Lawmakers call for end to racism, new leadership
Gov. Nixon and several legislators spoke out about Concerned Student 1950.
Nov. 08, 2015
Several state lawmakers addressed Concerned Student 1950 on Sunday, including Gov. Jay Nixon, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Butler County, the chairman of the Missouri House Committee on Higher Education.
The statements come the morning after more than 30 black Mizzou football players announced a boycott of football-related activities until UM System President Tim Wolfe is out of office, drawing national media attention to campus race relations.
Campus protests against Wolfe root from a “slew of racist, sexist, homophobic etc. incidents” on campus, according to a letter written by graduate student Jonathan Butler, who is on a hunger strike until Wolfe is removed from office.
Nixon released Sunday’s first statement before 10 a.m.
“Racism and intolerance have no place at the University of Missouri or anywhere in our state,” Nixon said in the statement. “Our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding. These concerns must be addressed to ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”
Later that day, Cookson said in a statement that he believes it is time for MU system leadership to “step aside,” according to a Nov. 8 Missouri Times article.
“All of these problems stem from the University of Missouri System slipping behind over the last few years in everything from faculty productivity, to fiscal health of several of the colleges, to national rankings,” Cookson said in the article.
He cited issues that have put national attention on the university, specifically mentioning problems with sexual violence on campus, the St. Louis campus’ purchase of a golf course amid budget cuts, university relations with Planned Parenthood, “the president of the System’s callous reaction to racial sensitivity issues which he has now apologized for, a highly embarrassing failed attempted firing of the Columbia campus chancellor, and now the events of this weekend.”
“After all of this, it has become clear that the MU system leadership can no longer effectively lead and should step aside,” Cookson said. “Failing that the University of Missouri system board of curators should force a change in leadership. Failing this common sense approach it will be incumbent for the governor and the General Assembly to take the appropriate steps to protect this important public asset.”
Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, then has a similar message.
“The lack of leadership Mizzou has been dealing with for months has finally reached the point of being a national embarrassment,” Jones said, according to the Kansas City Star. “It’s time for a change in leadership and start the healing process.”
Sunday is Butler’s seventh day on a hunger strike. He said he will not eat until Wolfe resigns or is removed from office because he believes that the MU system “deserve(s) a leader who is competent enough to perform at all levels of the position including administrative, political, financial and emotional.”
State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, tweeted at Butler on Friday morning, the fifth day of Butler’s strike. Chappelle-Nadal serves on the Education Committee in the Missouri Senate.
Dearest @_JonathanButler, there are people standing in solidarity w you. Yesterday, I fasted w you. Today, I will again. Peace be w/ you!— MariaChappelleNadal (@MariaChappellevN) November 6, 2015
McCaskill, a Democrat, also spoke out on the issue Sunday afternoon.
“At this point I think it is essential that the University of Missouri Board of Curators send a clear message to the students at Mizzou that there is an unqualified commitment to address racism on campus,” McCaskill said in a statement on her website. “As a graduate who cares deeply about Mizzou, I'm confident that my university can and will do better in supporting an environment of tolerance and inclusion.”
The statements by Nixon and McCaskill come after a week of students pressuring them to speak out via Twitter.
Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt has not spoken on the issue.
On Friday, Wolfe issued an apology to Concerned Student 1950, in which he said his apology was long overdue and his past behavior made it seem like he didn’t care, which he denied.
“Racism does exist at our university and it is unacceptable,” Wolfe said in the statement. “It is a long-standing, systemic problem which daily affects our family of students, faculty and staff. I am sorry this is the case. I truly want all members of our university community to feel included, valued and safe.”