Racial tensions have been boiling over in Columbia, Missouri for months now, but it took a strike by the University of Missouri football team to get system president Tim Wolfe to concede to student demands and resign his post, which he did on Monday morning.
Wolfe’s resignation comes amid campus-wide protests after a series of racist incidents on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. He became a specific target of protesters after a group of black students stopped his car during October’s homecoming parade. Wolfe refused to engage with them, and police removed the students. Wolfe has continually disappointed campus activists with his poor response to their concerns over the past month, but the last straw for some came after a swastika was drawn with human feces on the wall of a university bathroom. The university’s tepid response led to calls for Wolfe’s resignation.
Despite one graduate student’s hunger strike, which turned the campus controversy into a national story, Wolfe resisted the calls until the Mizzou football team got involved. On Saturday, night a group of black football players announced a strike until Wolfe resident. On Sunday, the team’s head coach tweeted a message of support and canceled practice.
That the strike by some Mizzou football players led to Wolfe’s resignation shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. As football players, they have leverage that most students don't simply because they make the school money. In addition to pushing the recent difficulties in Columbia into the national spotlight, the team’s decision threatened the university’s bottom line. If Mizzou football was unable to field team for the November 14 game against BYU, the school would have had to pony up $1 million.
A student starved himself and Wolfe remained. But as soon as a nine figure hit to the school's bank account was threatened, he was out within days. The moral of the story is an old one: Money talks.
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