COLUMBIA — The racial climate at MU has been tumultuous for months, but with recent events — including a hunger strike undertaken this week by a graduate student and campus activist — conversation and action have hastened. Here’s a chronological look at the key incidents since September that have led to an escalation of tension on campus:

Sept. 12: Missouri Students Association president Payton Head posts about a racial slur directed at him.

Payton Head, MU senior and president of MSA, renewed the dialogue about racism and the racial climate on campus after publishing a Facebook post about his first-hand experience with racism. The night before, Head said he was walking around campus when the passenger of a pickup repeatedly shouted the “N-word” at him.

Head’s statement went viral on social media, and many people shared their support of Head and frustration with MU’s response, or lack thereof, to his post.

“I’d had experience with racism before, like microaggressions, but that was the first time I’d experienced in-your-face racism,” Head told a Missourian reporter.

Oct. 5: Legion of Black Collegians members are the targets of racial slurs by a man on campus.

Another instance of racism brought the racial climate on campus again to the attention of students and administrators.

The Legion of Black Collegians shared a letter on social media describing the group's encounter with overt racism the night before. The group was rehearsing for a performance at Traditions Plaza when a “young man” talking on his cellphone walked up to the group. After being politely and repeatedly asked to leave, the man walked away but referenced LBC members using racial slurs.

That same day, MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin responded with a post of his own, acknowledging and condemning racism at MU.

“There was a silence that fell over us all, almost in disbelief that this racial slur in particular was used in our vicinity,” Naomi Collier, president of MU’s NAACP chapter and member of the LBC’s activities committee, wrote in the letter.

Oct. 8: Loftin announces mandatory online diversity training for faculty, staff and students, which is met with widespread skepticism.

Loftin's training initiative came after a number of accounts of overt racism experience by students on campus, but the announcement was met with skepticism and suspicion.

Jonathan Butler, MU graduate student and campus activist, wrote a letter to Loftin saying the training was “a step in the right direction, but it is not enough.”

Oct. 10: Members of Concerned Student 1950 protest during the MU Homecoming Parade, blocking a car carrying UM System President Tim Wolfe.

Concerned Student 1950 refers to the year African-American students were first admitted to MU. The group targeted Wolfe’s car during Homecoming to send the message that students will not be ignored by administrators on the issue of discrimination on campus.

“We’ve sent emails, we’ve sent tweets, we’ve messaged but we’ve gotten no response back from the upper officials at Mizzou to really make change on this campus,” Butler said afterward.

The protesters blocked the street and Wolfe’s car for about 15 minutes, chanting and making speeches, until they were dispersed by police. Some students watching the parade also joined in on the protest in support. No protesters were arrested for disturbing the parade.

“I joined in the line because white silence is compliance, like what they were yelling in the Student Center. I feel like I can’t just sit by and watch. It’s not my fight, but I support it,” MU undergraduate Breanne LoPresti told a reporter.

Oct. 21: Concerned Student 1950 issues a statement of demands, including a formal apology from Wolfe and his removal from office.

Ten days after the Homecoming protest, the group issued the statement with eight demands, including enforcement of mandatory racial awareness and inclusion training for all faculty, staff and students; an increase in the percentage of black faculty and staff; and an increase in funding to hire mental health professionals for the MU Counseling Center, particularly those of color; and more staff for social justice centers on campus.

A number of groups showed their support for the sentiment, including the Department of Black Studies, the Department of Classical Studies and the School of Health Professions.

Oct. 24: A swastika using human feces is drawn on a bathroom wall in MU's Gateway Hall

The vandalism, reported by the Residence Halls Association, was described as "an act of hate." The vandalism was reported immediately to the MU Police Department and an investigation initiated, but no one has been apprehended to date. 

Oct. 27: Concerned Student 1950 meets with Wolfe, but no issues are resolved.

Members of the group said Wolfe did not agree to any of the demands they sent to him the previous week. In the meeting, Wolfe said he cared for black students at MU but was "'not completely' aware of systemic racism, sexism, and patriarchy on campus," according to a statement by Concerned Student 1950.

Morning of Nov. 2: Jonathan Butler announces he will go on a hunger strike until Wolfe is removed from office.

Butler said his decision was made a few days after student protesters interrupted the Homecoming Parade in October.

To prepare for the strike, he reduced his food intake and researched how his body would react. He updated his will and spoke to a physician.

As of Friday, Butler had gone five days without food.

Butler said the demand for Wolfe’s removal from office was made because of the president's failure to respond sincerely and actively to student concerns about discrimination on campus. Butler has continued his daily life during the strike, working and attending his classes.

“During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost," Butler wrote in a letter to the UM System Board of Directors.

Evening of Nov. 2: Students camp on Carnahan Quadrangle in support of the hunger strike and Wolfe's removal from office.

Nov. 3: Concerned Student 1950 and supporters meet with Wolfe and Loftin near University Hall to discuss race relations and discrimination.

The Forum on Graduate Rights, an activist group dedicated to improving the state of graduate student employees at MU, called for the gathering and made a statement supporting Jonathan Butler and his hunger strike.

“JB (Butler) is our colleague, our fellow activist and our friend,” said Eric Scott, co-chair of the Coalition of Graduate Workers, a part of the Forum on Graduate Rights. “We want him to live a happy and healthy life, and you (Wolfe) have the power to resolve this, and we urge you to use it.”

