(AP) – The president of the University of Missouri system stepped down Monday amid criticism of his handling of student complaints about race and discrimination.
President Tim Wolfe said his resignation was effective immediately. He made the announcement at the start of what had been expected to be a lengthy closed-door meeting of the school’s governing board. He largely pre-empted that session in a halting statement that was simultaneously apologetic, clumsy and defiant.
“This is not the way change comes about,” he said, alluding to recent protests. “We stopped listening to each other.”
He urged students, faculty and staff to “use my resignation to heal and start talking again to make the changes necessary.”
A poor audio feed for the one board member who was attending the meeting via conference call left Wolfe standing awkwardly at the podium for nearly three minutes after only being able to read the first sentence of his statement.
The race complaints came to a head over the weekend when at least 30 black football players announced they would not participate in team activities until Wolfe was gone.
For months, black student groups have complained of racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white flagship campus of the state’s four-college system. Frustrations flared during a homecoming parade Oct. 10 when black protesters blocked Wolfe’s car, and he did not get out and talk to them. They were removed by police.
Black members of the football team joined the outcry on Saturday night. By Sunday, a campus sit-in had grown in size, graduate student groups planned walkouts and politicians began to weigh in.
Until Monday, Wolfe did not indicate that he had any intention of stepping down. He agreed in a statement issued Sunday that “change is needed” and said the university was working to draw up a plan by April to promote diversity and tolerance.