Pressure builds for U-Missouri president to quit over racial tensions

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Student Protests at University of Missouri Continue

The University of Missouri's governing board scheduled an emergency meeting amid mounting calls for
beleaguered President Tim Wolfe to quit over his handling of racial issues on campus.

The top state lawmaker overseeing the college added his voice to the movement to oust Wolfe, which got a boost over the weekend when a group of black Missouri football players said they won't play until the president resigns or is removed.

See photos of the racial tensions in Missouri:

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Pressure builds for U-Missouri president to quit over racial tensions
University of Missouri students circle tents on the Carnahan Quadrangle, locking arms to prevent media from entering the space following the resignation of President Timothy W. Wolfe on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images)
Student protesters on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia react to news of the resignation of University of Missouri system President Tim Wolfe on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015. Wolfe resigned under pressure from student protesters who claimed the president had not done enough to address recent racially-motivated incidents on the campus. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
A woman passes a tent encampment set up by student protesters following an announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe is resigning Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
FILE - In this Friday, April 11, 2014, file photo, University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe participates in a news conference in Rolla, Mo. Missouri football players announced Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. The move aligns the team with campus groups who have been protesting the way Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Jonathan Butler, a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7 day hunger strike is greeted by the crowd of students on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Members of Concerned Student 1950 celebrate after the resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Protesters celebrate the resignation resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
Jonathan Butler, front left, addresses a crowd following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe would resign Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Butler has ended his hunger strike as a result of the resignation. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Tents remain on the Mel Carnahan quad on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe resigned today amid protests over racial tensions at the university. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Students celebrate following University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe's resignation announcement Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the school in Columbia, Mo. The president resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Students embrace one another during a forum on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
Students stand in a tent encampment set up by protesters following an announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe is resigning Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: A protester celebrates after the resignation resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
A student claps while standing in a protest movement's camp area following the announcement that University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe is stepping down Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the university in Columbia, Mo. Wolfe resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Jonathan Butler (c), a University of Missouri grad student who did a 7 day hunger strike listens along with founding members of the campus group, Concerned Student 1950, during a forum speaking to students on the campus of University of Missouri - Columbia on November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Students celebrate the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe amid allegations of racism. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 9: Protesters celebrate the resignation resignation of Missouri University president Timothy M. Wolfe on the Missouri University Campus November 9, 2015 in Columbia, Missouri. Wolfe resigned after pressure from students and student athletes over his perceived insensitivity to racism on the university campus. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
Students dance following University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe's resignation announcement Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the school in Columbia, Mo. The president resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the Legion of Black Collegians and the Concerned Student 1950 supporters gather outside the Reynolds Alumni Center after an emotional protest on the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is on a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Ellise Verheyen/Missourian via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, a member of Concerned Student 1950 hugs a fellow protestor after the group prayed together in front of the Reynolds Alumni Center on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike, on Sunday, to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP)
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the anti-racism and black awareness group Concerned Student 1950 embrace during a protest in the Reynolds Alumni Center on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike, on Sunday, to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Ellise Verheyen/Missourian via AP)
Missouri tight end Jason Reese, right, speaks with members of the media after leaving the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Student protests over racial incidents on the campus escalated over the weekend when some football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the school's president is removed. (Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
Former Missouri receiver L'Damian Washington, left, speaks with tailback Russell Hansbrough and other football players outside of the Mizzou Athletics Training Complex on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. Student protests over racial incidents on the campus escalated over the weekend when some football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the school's president is removed. (Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, a member of Concerned Student 1950 films a protest in Mark Twain Dining Hall on University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is in the sixth day of a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the Concerned Student 1950 and the Legion of Black Collegians link arms during a protest in Mark Twain Dining Hall the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is on a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP) 
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin speaks with Concerned Student 1950 supporter Ayanna Poole on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, as he meets with demonstrators camped out at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. Student protests over racial incidents on the campus escalated over the weekend when some football players announced they will not participate in team activities until the school's president is removed. (Nick Schnelle/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
In this Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, photo, members of the University of Missouri's Legion of Black Collegians and the Concerned Student 1950 supporters react after an on-campus protest, in Columbia, Mo. Some campus groups have been protesting the way university president Tim Wolfe has dealt with issues of racial harassment during the school year. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student, is on a hunger strike to call attention to the issue. Missouri football players announced Saturday night on Twitter that they will not participate in team activities until the university president is removed from office. (Ellise Verheyen/Missourian via AP)
In this Oct. 1, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler chants with other students during an anti-racism demonstration inside the University of Missouri Student Center in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler uses a megaphone during a "day of action" demonstration to draw attention to graduate students' demands in front of Jesse Hall on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler uses a megaphone to encourage others to chant during a "day of action" demonstration celebrating graduate students and draw attention to their demands near the columns on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP)
In this Aug. 26, 2015 photo, Jonathan Butler uses a megaphone to encourage others to stand and chant during a "day of action" celebrating graduate students and draw attention to their demands in Traditions Plaza on the University of Missouri campus, in Columbia, Mo. Butler began his hunger strike on Nov. 2 to call attention to racial problems at the state's flagship university. (Daniel Brenner/Columbia Daily Tribune via AP) 
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Wolfe, though, gave no indication that he would step aside -- even as the university's football team canceled practice Sunday and the team's coach expressed his support for the protesters.

