University of Missouri Highlights Importance of Student Voice

University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe stepped down Monday Nov. 9 amid racial unrest and controversy, the result of a movement spearheaded by students. The University of Missouri is substantially larger than MSU at 35,000 students, but their size did not hinder the impacts of the student voice, rather it strengthened and empowered students in their collective fight for justice.

In the recent weeks, University of Missouri students began pressuring the university, asking for the resignation of the president on the grounds that, under his leadership, the university had not adequately responded to racist incidents on campus or made efforts towards making their campus more inclusive and welcoming.

In a letter written by the Missouri Students Association, their complaints and demands were clear: they wanted Wolfe to resign. “The mental health, academic quality, and physical safety of our black students has been compromised time and time again … He has not only enabled a culture of racism since the start of his tenure in 2012, but blatantly ignored and disrespected the concerns of students … Students from many different races, genders, sexualities, abilities, and other nationalities have not heard their identities represented by the four core values of this institution … We formally demand the immediate removal of UM system President Tim Wolfe.”

Throughout the protests, several different student organizations made their voices heard, including the group Concerned Student 1950, named after the year that black students were first admitted to the University of Missouri. Jonathan Butler, graduate student and a member of Concerned Student 1950, announced on Nov. 2 that he was going to go on a hunger strike until Wolfe resigned. Missouri Student Association President Payton Head wrote the aforementioned letter demanding that the president steps down. The school’s football team announced that they would not resume practices or participate in games until Wolfe resigned and faculty members canceled classes in support. As a result, not only did the president resign but the chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin did as well.

It seems that the general attitude towards larger universities is that an individual is nothing more than “another number.” Head and Butler, among other students, have completely disproved that theory, they are not “just another number.” Concerned Student 1950, the football team,  Butler and Head, the Missouri Students Association and hundreds of other students united to demand change from their university, and better yet, they succeeded.

What University of Missouri showed the nation was that students can truly make a difference. Through organized and dedicated activism, students were victorious in their demands to the university. Forget “just a number,” these students proved that that their power was rooted in their numbers.

I’d like to think that MSU administrators, faculty, staff and students are incredibly welcoming and accepting to all students. But I’m not naive, I know that is not the truth. MSU students are no exception from the rest of the country, and unfortunately there are MSU students that have and will continue to face hateful and unwelcoming speech. However, I’d like to think that while MSU will always face issues of discrimination, we are proactive in dealing with such issues and, as a university, we are making notable efforts to become more inclusive and accepting. But we can always improve the culture on our campus to create a more welcoming atmosphere for every single MSU student. Lets use the University of Missouri as a reminder to expect nothing but the best from MSU, and to speak up and speak out when our needs are not being met.