Wolfe responded to students’ comments by saying racism is unacceptable, he is committed to combating it on campus and his actions will support his words. Student activists were not convinced and continued to press Wolfe for answers. Loftin did not make a statement, but was present for the duration of the meeting.

Evening of Nov. 3: Concerned Student 1950 decides to boycott MU services until Wolfe is removed from office.

The boycott was announced Wednesday and officially began Thursday. The group is using the hashtag #BoycottUM to promote the boycott of merchandise, retail dining services and ticketed events. The group began using a website called Change.org to hold a petition to remove Wolfe from office.

“We are boycotting spending money at the Student Center, we are boycotting football games — anything that brings the university extra money, until everything is resolved. If you can’t listen to our voices, you can’t have our dollars," said Storm Ervin, Concerned Student 1950 representative, in an interview.

Nov. 5: Concerned Student 1950 holds a demonstration on campus before the MU-Mississippi State football game.

About 200 members and supporters of Concerned Student 1950 participated in the demonstration, marching through campus and chanting “Join us in the revolution." Participants were urged to identify themselves only as “Concerned Student.” At Speaker's Circle, the group reiterated its demand for UM System President Tim Wolfe’s removal.

The same day, Payton Head posted on Twitter a slideshow of images of racist comments he said were made by MU students, and Chancellor Loftin responded: "Sad to see more hate speech hiding behind anonymity. Racism, bias, discrimination have no place here."

Evening of Nov. 5: Students reschedule a football game protest for Monday, citing security reasons.

Members of Concerned Student 1950 planned to hold the protest after Missouri’s football game Thursday night. Nearly 100 protesters gathered in the basement of the MU Student Center that night, but decided the circumstances — mixing with “drunk white people” after the Tigers’ loss — could lead to an unsafe protest. Details about Monday's protest have not been announced.

Nov. 6: Wolfe issues an apology for his action and inaction during the Homecoming protest.

In the statement, he said he was very concerned for Jonathan Butler's health and acknowledged that racism at the university exists and is unacceptable. 

"I regret my reaction at the MU homecoming parade when the ConcernedStudent1950 group approached my car," the statement read. "I am sorry, and my apology is long overdue. My behavior seemed like I did not care. That was not my intention. I was caught off guard in that moment. Nonetheless, had I gotten out of the car to acknowledge the students and talk with them perhaps we wouldn’t be where we are today."

"I am asking us to move forward in addressing the racism that exists at our university — and it does exist. Together we must rise to the challenge of combatting racism, injustice, and intolerance."

Evening of Nov. 6: Protesters confront Wolfe in Kansas City

Student protesters with the group Concerned Student 1950 from both MU and the University of Missouri Kansas City met Wolfe outside a fundraiser at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City. One student released a video in which the UM System president responds to the question, "Tim Wolfe, what do you think systematic oppression is?" 

Wolfe says, "It's — systematic oppression is because you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success — "

The crowd of students reacts negatively, and the chatter is mostly inaudible. 

Someone in the crowd yells, "Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe? Did you just blame black students —before the video cuts off. 

Nov. 7: Concerned Student 1950 holds demonstration in front of MU prospective students

A group of students holds a "mock tour" of campus featuring a presentation on the recent history of racism on campus. protesters marched through dining halls and campus hubs on Meet Mizzou Day, a large campus recruiting event

The MU Tour Team was warned about the possibility of protests in the wake of the video that surfaced the previous evening. 

Nov. 7: Black MU football players plan to boycott

"We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experiences," the players announced in a tweet sent from the Legion of Black Collegians account.

Sixty of the 124 players on the MU football team are black, but it was unclear as of Saturday night how many of the players agreed to participate in the boycott. 

Nov. 8: MU football team unites behind black athletes; officials, others issue statements

Football coach Gary Pinkel tweeted a photograph Sunday morning showing him and nearly 100 players and assistant coaches — black and white — at the team's training complex. "The Mizzou Family stands as one," the tweet read. "We are united. We are behind our players. GP"

UM System President Tim Wolfe issued a statement Sunday morning expressing hope that all sides could get together and resolve the matter. He also said he was dedicated to ongoing dialogue. Jonathan Butler tweeted almost immediately that he was "extremely unsatisfied and (the president) has no true plan for change."

The Forum on Graduate Rights steering committee, with the Coalition of Graduate Workers, announced Sunday they would hold a two-day walk out Monday and Tuesday in “outrage” about a statement Wolfe released earlier on Sunday.

Faculty members also announced late Sunday night that they would be available at Carnahan Quadrangle starting at 10 a.m. on Monday to answer students’ questions as a ‘teach in.’

A statement was also released which 783 black MU alumni signed to show their support of Concerned Student 1950 and their call to action.

Nov. 9: Wolfe resigns, hunger strike ends

Wolfe told an emergency meeting of the UM System Board of Curators shortly after 10 a.m. that he resigned as president of the UM System amid the wave of protests on campus.

"My motivation in making this decision comes from love" for Columbia and the university, Wolfe said. 

At 10:36 a.m. Butler posted on Facebook that the hunger strike was "officially over."

Shortly before 5 p.m., MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said he would leave his job to direct the development of research facilities. Wolfe, 57, had spent 3 1/2 years as president, and Loftin was chancellor for almost 20 months.

Hank Foley, a senior vice chancellor of research and graduate studies, was named interim chancellor. He will replace Loftin in January.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

  • Education reporting team, fall 2015 Studying print and digital journalism Reach me at eev728@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720

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