UM System President Tim Wolfe told protesters at UM-Kansas City tonight that “systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success” hours after issuing an apology for his reaction to Concerned Student 1950’s Homecoming parade demonstration.
The interaction was recorded on video by Twitter user @Qiana_Jade:
UM System spokesman John Fougere could not be reached for comment on why Wolfe was in Kansas City. The Columbia Missourian reported that Wolfe attended a fundraiser at UMKC tonight.
Wolfe has been criticized for his lack of action regarding MU’s campus social climate. Most recently, graduate student Jonathan Butler has gone on a hunger strike. Students have also been camping out on Carnahan Quad in support of the strike. Butler said in both a Facebook post and a tweet that the strike will end when Wolfe is no longer president. The students camping out have the same goal.
The change.org petition advocating for Wolfe’s removal has more than 1,500 signatures as of Friday night.
Some of those students were present at UMKC to meet with Wolfe. In the video, students asked him a question. At first, he responded by telling them “I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer.”
The protesters then asked him what he thinks systematic oppression is.
“Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” he said.
Protesters, outraged by Wolfe’s response, immediately questioned what he said.
A protestor in the video asked him what he meant by that statement.
“Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe? Did you just blame black students?”
Wolfe walked away, declining to answer their questions.
The video was posted to Twitter at 7:32 p.m. Nov. 6.
As of Midnight, the video had been retweeted 568 times and liked 279 times.
Students also took to the social media site to share their opinions on Wolfe’s statement.
With what Tim Wolfe just said...I'm now understanding #ConcernedStudent1950's viewpoint. Doesn't seem to understand the issue here.— Kyle Brynsvold (@kbrynsvold) November 7, 2015
If I know that I'm going to be confronted about something I do my research so that I have an understanding. Tim Wolfe just doesn't care.— Shimmy Hendrix (@V3rnie_MaK) November 7, 2015
This man is a Harvard graduate & can't give a proper definition of systematic oppression. Everyone should be concerned #ConcernedStudent1950— Taylor (@TayyCo) November 7, 2015
During the homecoming parade, demonstrators stopped the car carrying Wolfe in an effort to get his attention. Wolfe didn’t publicly comment on the incident until Friday’s apology, five days into Butler’s hunger strike.
“I am sorry, and my apology is long overdue,” Wolfe said in the statement. “My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention. I was caught off guard in that moment.”
In the apology, Wolfe acknowledged that racism does exist at MU.
“It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff,” he said in the statement. “I am sorry this is the case.”