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UMKC Responds To Departure Of University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe

After months of racial tension on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia and an escalation in faculty and student protests, including a hunger strike and a boycott by football players, Tim Wolfe, University of Missouri System president, resigned Monday morning.

The four-campus system includes: MU-Columbia, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, and University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

Shortly after Wolfe announced his resignation, UMKCsent an email to all faculty, staff, and students — as well as to UMKC alumni — describing this moment "as an important time for UMKC, for the University of Missouri System, and for Missouri." The letter was signed by more than a dozen members of the administration, including Chancellor Leo Morton, as well as faculty and students. 

"This is a time when many people will have strong feelings, and a desire to give voice to those feelings," the letter stated. "We ask all members of our community to listen attentively, and with respect, to those who wish to be heard. To our faculty, please consider using your class time today as an opportunity for dialogue on these important matters." 

And members of the UMKC English department did just that, initiating an open meeting at the Student Center at noon Monday with faculty, students and staff. 

According to multicultural student affairs director Keichanda Dees-Burnett, about 40 people attended. She says the floor was opened to students who expressed "a lot of personal stories, personal sharing of experiences at UMKC." The results were "mixed," she says, but the students shared suggestions on ways the faculty can continue to support open dialogue. 

Walking with a group of friends near Swinney Recreation Center, UMKC sophomore Mark Bryant said he supported thehunger strike by graduate student Jonathan Butler in Columbia, which ended with Wolfe's resignation.

"We feel like Tim Wolfe has made very generalized statements toward black people on campus," said Bryant. "The problems that affect Mizzou students are also affecting students of UMKC and other Missouri campuses." 

Bryant, a member of a campus organization called Men of Color, said he hopes the events in recent months will spark deeper changes across the UM system.

"It's coming to grips with institutional racism," Bryant said. "There have been times in class where teachers have said certain generalized statements against minority groups that need to be addressed. I think that this was a symbol that we need to get together and we need to organize and we need to plan to bring awareness towards these issues.”   

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter, @lauraspencer.

KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Kansas City is known for its style of jazz, influenced by the blues, as the home of Walt Disney’s first animation studio and the headquarters of Hallmark Cards. As one of KCUR’s arts reporters, I want people here to know a wide range of arts and culture stories from across the metropolitan area. I take listeners behind the scenes and introduce them to emerging artists and organizations, as well as keep up with established institutions. Send me an email at lauras@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @lauraspencer.
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