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Amid Controversy, University Of Missouri President And Chancellor Step Down

University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe, seen at a news conference last year in Rolla, Mo., announced his resignation Monday following a meeting of the University Board Of Curators.
Jeff Roberson

Updated 6:10 p.m. ET

Amid continued pressure, the University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and the chancellor of the Columbia campus, R. Bowen Loftin, both tendered their resignations on Monday.

Wolfe announced his resignation this morning and by late afternoon, Loftin had followed suit, saying he would leave his post as chancellor at the end of this year.

"I take full responsibility for this frustration, and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred," Wolfe said.

Loftin's decision came after nine deans from nine different departments called for his dismissal in a letter sent Monday to Wolfe and the school's Board of Curators. The Columbia Tribune reports that the calls for Loftin's removal stemmed from problems before the recent protests over racial inequality:

"The deans said Loftin has shown failed leadership through a number of instances, including the elimination and eventual reinstatement of graduate assistant health insurance and the elimination of the vice chancellor for health sciences position. The deans claim Loftin created a 'toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation.'

"'It is imperative to take immediate action to begin the process of resolving the issues and improving the environment,' they wrote."

Wolfe has been under fire from black students in the university system because they say he has done little to stop racial animosity on the campus. Over the past few months, the university in the city of Columbia has been rocked by a series of racially charged incidents — including one in which someone drew a swastika in a dorm bathroom using human feces.

It all came to a head in October when student protesters confronted Wolfe at a homecoming parade. Wolfe didn't address the students, and the students claim that the car Wolfe was in nicked at least one of them as it drove off.

Since then, one student went on a hunger strike and about 30 football players said they would not play another game until Wolfe stepped down.

Wolfe did meet with student activists on Friday, but just hours later, he was confronted by a group of students outside a fundraiser in Kansas City. They asked him what he thought systematic oppression was.

"I will give you an answer and I'm sure it will be a wrong answer," he said. The students pressed him and he eventually said: "Systematic oppression is because you don't believe that you have the equal opportunity for success."

The protesters erupted in disbelief. The words "you don't believe" stung. "Did you just blame us for systematic oppression?" one of them asked, as Wolfe walked away.

This morning, a group of University of Missouri faculty staged a walkout, and several lawmakers called on Wolfe to step down.

Wolfe tendered his resignation Monday following a meeting of the University Board of Curators.

Wolfe, a former businessman, became president of the 77,000-student system in 2012.

"Please, please use my resignation to heal not to hate," Wolfe said.

Shortly after Wolfe's resignation, Jonathan Butler, the graduate student who had been on an eight-day hunger strike, tweeted that his strike was "officially over."

He also tweeted:

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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