Former UM System President Tim Wolfe criticizes MU administration in confidential letter
The letter makes numerous accusations against former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, the Board of Curators, Athletics Director Mack Rhoades, former coach Gary Pinkel and interim UM System President Michael Middleton.
Jan. 27, 2016
Former UM System President Tim Wolfe and former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin haven’t spoken to each other since they both resigned Nov. 9.
Wednesday morning, though, a letter from Wolfe to an undisclosed group of supporters was made public by the Columbia Daily Tribune. The recipients include the Missouri 100, a group of prominent UM System supporters.
In the letter, Wolfe made numerous accusations against former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, the UM System Board of Curators, Athletics Director Mack Rhoades, former head football coach Gary Pinkel and interim UM System President Michael Middleton.
“I made the mistake of hiring Bowen Loftin and I trusted the Board of Curators to support my decisions and to do what is in the best interest of the University of Missouri System rather than to cave into politicians and special interest groups with agendas that are contrary to the mission of the university,” Wolfe wrote.
In an interview Wednesday, Loftin said he had not read the letter. He had heard earlier that Wolfe had written a letter to prominent donors, but “didn’t think too much about it and hadn’t worried about it at all.”
“He never spoke to me about the letter,” Loftin said. “I never got a copy of it. We haven’t seen each other or in any way communicated since Nov. 9 when he resigned.”
“MU students are very intelligent people and I respect them a great deal. To believe that I could manipulate them in some way is unbelievable. It’s absurd.” – former Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin
Loftin said his relationship with Wolfe was “very professional” until their resignations, and they met at least once a week. He said he did his best to keep Wolfe informed of his decisions, and until a meeting they had “just a short time before all this blew up,” he had no idea there were any problems.
“I thought things were behind us now, but apparently not,” Loftin said. “It is what it is.”
Wolfe also wrote that Loftin “shifted the focus of Concerned Student 1950 to me from him once he discovered his job was in jeopardy in late September.”
“MU students are very intelligent people and I respect them a great deal,” Loftin said in response. “To believe that I could manipulate them in some way is unbelievable. It’s absurd.”
Wolfe wrote that Loftin angered the Greek community, a reference to proposals by the Fraternity Alumni Consortium that circulated in June 2015. The consortium suggested a restriction on women in fraternity houses. Loftin was subject to backlash after the proposals circulated.
Wolfe resigned Nov. 9 following weeks of protests by student group Concerned Student 1950 calling for his resignation. The group said Wolfe had not handled race issues on campus appropriately following a series of racial incidents on campus.
In the letter, Wolfe wrote that he resigned to “prevent further embarrassment and a potential Ferguson-like event on the MU Campus.” Wolfe also wrote that the curators and Middleton have to answer why the curators hired an interim system president who “failed miserable (sic) in his capacity as the long time leader on diversity issues on the MU Campus” and why Middleton did not stop the growing campus protests “in spite of” his relationship with minority students on campus and graduate student Jonathan Butler, a leader of Concerned Student 1950 who went on a hunger strike in November.
On the sixth day of Butler’s hunger strike, the black players of Missouri’s football team announced a boycott of all football-related activities until Wolfe resigned. The rest of the team joined them the next day.
Wolfe wrote that the football team’s protest was “the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a small fire.” The events that led up to the football boycott include racial slurs yelled at both Missouri Students Association President Payton Head and the Legion of Black Collegians’ homecoming court, several “Racism Lives Here” rallies, sit-in protests at Jesse Hall, Concerned Student 1950 demonstrations at the homecoming parade and Meet Mizzou Day, the hunger strike and a walkout by students and faculty in support of Butler.
“Coach Pinkel missed an important opportunity to teach his players a valuable life lesson,” Wolfe wrote. “The end result could be a financial catastrophe for our university.”
Wolfe addressed Sen. Schaefer, saying that he was placing pressure on a board member.
“He also was influencing at least one member of the Board of Curators to keep Bowen Loftin in place,” Wolfe wrote in the letter. Wolfe wrote that the board was following agendas contrary to the university’s mission.
“A few of the members of the board of curators consistently called subordinate staff and faculty members to dig up dirt and use their Curator role to further personal agendas,” Wolfe wrote.
UM System spokesman John Fougere said in a statement that the board was aware of Wolfe’s letter.
“We are aware that former President Tim Wolfe recently has made public to some university supporters a letter containing his thoughts about the events of last autumn and his desire to reach what he regards as an acceptable financial agreement between himself and the university,” the statement read.
According to the statement, discussions have been ongoing between representatives of the UM System and Wolfe regarding a post-resignation agreement.
“After discussions which included mediation on December 18 left Mr. Wolfe's situation unresolved, discussions have been on-going including another mediation recently,” the statement read. “Our position has been that any agreement would have to be consistent with the legal constraints within which a public institution such as the university operates.”