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What you need to know about the events at Mizzou

| Managing Editor

Like most colleges in the U.S., the University of Missouri (Mizzou) has experienced problems with racism and discrimination throughout its history. However, racial tensions at Mizzou have reached a boiling point this semester, and recent activist efforts have attracted a great deal of public attention to the issue and already led to major system-wide changes, including the resignation of both the president and the chancellor. That said, if you don’t understand what’s going on at Mizzou—or why so many of your classmates are posting Facebook statuses about standing in solidarity with Mizzou students—you’re not alone. Don’t know where to begin? Here are some of the basics.

GRAPHICBecca Christman | Student Life

So, what’s the problem?

Racial tensions at Mizzou have been escalating for months, even years. An article from the Columbia Missourian, the Missouri School of Journalism’s student paper, outlines some of the major events, including white students spreading cotton balls by the University’s Black Culture Center in 2010, multiple instances of racial slurs directed at African-American students this year and an instance of vandalism in which a swastika was drawn with human feces in a dorm bathroom. Students have been demanding action from the University, but until recently, the administration has done little in response.

How have students responded?

Loudly.

Students formed a coalition called Concerned Student 1950—referring to the year African-American students were first admitted to the University of Missouri—aimed at protesting the racism and demanding action from the administration. On Oct. 10, the coalition and other activists halted Mizzou’s Homecoming parade, blocking University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe’s car to send the message that the administration cannot ignore students’ voices regarding the issue. Ten days later, Concerned Student 1950 published its list of formal demands, including the creation and enforcement of mandatory racial awareness and inclusion training, an increase in the percentage of black faculty and staff, a formal apology from president Wolfe and his removal from office.

On Nov. 2, graduate student Jonathan Butler announced that he would go on a hunger strike until Wolfe was removed from office. Other students began camping out in support of the strike. The next day, Concerned Student 1950 also announced that it would boycott Mizzou merchandise, dining services and ticketed events until Wolfe’s removal from office. On Nov. 7, Mizzou football players rallied behind the cause, announcing that they would boycott any football-related activities until Wolfe left office.

Some professors cancelled class this past Monday and Tuesday in support of student activists, staging an outdoor “teach-in” to respond to student questions. One professor encouraged students to come to class for an exam on Wednesday, because staying home would allow the “bullies” to win—aka the people posting threats against black students on Yik Yak. This professor has since resigned. Additionally, protesters have clashed with journalists trying to cover the situation, calling for a safe space.

And how has the University administration responded?

On Oct. 8—before Concerned Student 1950 published its demands—Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced mandatory online diversity training for faculty, staff and students, but the announcement was met with scepticism.

Concerned Student 1950 first met with Wolfe in person in late October and later met with both Wolfe and Loftin in early November, but these initial meetings yielded little more than denouncements of racism from the two administrators.

The administration began taking more meaningful action last week. On Nov. 6, Wolfe issued a statement apologizing for his actions (or lack thereof) during the Homecoming protests—but on Nov. 7, Wolfe said that systematic oppression is “because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.” On the morning of Nov. 9, Wolfe officially resigned as president of the University of Missouri system, ending Butler’s hunger strike. Later that day, Loftin also announced that he would step down from his position as chancellor to direct the development of research facilities. Other University employees—including Director of Greek Life Janna Basler—have also been ousted from their positions due to actions against protesters and journalists.

So, what now?

Though most of the major boycotts and strikes ended with Wolfe’s resignation, Mizzou student activists continue to protest in the wake of terrorist threats, some of which were made via social media. Two suspects were arrested Wednesday night for making terrorist threats against black students on Yik Yak. Some members of the media have also denounced Mizzou activists—as well as activists on other college campuses, particularly Yale—for what they believe is politically correct culture run amok.

Nevertheless, students and other supporters across the country have been standing in solidarity with Mizzou activists. Students at Yale have been especially supportive in light of recent racially-charged events on their campus. Supporters have also taken to social media, spreading messages of solidarity with hashtags like #ConcernedStudent1950, #InSolidarityWithMizzou and #PrayForMizzou.

For some of our writers’ opinions on the issue, see this article about the events at both Mizzou and Yale and this article about the anti-PC arguments that the protests have sparked.

  • queenme

    Safe spaces, racial quotas, and mandatory reeducation programmes, oh my!

    • Alex Jeffrey

      I’m guessing you don’t appreciate the irony of what you just posted.

      There are DEATH THREATS against black students. They are NOT SAFE on campus. They do not enjoy the same HUMAN RIGHT TO SAFETY as white students do.

      Nobody is threatening to SHOOT YOU for asking a question online.

      • queenme

        Well then how do we fight back against terrorism? It was my understanding that continuing to vote/speak out/go to class/whatever was the right thing to do. Maybe do it with a boosted police presence, but do it just the same.