Graduate student Jonathan Butler has led protests in Speakers Circle and through the Student Center. He has used social media to draw attention to campus racism. When those efforts failed to elicit a reaction for university administrators, he stopped the car carrying UM System President Tim Wolfe during the Homecoming parade.
Now, he’s going on an indefinite hunger strike, according to a letter to the university posted Monday on Facebook.
Butler is holding his strike as a response to the lack of action from Wolfe to several instances of racism and discrimination in the past months. He will end the strike when Wolfe is no longer in office, or when his internal organs fail, he said. But in the letter, Butler stressed that he has nothing against Wolfe personally.
“Let it be known I have no ill will or thoughts of harm toward Mr. Wolfe,” Butler wrote. “But I do have an urgency to make the campus I call home a more safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for all identities and backgrounds.”
In his letter, Butler prefaced his decision to announce his hunger strike by noting several instances of racism and discrimination on campus. He cited MSA President Payton Head being called a racial slur on campus, the removal of Planned Parenthood services, the #ConcernedStudent1950 protest and the recent instance of a person drawing a swastika with their own feces in a bathroom in Gateway Hall.
“Although these incidents individually are not (Wolfe’s) fault as a collection of incidents at the university, they are his responsibility to address,” Butler said.
Butler also said these incidents prevent MU from being a safe learning environment for all students.
“Students are not able to achieve their full academic potential because of the inequalities and obstacles they face,” Butler wrote. “In each of these scenarios, Mr. Wolfe had ample opportunity to create policies and reform that could shift the culture of Mizzou.”
Butler said he will not consume any “food or nutritional sustenance” and will continue to do so until Wolfe is removed from office or his “internal organs fail.”
“Being sound of mind and heart, I have committed myself fully to this endeavor because I believe that the University of Missouri System and all of its constituents deserve a leader who is competent enough to perform at all levels of the position including administrative, political, financial and emotional,” Butler said.