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Wolfe Responds to MU Grad Student's Hunger Strike

Ross Terrell/ KBIA


  About 20 students gathered on the parking lot of University Hall Tuesday morning to address UM System President Tim Wolfe in support of Jonathan Butler. Butler announced Monday morning on Twitter that he would embark on a hunger strike until he lost his life or Wolfe resigned.

Graduate student Eric Scott first addressed Tim Wolfe with a message on behalf of the Forum on Graduate Rights who were standing in solidarity with the other students. In the message, Scott demanded a resolution that preserved the life and safety of Butler. He said that responsibility was incumbent upon Wolfe and he had the power to resolve the issue.

Listen to the full exchange between students and UM System President Tim Wolfe Tuesday.

Wolfe responded to the message by saying conversation and dialogue were key to making a change throughout the entire UM System.

“We have got to create an environment on this beautiful campus and the other three campuses that we have where all students can be successful regardless of where they came from, their race, or their degree program,” Wolfe said. “We have got to maximize everything that we can do focusing on student success and I can only do that through conversation and understanding the hurdles and obstacles that are in front of Jonathan or anyone else.”

Tensions arose after Wolfe responded then attempted to shuttle the conversation to Chancellor Loftin who was also in attendance but did not address the group as a whole.

“Actually before we do that, that’s not why we came here,” DeShaunya Ware, a member of Concerned Student 1950 said. “I don’t care what you’re doing I want you removed. That’s why we’re here. We are standing in solidarity with Jonathan Butler. I don’t want a press conference, I don’t want to talk to anybody, I want you removed.”

Wolfe was then told of multiple recent incidents that occurred on MU’s campus that he failed to respond to, including an incident at MU’s newest dorm, Gateway Hall.

“You don’t care about racism,” Ware said. “Racism doesn’t matter to you. You don’t understand systems of oppression.”

Ware’s concerns were echoed by a fellow member of Concerned Student 1950, Storm Ervin. Ervin was not able to attend but presented her issues while on speakerphone.

Credit Ross Terrell/ KBIA
DeShaunya Ware stares down Tim Wolfe as her friend, Storm Ervin, voices her concerns via cell phone with the UM system president. Ervin was not able to attend but emphatically told Wolfe she felt he didn’t care about racism.

“You said that you wanted to have dialogue and conversation,” Ervin said. “But when it came to Concerned Student 1950 you said you had no intentions of reaching out to us had Jonathan Butler not contacted you.”

Ervin continued in her message telling Wolfe he had yet to respond to the “10-10-15” incident in which black protesters stood in front of his car during the homecoming parade addressing racist issues around campus.  She said of course racism has to end but it was a disgrace he took almost a month to respond to those issues.

Other members of Concerned Student 1950 also challenged Wolfe about the actions he has reportedly put in place. Ware stated that those actions were actually taken from member of the Legion of Black Collegians and were not original yet they received no credit.

Wolfe attempted to respond before Ware interjected saying “we don’t want your comments.”

“Well I respect what you said but I do care,” Wolfe said. “My actions will support my words.”

His comments were received harshly as students again questioned what actions. Another member of Concerned Student 1950 commented “this is what happens when you put a business man where an educator should be.”

Wolfe told the students that moving forward, they could expect his actions to be better and he was again pushed on what actions. An administrator attempted to end the conversation, but members of the Forum on Graduate Rights and of Concerned Student 1950 pressed Wolfe to give an exact action he would take.

Wolfe said he would like to meet with Butler but students said if he was serious about addressing this issue, he would set up a meeting to allow Butler to talk with the Curators, to which Wolfe said he would try to do.

Eric Scott said after the conversation he appreciated the efforts the students put forward in addressing their concerns.

“President Wolfe attempted to turn it into a press conference,” Scott said. “He had an agenda. He wanted to deflect issues presumably onto Chancellor Loftin and I’m really proud of the members of Concerned Student 1950 who stepped up and didn’t allow that to happen.”

Scott said Butler would be interested in talking to the curators about finding some resolution to his hunger strike.

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