COLUMBIA, MO (KPLR) - University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned Monday morning at a board of curators meeting amid calls for him to step down.
As of last week, Wolfe appeared unwilling to give in to demands that he resign heading into Monday's meeting. The board of curators was supposed to get together and immediately go into closed session to discuss the issue. However, Wolfe asked to address the assembled media first and announced his intentions to leave office.
Wolfe said people who care about Mizzou should use his resignation as a chance to heal.
In a statement, Gov. Jay Nixon said he appreciated Wolfe's decision to step down.
“Tim Wolfe’s resignation was a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus, and I appreciate his decision to do so. 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. The University of Missouri is an outstanding institution that will continue to play a vital role in our efforts to provide a world-class education to every Missouri student.”
About 30 African-American football players had vowed to not play another game until Wolfe stepped down. Mizzou head football coach Gary Pinkel tweeted support for the players, saying the rest of the team and coaches stood in solidarity with the group, casting doubt as to whether the team would play its next scheduled game against Brigham Young University on November 14.
Mizzou Athletic Director Mack Rhoades and Pinkel said football activities would resume in earnest on Tuesday in preparation for the BYU game. In a statement, the pair expressed concern for the health of a graduate student engaged in a hunger strike to protest the president.
Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, praised students and faculty for their courage and leadership in raising the issue of racism on campus.
"Only by publicly speaking about these issues, by listening to each other, and by demanding proactive solutions from our leaders, can we hope to move forward and create a state where all Missourians are afforded equal opportunity and treatment by the law."
According to University of Missouri website, more than eight percent of the 35,000 students are African-American.
For months, the African-American student body has complained of university leadership's slow response or inaction regarding racist activities on campus.
Just last month, 18-year-old Bradley Becker pleaded guilty to property damage after admitting to putting racist graffiti in a stairwell at the Mark Twain Residence Hall on campus in April. Becker, a freshman, was given a suspended 90-day jail sentence and two years of probation for spray-painting a swastika and the symbol for the “Illuminati” in the stairwell. Two days after that incident, a second swastika and the phrase, "You have been warned" were found at the same spot.
And in August, someone used feces to draw a swastika, drawing condemnation from both black and Jewish student organizations. Authorities said the two incidents were not related.
On October 5, members of the Legion of Black Collegians were subject to racial epithets when a man disrupted a rehearsal for homecoming activities.
Last week, graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike in protest of Wolfe's response to racial strife on campus, as well as the university's decision to pull graduate student health insurance subsidies. Butler ended his hunger strike late Monday morning.
The calls for Wolfe's resignation appeared to pick up steam a few days ago, when a video of Wolfe talking with student protesters outside a fundraiser in Kansas City went public. In the video, a student asked Wolfe if he knew what "systemic oppression" meant. Wolfe responded, ""It's — systematic oppression is because you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success..." Wolfe walked away as flabbergasted students asked if he was implying that minority students were to blame for their own oppression.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.