou Day, Concerned Student 1950 protested in dining halls and other locations alongside campus tours, telling the students and parents to meet the real Mizzou and it’s problematic racism.

November 7, 2015 8:30pm: Black Missouri Football players posted a picture with their arms all being linked stating they would boycott of all football related activities until Wolfe stepped down from his position. The athletic department states, “Our focus right now is the health of Jonathan Butler…it is clear they do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan resumes eating.” Members of the football team state they are a family and the coaching staff fully supports the team’s decision.

November 8, 2015 11:47am: Governor Jay Nixon states, “Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state.”

November 8, 2015: Payton Head tells reporters at the campsite of Concerned Student 1950 group: “Students want change and students want an inclusive campus.”

November 9, 2015 8:15am: The MSA executive cabinet publishes an open letter to the University of Missouri’s Board of Curators calling for Wolfe’s immediate removal from office. Wolfe later announces his resignation at an emergency curator’s meeting at 10:15am. Then, at 4:30pm Chancellor Loftin announces his resignation effective January 1st 2016. After Wolfe’s resignation Butler ended his hunger strike.

November 10, 2015: Posts on Yik Yak threaten people attending classes and even claim that the KKK has come to Columbia. The University Police Department increases the security on campus with many dorms implementing a curfew.

November 11, 2015: MUPD arrests Hunter M. Park for his threatening posts on Yik Yak.

November 12, 2015 1:30pm: The MU Board of Curators name Emeritus Mike Middleton the temporary System President and accelerate the transition from Loftin to Henry C. Foley, former Senior Vice Chancellor. Foley began his responsibilities of chancellor effective immediately.

November 20, 2015 3:30pm: Board of Curators and University Administrators host a student listening session, representatives from student groups got to speak about a variety of issues on Mizzou’s campus.