In shocking news that comes in utter contradiction to a statement released just yesterday, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe has announced his resignation.
The move comes after incidents of bigotry and racial vandalism that scarred the Columbia campus, followed by weeks of protest, a hunger strike by grad student Jonathan Butler, as well as the announcement that faculty members would not be showing up for work.
Yet the tipping point for Wolfe’s departure was the announcement Saturday night that the black football players at Mizzou would be refusing to practice or play until the school president was gone. Their announcement was followed the next day by a widely circulated photo of most of the team, including many white players, sitting with head coach Gary Pinkel, and the statement that the players had full support of the coaching staff in their efforts. Tim Wolfe makes $459,000 a year and the school would have to forfeit $1 million just for missing this weekend’s game against BYU. In other words, math was not on Tim Wolfe’s side and he was as good as gone.
There are some immediate lessons from this that should be absolutely glaring.
1) Don’t be Tim Wolfe. In 2015, you cannot run a school while being blasé in the face of acts of racist harassment. You cannot, as Wolfe’s supporters bragged when he was brought on in 2012, “run the university like a tech company.” You can’t raise tuition and slash funding for things like health-insurance subsidies while pushing a $72 million expansion of the school’s football stadium. When asked about “systematic oppression,” you can’t say “Systematic oppression is when you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success,” as if marginalized students are just making up the slurs, the vandalism, and the general feeling of being unsafe on their own campus. Don’t be Tim Wolfe, unless you want to be unemployed.
2) Athletes—so often scripted as powerless—have tremendous social power on campus. Too often, those sympathetic with college athletes define them by their hardships instead of by their dazzling, inescapable strengths. We rightfully look at their absence of due process, their lack of access to an income, their hellacious practice and travel schedules, their inability to take the classes of their choosing, and their year-to-year scholarships that consign them to being more “athlete students” than “student athletes.”