University of Missouri president, chancellor leave over race tension

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University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe Resigns

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- The president of the University of Missouri system and the head of its flagship campus resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over what they saw as indifference to racial tensions at the school.

President Tim Wolfe, a former business executive with no previous experience in academic leadership, took "full responsibility for the frustration" students expressed and said their complaints were "clear" and "real."

SEE ALSO: University of Missouri protests grow after athletes jump in

For months, black student groups had complained that Wolfe was unresponsive to racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white main campus of the state's four-college system. The complaints came to a head two days ago, when at least 30 black football players announced that they would not play until the president left. A graduate student went on a weeklong hunger strike.

Wolfe's announcement came at the start of what had been expected to be a lengthy closed-door meeting of the school's governing board.

"This is not the way change comes about," he said, alluding to recent protests, in a halting statement that was simultaneously apologetic, clumsy and defiant. "We stopped listening to each other."

He urged students, faculty and staff to use the resignation "to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary."

Hours later, the top administrator of the Columbia campus, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, announced that he would step down at the end of the year and shift to leading research efforts.

The school's undergraduate population is 79 percent white and 8 percent black. The state is about 83 percent white and nearly 12 percent black. The Columbia campus is about 120 miles west of Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was killed last year in a fatal shooting that helped spawn the national "Black Lives Matter" movement rebuking police treatment of minorities.

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University of Missouri president, chancellor leave over race tension
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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In response to the race complaints, Wolfe had taken little public action and made few statements. As students leveled more grievances this fall, he was increasingly seen as aloof, out of touch and insensitive to their concerns. He soon became the protesters' main target.

In a statement issued Sunday, Wolfe acknowledged that "change is needed" and said the university was working to draw up a plan by April to promote diversity and tolerance. But by the end of that day, a campus sit-in had grown in size, graduate student groups planned walkouts and politicians began to weigh in.

After the resignation announcement, students and teachers in Columbia hugged and chanted.

Sophomore Katelyn Brown said she wasn't necessarily aware of chronic racism at the school, but she applauded the efforts of black student groups.

"I personally don't see it a lot, but I'm a middle-class white girl," she said. "I stand with the people experiencing this." She credited social media with propelling the protests, saying it offered "a platform to unite."

At a news conference Monday, head football coach Gary Pinkel said his players were concerned with the health of Jonathan Butler, who had not eaten for a week as part of protests against Wolfe.

"During those discussions," athletic director Mack Rhoades said, "there was never any talk about anybody losing their job. It was simply and primarily about a young man's life."

After Wolfe's announcement, Butler ended his strike. He appeared weak and unsteady as two people helped him into a sea of celebrants on campus. Many broke into dance upon seeing him.

Football practice was to resume Tuesday ahead of Saturday's game against Brigham Young University at Arrowhead Stadium, the home of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs. Canceling the game could have cost the school more than $1 million.

Shaun Harper, executive director for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said the black football players "understood that they have the power."

"That is so rare," said Harper, who authored a 2013 study on black male student-athletes and racial inequities in NCAA Division I sports. "Not in our modern history have we seen black students collectively flex their muscle in this way."

The protests began after the student government president, who is black, said in September that people in a passing pickup truck shouted racial slurs at him. In early October, members of a black student organization said slurs were hurled at them by an apparently drunken white student.

Watch more coverage below:

Missouri Student Protesters Shut Out Reporters

Frustrations flared again during a homecoming parade, when black protesters blocked Wolfe's car, and he did not get out and talk to them. They were removed by police. Also, a swastika drawn in feces was found recently in a dormitory bathroom.

The university did take some steps to ease tensions. At Loftin's request, the school announced plans to offer diversity training to all new students starting in January, as well as faculty and staff. On Friday, the chancellor issued an open letter decrying racism after the swastika was found.

The governing board said an interim system president would be named soon, and board members vowed Monday to work toward a "culture of respect."

The board planned to appoint an officer to oversee diversity and equality at all four campuses. It also promised a full review of other policies, more support for victims of discrimination and a more diverse faculty.

Many of the protests have been led by an organization called Concerned Student 1950, which gets its name from the year the university accepted its first black student. Group members besieged Wolfe's car at the parade, and they conducted a weeklong sit-in on a campus plaza.

The group demanded that Wolfe resign and "acknowledge his white male privilege." It also sought a 10-year plan to retain more marginalized students and the hiring of more minorities at the university's counseling center.

On Sunday, the Missouri Students Association, the student government at the Columbia campus, said in a letter to the board that there had been "an increase in tension and inequality with no systemic support" since Brown's death.

Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by a white police officer during a struggle. The Justice Department later cleared officer Darren Wilson, concluding evidence backed his claim that he shot Brown in self-defense after Brown tried to grab the officer's gun.

Wolfe, 57, is a former software executive and Missouri business school graduate whose father taught at the university. He was hired as president in 2011, succeeding another former executive with no experience in academia.

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Associated Press writers Alan Scher Zagier in St. Louis, Ralph D. Russo in New York and Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this report.



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