The Columbia Tribune has published an email that former University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe wrote to a group of undisclosed presumed supporters.
It is quite a missive.
Wolfe gives his perspective on the events and pressures that led him to resign his post on Nov. 9 as the Columbia campus roiled with protests by black students, a walkout by most members of the football team and no confidence votes by key members of the faculty against then MU-Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
He names names and holds little back.
Wolfe, who came to MU from a corporate background, proceeds to warn that the university system is leaderless and floundering. He asks supporters to appeal to the Board of Curators to work out a severance package for him so that he can advocate for the system from the outside.
Almost all of the contents of the email are eyepopping. Here are five quick takeaways.
1) Wolfe and Loftin really, really didn’t like each other.
The email contains a mostly accurate laundry list of the trouble Loftin caused in his two years as chancellor. Wolfe accuses Loftin of directing the anger of black students toward Wolfe. Loftin denied that in an interview with the Tribune.
2) Wolfe had experienced pressure from a key state lawmaker.
Wolfe confirmed reports that Missouri Sen. Kurt Schaefer, who represents the Columbia area, had leaned on him to deny an unpaid sabbatical leave to MU law professor Josh Hawley, who is Schaefer’s opponent in the Republican primary for the Missouri attorney general’s job.
Schaefer told the Tribune he didn’t pressure Wolfe, but objected to an early assumption that Hawley would receive paid leave.
“When I was informed they intended to pay him with tax dollars to take a year off to run for public office, I told him that was not permitted,” Schaefer said.
Fair enough. But Schaefer as a candidate for public office is being paid with tax dollars to hold the powerful post of Senate appropriations chairman, from which he hints at defunding entities that displease him, including the University of Missouri.
3) Support for the striking football players was a big mistake, Wolfe now believes.
“Unfortunately, MU Athletic Director Mack Rhoades, Coach (Gary) Pinkel and Bowen Loftin all failed to communicate with system officials on this matter. ... Coach Pinkel missed an important opportunity to teach his players a valuable life lesson. The end result could be a financial catastrophe for our university.”
The chancellor, football coach and athletic director all failed to talk to the university system president about developments that were capturing nationwide attention? Amazing. Talk about a systems breakdown.
4) Wolfe has no confidence in interim system President Michael Middleton, a former MU administrator whose responsibilities included diversity initiatives.
He told supporters that Middleton had a “long-term” relationship with Jonathan Butler, the student who embarked on a hunger strike to raise attention to racial issues at MU.
“Why did Michael Middleton choose not to stop the growing protest in spite of his relationship with Jonathan Butler and the minority students on the MU campus?” Wolfe asked.
Maybe he did. Also, Middleton was retired at the time the protests reached full boil but working in a part-time capacity on diversity issues.
5) Whatever caused the meltdown at MU, almost none of it was Tim Wolfe’s fault.
“I am willing to accept some of theresponsibility for what happened,” he writes in the email. But not much. The misguided hiring of Loftin and a misplaced trust in the Board of Curators are all he’ll own up to.
He is seeking a presumably lucrative severance package so that “I can continue to play a significant positive role in the future.”
Wolfe deserves a fair severance offer. But after spraying verbal ammo with his email, it’s hard to see him playing a positive role any time soon.