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A Month in Review: Concerned Student 1950 Retrospective

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Tyler Adkisson/ KBIA
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In September, Missouri Student Association President, Payton Head, was called racial slurs. “Racism Lives Here” rallies started to take place on campus, and members of the Legion of Black Collegians homecoming court were called racial slurs during their rehearsal for a play.

MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin decided to implement mandatory diversity and inclusion training beginning in January for all new students and for faculty and staff, but many weren’t satisfied.

On Oct. 10, during Mizzou’s 104th homecoming parade, 11 African-American students going by the name Concerned Student 1950 stood in front of UM System President Tim Wolfe’s car. They expressed their outrage about the university’s handling of recent racist incidents. During the protest, Wolfe remained in his car and rode off without speaking.

Ten days after the homecoming demonstration, Concerned Student 1950 presented a list of demands to the University of Missouri. One of the students’ demands was Wolfe’s removal from office. The group met with Wolfe about a week after the list of demands was released. Wolfe was quoted as saying he was “not completely” aware of systemic racism, sexism, and other issues on MU’s campus.

On Monday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m. a master’s student named Jonathan Butler announced on Twitter he would begin a hunger strike until he starved to death or Wolfe was removed from office.

Wednesday, November 4

Members from the Forum on Graduate Student Rights and Concerned Student 1950 present Wolfe with a letter about Butler’s hunger strike. Wolfe responds to the letter.

“Anytime a student goes to lengths as far as Butler’s it is distressing to me,” Wolfe said. “We have got to maximize everything that we can do focusing on student success and I can only do that through conversation. By understanding the hurdles and obstacles that are in front of Jonathan or anyone else.”

Wolfe attempted to pass the conversation to Chancellor Loftin. DeShaunya Ware, a member of Concerned Student 1950 commented

“Actually before we do that, that’s not why we came here,” Ware said. “I don’t care what you’re doing, I want you removed. That’s why we are here because we are standing in solidarity with Jonathan Butler. So I’m not here for a press conference, I don’t want to talk to anybody. I want you resigned, I need for you to leave”‘

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Wolfe said he would like to speak to Butler and Ware responded saying Butler didn’t want to talk to him. She ended the conversation by requesting that Wolfe set up a meeting between Butler and the board of curators. Wolfe said he would do so.

Thursday, November 5

Concerned Student 1950 organizes a rally throughout MU’s campus. It starts at the Student Center before winding through Memorial Union, down Lowry Mall, to Speaker’s Circle, into Jesse Hall, over to the Alumni Center and ending at Carnahan Quad where students had been camping out for about almost three days.

At each location, different members of Concerned Student 1950, stopped to speak to the crowd and bystanders. Reuben Faloughi, a Concerned Student 1950 member addressed the crowd in Speaker’s Circle about what Butler was doing. He refers to Butler as JB.

“All hands on deck,” Faloughi said. “White, Asian, black, red, green, yellow, it’s an everybody issue right now. This is so bigger than JB. JB is just making the ultimate sacrifice. This is the time. We are in a critical period y’all.”

The rally ends on Carnahan Quad with an emotional chant coined by African-American activist AssataShakur. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

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Friday, November 6

Wolfe issues an apology for the way he dealt with the student group.

“I regret my reaction at the MU homecoming parade when the Concerned Student 1950 group approached my car,” Wolfe wrote in a statement. “I am sorry and my apology is long overdue.”

Concerned Student 1950, travels to UMKC later that night to find Wolfe and ask him what he thinks systematic oppression is.

“Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe you have the same opportunity to success as others,” Wolfe answered.

The protesters record the exchange. In the background, one of the protesters is heard yelling “Did you just blame us?” They post the video on Twitter and it goes viral.

Saturday, November 7

Mizzou football player Anthony Sherrils announces on Twitter Saturday night that athletes of color on the football team “will no longer partake in any football related activities” until Butler eats again.

Mizzou athletics tweeted in response “The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes. We must come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and we support our athletes’ rights to do so.”

Sunday, November 8

Head football coach Gary Pinkel tweets “The Mizzou family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.” The tweet is accompanied by a picture of teammates, coaches and staff linking arms.

Wolfe releases a statement. It says his administration is acting to create meaningful conversation and a safe space. He makes no mention of the hunger strike, football players’ decision to strike, nor does he say he will resign.

Later that day, the UM Board of Curators calls for a special session to be held Monday morning.

Monday, November 9

Around 10:15 a.m. Wolfe speaks for a special curators meeting. He announces his resignation. He says he is resigning not out of hate but out of love and hopes this can be the start of a healing process. A sense of relief and celebration overtakes the students who had been camping out on Carnahan Quad.

National media outlets cover the quad and hundreds of students and faculty join in on the crowd. Former MU football player, Michael Sam, is among them.

“As a former student athlete at the University of Missouri, seeing my former team and also some of my students come together and rally means something,” Sam said. “It means we support our own and we stand by each other.”

Josh McClellan, a junior at the university, was around to watch the celebration. “I think really the greatest thing here is that we saw student’s ability to affect their university,” he said.

Concerned Student 1950 members and other supporters end their celebration with Shakur’s saying. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

Around 1 p.m. Concerned Student 1950 holds a news conference at Traditions Plaza. Marshall Allen addresses the crowd.

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   “While today may seem bright to some, this is just a beginning in aiding and dismantling systems of oppression within higher education specifically the UM System,” he said.

Around 4:40 p.m., Chancellor Loftin announces he too will resign effective at the end of the year. He says he will move into a new role with the university overseeing research. His resignation is later expedited to be effective within the next couple of days.

Tuesday, November 10

The university announces Hank Foley, senior vice chancellor for research and graduate studies, will serve as interim chancellor.

They also announce Chuck Henson, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Trial Practice at the university’s law school will serve as interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity.

Thursday, November 12

Mike Middleton, the third African-American student to graduate from the University’s Law School, is named interim president for the UM system.