We complete the first days of November 2016 as we did a year ago: in secrecy and silence at University Hall, followed by a formal pronouncement.
For months, the people who ultimately selected Choi kept us in the dark — and still do, because we don’t know the finalists for the job at this public institution. The curators and the hiring committee were led by a search firm whose business model is based on secrecy. Headhunter agencies don’t make their money by making their lists public.
Wolfe’s silence was loudest when he sat in that convertible at the Homecoming parade in 2015, not uttering a word while protesters blocked the car and gave voice to their demands and some in the parade crowd shouted back.
Now we have a new leader of the four-campus system. Can’t blame Choi for the closed doors. Not until March 1, when he officially begins.
On our town’s campus, the I’s still have it. Interim chancellor Hank Foley will stay that way awhile longer. It has been quicker to wash away his predecessor’s controversies — so many of them were based on personality rather than policy. R. Bowen Loftin wielded a big, if ceremonial, mace.
Loftin and Wolfe will be ever connected by The Day.
Nov. 9 was the day when both resigned, albeit for different reasons and, we came to find out later, different parachutes for leaving peaceably. Loftin negotiated a nice deal for himself. Wolfe, not so much.
It was the day when members of the MU football team went back to the practice field after an incredibly short and amazingly influential boycott.
It was the day when graduate student Jonathan Butler ended his hunger strike.
It was the day when assistant professor Melissa Click and student photojournalist Tim Tai became unwilling symbols for free speech and press rights debates.
It wasn’t the day that systemic racism ended on MU’s campus. It wasn’t the beginning of the end.
A year later, what have we learned?
For some of my fellow white people, moving forward means going back to before all that messy unrest and uncomfortable protest. Others act like the cop at an accident scene: nothing to see here, move along, folks.
The interim for a while longer president, Mike Middleton, noted in a June speech that 84 percent of college presidents thought their college’s race relations were good or better, but only 24 percent said the same about colleges nationwide.
That kind of thinking, he said, helped lead to MU’s tumultuous, angry and sometimes frightening fall.
Make no mistake: The anger is still there. The minority out of power still feel the personal slights and institutional denials. Festering wounds have not suddenly healed themselves.
Hard work remains.
The MU Faculty Council’s race relations committee met for about 18 months before issuing its report. It called for many things. The model that emerged: “small groups of people committed toward naming the problems of race relations and naming the solutions.”
In other words: talk. Uncomfortable talk.
Now is not the time for silence.