"It is clear to all of us that change is needed, and we appreciate the thoughtfulness and passion which have gone into the sharing of concerns," Wolfe said in a statement. The university is working on a "systemwide diversity and inclusion strategy" that is due to be rolled out in April, he said.

Wolfe has apologized for his reaction to members of the group Concerned Student 1950 -- named for the year the university accepted its first black student -- who tried to approach him during the school's October homecoming parade to address "Mizzou's history of racial violence and exclusivity."

Wolfe's car drove away, which Wolfe acknowledged made it seem "like I did not care."

However Steve Cookson -- the Republican chairman of the state House Higher Education Committee -- said Sunday the protests were just the latest in a string of incidents that made it clear that Wolfe "can no longer effectively lead."

"All of these problems stem from the University of Missouri system slipping behind over the last few years in everything from faculty productivity, to fiscal health of several of the colleges, to national rankings," culminating in Wolfe's "callous reaction to racial sensitivity issues," Cookson said in a statement on the Missouri political site The Missouri Times calling for Wolfe to step down.

Later in the day, the university system's Board of Curators called a special meeting for Monday morning on campus in Columbia, Missouri.

John Fougere, a spokesman for the statewide college system, said the board would be meeting in closed executive session -- which under state law means it would be discussing confidential matters involving contracts, personnel matters or records protected by privacy regulations.

Chancellor R. Loftin Bowen, meanwhile, traveled to campus Sunday to talk with protesters.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said in a statement Sunday that the "concerns must be addressed" because "our colleges and universities must be havens of trust and understanding."

And Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who graduated from the university, agreed Sunday that the school's administration needs to act.

"At this point I think it is essential that the University of Missouri Board of Curators send a clear message to the students at Mizzou that there is an unqualified commitment to address racism on campus," she said in a statement.

Students say their semester has been plagued with incidents of racial harassment on campus. They say they've been repeatedly taunted by groups of white students hurling racial slurs, most recently on Oct. 24, when a swastika was scrawled in human feces on a dormitory wall.

Payton Head, the university's homecoming king, said even he was the target of a slur after he was crowned.

"This isn't just me who was going through this," Head said. "These are students coming from all different backgrounds who endure this."

Last week, graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike "in opposition to having Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president."

"Since Mr. Wolfe joined the UM system as president in 2012, there have been a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents," Butler wrote in a letter when he started the strike last Monday.

Mizzou Family,This may be my last letter at the university. I don't have all the words right now but just know that my...

Posted by Jonathan L. Butler on Monday, November 2, 2015

The movement got a boost on Saturday when the school's Legion of Black Collegians said athletes of color on the football team wouldn't participate in any "football-related" activities" until Wolfe resigns or is removed.

Many of the at least 32 black men in a photo accompanying the tweet were wearing Missouri Tigers attire -- and the message was retweeted by several members of the football team.

RELATED: Missouri Football Players Boycott in Protest of President

The university's athletic department said it supported the right of student-athletes to "come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues."

And Gary Pinkel, the football team's head coach — who is widely respected in college sports both for his team's winning record and its high graduation rate — quickly expressed solidarity.

Pinkel and Missouri's athletic director, Mack Rhoades, said the football team didn't plan to return to practice until Butler starts eating.

According to the school, 7 percent of the student population of more than 35,000 is black, and 3 percent is Latino. About 3 percent of the university's full-time faculty is black, and about 3 percent is Latino.

RELATED: See photos of Missouri football

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Pressure builds for U-Missouri president to quit over racial tensions
This is a general view of Memorial Stadium at the University of Missouri during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 10 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
This is a general view of Memorial Stadium at the University of Missouri during the first quarter of their NCAA college football game against Connecticut Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Markus Golden, center, listens to instructions before taking part in the 3-cone drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Shane Ray stretches between drills during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
A crowd gathers around Marcus Murphy as he bench presses during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Marcus Murphy warms up before taking part in the 3-cone drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Markus Golden takes part in a agility drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel watches his players participate in the 3-cone drill during Missouri's NFL football Pro Day on the University of Missouri campus Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
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