A pair of Republican state lawmakers joined the call for University of Missouri Systems President Tim Wolfe to resign.
“The lack of leadership Mizzou has been dealing with for months has finally reached the point of being a national embarrassment,” state Rep. Caleb Jones, a Columbia Republican, said Sunday. “It's time for a change in leadership and start the healing process.”
Rep. Steve Cookson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff who chairs the House Higher Education Committee, joined Jones later in the day with a statement calling for Wolfe to either resign or be fired, even hinting at some sort of legislative action if Wolfe is allowed to remain.
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“It has become clear that the MU system leadership can no longer effectively lead and should step aside,” Cookson said. “Failing that the University of Missouri system board of curators should force a change in leadership. Failing this common sense approach it will be incumbent for the governor and the General Assembly to take the appropriate steps to protect this important public asset.”
The calls for new university leadership come a day after racial tensions prompted a strike by black players on the University of Missouri football team and a week after graduate student Jonathan Butler began a hunger strike until Wolfe steps down or is fired.
Wolfe stood firm in a statement released Sunday afternoon, saying the university would continue work on a systemwide diversity and inclusion strategy set to be unveiled next spring.
“In the meantime, I am dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues as they affect our campus community,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe has come under fire in recent months for his response, or lack of response in some cases, to a flurry of racist episodes on the Columbia campus.
The criticism culminated Saturday, when a strike by Mizzou football players put an upcoming game scheduled for Arrowhead Stadium against BYU in jeopardy. Head Coach Gary Pinkel tweeted in support of his players Sunday morning.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, a Republican who is running for his party’s nomination for governor next year, released a statement calling for students’ concerns to be heard out by university administrators, but “our universities cannot be run by individuals' making demands or using extreme actions.”
“The Board of Curators is in place to make informed decisions and govern, and they must be free to do so,” Kinder said. “Otherwise chaos ensues, and no student is served by that.”
On the university’s Columbia campus Sunday, many white students were hesitation to discuss the ongoing tumult. Those those who did expressed support for the protests.
State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a University City Democrat, publicly expressed support for Butler’s hunger strike last week, telling The Star “I want him to know I stand with him, not as a senator but as a human being.”