(Editor’s note: This is the text of a Jan. 19 email from former University of Missouri System president Tim Wolfe, with the subject line “CONFIDENTIAL” and sent to undisclosed supporters.)
The last email I sent to many of you was shortly after I resigned November 9, 2015. These last two months have affected my family and me in ways that are indescribable. The effect on MU and the University of Missouri System has also been significant. I do want to thank many of you who have reached out to me with words of thanks, encouragement and support.
I’m sending you this long overdue and confidential email to a select few friends who I believe are passionate enough about MU, the City of Columbia and the University of Missouri System to do something to improve our future.
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As I stated in my last email, I resigned out of love for MU and the rest of the system and I felt that it was the right thing to do at the time to prevent further embarrassment and a potential Ferguson-like event on the MU Campus. What I haven’t shared with you or the general public is the series of events and circumstances and specific unconscionable behaviors that led to my resignation. Because there has been no resolution, I now have grave concerns about the future of the University.
▪ Bowen Loftin – In Bowen’s short time at MU as Chancellor he had angered the Greeks over proposed changes to women in fraternities, disrupted the health system by pressuring Vice Chancellor Hal Williamson to retire, angered the graduate students by taking away their health insurance and then reinstating it, his decision and testimony on Planned Parenthood upset the faculty, every Dean at MU demanded his removal and he shifted the focus of Concerned Student 1950 to me from him once he discovered his job was in jeopardy in late September.
▪ Political Activities and Pressure from Senator Kurt Schaefer – Kurt Schaefer had several meetings with me pressuring me to take away Josh Hawley’s right to run for Attorney General by taking away an employee’s right to ask for an unpaid leave of absence when running for public office. When I questioned the fairness of this and I refused to budge on his right to run for office, he then asked me to get in the middle of the tenure decision for Mr. Hawley, which I refused as well. In addition, he was working directly with Bowen Loftin shaping his testimony in front of the Sanctity For Life committee and his comments and activities around Planned Parenthood. He also was influencing at least one member of the Board of Curators to keep Bowen Loftin in place.
▪ MU Football Team Strike – The football team’s decision to strike is what actually brought most of the national attention to our university. In hindsight, the $1 million penalty associated with forfeiting the game against BYU would have paled in comparison to the more than $25 million in lost tuition and fees MU will realize with reduced enrollment this Fall. It’s also a pittance of the threatened loss of state funding that could be as much as $500 million. Unfortunately, MU Athletic Director Mack Rhoades, Coach Pinkel and Bowen Loftin all failed to communicate with system officials on this matter. The football team’s actions were the equivalent of throwing gasoline on a small fire. 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.
▪ Board of Curators – A few of the members of the board of curators consistently called subordinate staff and faculty members to dig up dirt and use their Curator role to further personal agendas. We had two long private board meetings where we discussed appropriate governance and protocol for board members to remedy this situation with no success. In addition, much of what was discussed at confidential board meetings was leaked to politicians and to the media. I had discussed Bowen Loftin’s performance and was requesting support from the Board of Curators, which by the university’s collected rules, I needed to terminate him. The Board Chair finally admitted to me: “You have been telling me for four months of the poisonous situation on the MU campus and I have been slow to act”.
▪ Campus Safety: My sudden decision to resign was largely motivated by a significant pending event that was to occur on the campus the day I resigned. We had brought in Diversity and Inclusion consulting experts that had dealt with this issue before at other campuses. They, along with the FBI, Missouri Highway Patrol, Columbia Police Department and MU Campus police were aware of a significant Ferguson protestor on our MU campus and there was a threat that more were coming in for significant protest that day. So as to prevent, injury and further embarrassment on our campus, the only way to relieve the pressure and stop the momentum was for me to resign. This was the right decision that was vetted with trusted advisors and board members.
▪ Hiring of interim President Michael Middleton. Michael had been in charge of the MU diversity and inclusion issues for more than 17 years and had a “long-term” relationship with Jonathan Butler, the leader of the Concerned Student 1950. The Board and Michael have to answer the following questions: Why did the Board of Curators decide to hire the leader who had failed miserable in his capacity as the long time leader on diversity issues on the MU Campus? 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?
Since my resignation, I have been approached by a large number of national media including Anderson Cooper, Bill O’Reilly, Don Lemon, NY Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education and many other prominent national media outlets and personalities. As you have seen, I have not given one interview so as to protect the brand of the university and our state.
Unfortunately, my silence has resulted in my name being attached unfairly to the issues of racism and incompetent leadership. As I have stated, I am willing to accept some of the responsibility for what happened. I made the mistake of hiring Bowen Loftin and I trusted the Board of Curators to support my decisions and to do what is in the best interest of the University of Missouri System rather then to cave into politicians and special interest groups with agendas that are contrary to the mission of the university.
Since my resignation over two months ago, I have been trying to reach an agreement with the Board as to what my role might be and the compensation that is appropriate based on my almost four years as president. I seriously wanted to help in some way and had come up with many proposals. After the first month of minimal progress I had to engage an attorney and the Board of Curators suggested mediation - which proved unsuccessful. All negotiations with the board have stopped and I’m left with the options of either accepting a small fraction of the total compensation that I could have made if I had stayed through the end of my contract, or to litigate which would involve going public with the reasons as to why I was the target of Concerned Student 1950.
To put the Board’s offer into perspective, Bowen Loftin receives 75% of his former salary after he was forced to resign as Chancellor. Also, the Board recently quickly approved an amendment to Coach Pinkel’s contract where he will be paid an additional $350k per year for three years after he resigned. The amount the board has put on the table for me is equivalent to what I would have been paid if they had terminated without cause and my annual performance and longevity incentive. In addition, they want me to agree to a “gag order” where I will not disparage the Board or anybody else concerning events leading up to my resignation. The Board’s last offer is neither fair nor consistent with Loftin and Pinkel’s treatment and is embarrassing in light of which leader did the right thing to help the university and which leader was only looking out for themselves.
I believe the University of Missouri is under attack and current leadership from the Board on down is frozen. They are at risk of being defunded by the General Assembly (over $500m) and you have already read about the drop in enrollment projections. Without change, the odds of the Board’s ability to attract decent candidates for the next President are very low. You and I can either continue to watch the after effects of what has been inappropriately described as “The Perfect Storm” or we can do something about this. I want to do something about this and I implore you to do the same. My call to action for each of you is to pick up the phone, or at a minimum send an email, to the board members below and express your concern over the current situation and tell them to resolve my contract negotiation so that I can continue to play a significant positive role in the future.
Board of Curators:
(Editor’s note: Wolfe’s letter also contained the personal phone numbers and email addresses of the curators)
Donald Cupps, David Steelman, Henrickson, Pamela Q., John Phillips, Maurice Graham, Phil Snowden, Steward, David L., Yvonne Sparks
I thank you in advance for your responding to my call for help. You should never have been brought into this but the implications are long lasting and the Board needs to put the interests of the university first and do the right thing, not what is politically or legally correct.
God bless you and your family and again, THANKS!!!!!