A growing discontent among black students at the University of Missouri's handling of racism culminated Monday with the resignation of president Tim Wolfe.
Activists said the roots of their anger date to last year, when they complained of a slow and lackluster response by the university to the shooting of a black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. But the displeasure reached a boiling point this fall, during a series of events that began after the start of the school year.
Last week, one student began a hunger strike, and on Saturday members of the football team said they would refuse to play until Wolfe left office. That last move seemed to force Wolfe's hand.
Here is how those events unfolded:
- Sept. 11: The head of the Missouri Students Association, Payton Head, was walking through campus when "some guys riding on the back of a pickup truck decided that it would be okay for continuously scream N-- at me," he wrote on Facebook the following day. "I really just want to know why my simple existence is such a threat to society." He said he had been subjected to similar attacks on campus in the past and said he no longer felt included. "It's time to wake up Mizzou," he wrote.
- As Head's message spread, he said one of his friends called the campus police, a school spokesman told a student-run newspaper, the Columbia Missourian. As more days passed, students expressed frustration with an apparent lack of response from the school administration.
- Sept. 16: Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin posted on Twitter, "Hate has no place on the Mizzou campus." The message linked to an online statement in which he said he had "heard from far too many of you who have experienced incidents of bias and discrimination on and off campus" and expressed regret at the delay in an official response. Loftin's message fueled more criticism that the administration wasn't moving forcefully enough.
- Oct. 5: The school's Legion of Black Collegians, a black student government group, posted on Twitter an account of how "an inebriated white male" interrupted their rehearsal of a play, then referred to them as the n-word. Police were called to the scene. "We feel that under no circumstance should we be made to feel as though we don't belong," the group wrote. "But on a daily basis, we face the reality that we are in fact the minority on a predominantly white campus." Loftin responded on Twitter and another statement on his office's website, in which he expressed anger and frustration and promised the man would be identified and disciplined.
- Oct. 8: Loftin announced mandatory online diversity training, according to the Missourian. Critics said the move was welcome, but inadequate.
- Oct. 10: A group of students calling themselves Concerned Student 1950, named for the year black students were first admitted to the University of Missouri, protested the school homecoming parade, blocking a red convertible in which Wolfe was a passenger. They chanted and made speeches for about 15 minutes, accusing the administration of failing to do enough to address racism on campus. the Missourian reported. "All we get is emails and empty promises," Butler said.
- Oct. 21: Concerned Student 1950 demanded that Wolfe apologize and be removed from office. The group demanded a response within a week.
- Oct. 24: A swastika drawn in human feces was found on a bathroom of the Gateway Hall dormitory, the university's Residence Halls Association said. The police said it was investigating.
- Oct. 27: Wolfe met with Concerned Student 1950, but the group said he didn't agree to any of their demands, the Missourian reported.
- Nov. 2: Graduate student and Concerned Student 1950 member Jonathan Butler said he would begin a hunger strike until Wolfe left office. Wolfe responded with a statement that said he hoped Butler "will consider a different method of advocating for this cause," the Missourian reported. He called for "ongoing dialogue about the racial climate."
- That same day, student activists camped out on the school's Traditions Plaza, vowing not to leave until Wolfe was removed, according to the Missourian.
- Nov. 3: Wolfe and Loftin met with activists at the urging of a graduate students group. The meeting turned contentious as students said they remained unhappy with what they described as an insufficiently bureaucratic response, the Missourian reported. Later that day, Concerned Student 1950 announced it would boycott university events, merchandise and restaurants.
- Nov. 6: Wolfe issued a statement in which he said he'd met with Butler and acknowledged racism existed on campus. "I am sorry this is the case." He went on to apologize for his reaction to the homecoming protest, which he said "seemed like I did not care." He went on: "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."
- That evening, Wolfe attended a performance at a Kansas City theater, where Concerned Student 1950 members protested outside. Wolfe briefly spoke with the protesters, then walked away.
- Nov. 7: A group of black University of Missouri football players said in a statement they would boycott the season until Wolfe "resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students' experiences." Wolfe responded with a statement saying he was "dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues as they affect our campus community."
- Nov. 9: Wolfe announced he would step down, saying he hoped it would help the university heal.