I can’t help but think that at least some of the cri de coeur in the media (social and national) regarding the dust-up at the University of Missouri could have been quelled had various journalistic outfits done a better job at putting the calls for President Wolfe to resign in context.
Listen. People were confused as to why a group — #concernedstudent1950 — was demanding Timothy Wolfe, MU’s now former-president, step down — I mean, after all, what could this old, crusty white guy have done to squelch the racism that supposedly runs wild on the university’s campus? People from outside Columbia, Mo, the city that houses the university, were even more gobsmacked after finding out that, somehow, a hunger strike from a student activist (Jonathan Butler), with aid from a few protesters, was all that was needed to unseat the president.
The questions, then: Forced to resign for not preventing a few bigots from saying racist things? Or better yet, the embattled (now former) university president needed ousting because he lacked sufficient empathy? Huh.
See, the entire kerfuffle — Wolfe’s resignation — was months (if not years) in the making. Wolfe started his regime at the university in ignominious fashion, with his move to shutter the University of Missouri Press, the school’s book publishing arm, in May of 2012. It grew worse.
After the Missouri Press debacle, the former president went on to make a slew of gaffes and poor administrative decisions during his short tenure at MU– indeed, Wolfe’s decision to revoke graduate students’ subsidized tuition and health insurance (right or wrong), only to reinstate them shortly thereafter, ultimately made him a walking, talking dead man among the student body and faculty; also, his decision to revoke Planned Parenthood’s ties to the MU campus only worsened the mood; his overall diffident attitude as an administrator (a bit standoffish) helped turn Wolfe into a pariah.
So, really, it was Wolfe’s history of gaffes, fumbles, and overall incompetence, NOT his inability to do anything about some racists incidents, that led to his ultimate fall from grace.
Were Wolfe, and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin (who put in his resignation earlier this week) for that matter, a model of perfection as an MU administrator, the hunger strike and calls for resignation would have been met with a collective sigh from students and faculty. But as it is, the hunger strike and the overall toxic atmosphere, mixed with the football team’s boycotting future games and Gary Pinkel’s (the team’s head coach) decision to call for Wolfe’s head, made his resignation a forgone conclusion.
Wolfe’s enemies used the protesters and Butler’s hunger strike to strike while the iron was hot. In short, it was all a cumulative effect. Had journalists — locally and nationally — placed the events in that context, I don’t think you’d see what you are seeing here today: absolute chaos and confusion.