[Marxism] Race Not Only Mizzou Issue
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 11 07:27:08 MST 2015
WSJ, Nov. 11 2015
Race Not Only Mizzou Issue
President and chancellor made enemies, as they tackled abortion, tight
budgets and other controversies
By MELISSA KORN, MARK PETERS and DOUGLAS BELKIN
COLUMBIA, Mo.—Racial tensions were merely the tip of the iceberg leading
to the dramatic resignations Monday of University of Missouri President
Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, according to professors,
students, state lawmakers and others.
Both men made a series of enemies among faculty, graduate students and
legislators, these people said. As students’ discontent over a series of
recent racial incidents escalated, they found few ready supporters
around campus, they added.
State Rep. Steve Cookson, chairman of the Higher Education Committee,
called for Mr. Wolfe’s resignation in recent days, but said it wasn’t in
support of the student protests. Instead, he said in a statement that he
wanted to “shine a light on ongoing problems at the university.”
Mr. Wolfe, a former software executive who took charge of the
77,000-student university system in early 2012, and Mr. Loftin, who
joined in December 2013, faced clashes touching on abortion rights,
tea-party politics, academic publishing, graduate-student benefits and
their response to race riots 110 miles away in Ferguson, Mo.
Faculty were skeptical from the start about Mr. Wolfe’s ability to
juggle the university’s financial constraints and its academic mission,
since he had no experience as a university administrator or professor.
Some doubters said he proved them right three months into his tenure,
when he announced plans to end a roughly $400,000 annual subsidy to the
University of Missouri Press. That effectively shut the half-century-old
institution, which had published such authors as Langston Hughes. About
5,000 people signed a petition urging Mr. Wolfe to reconsider.
In August 2012, he reinstated the subsidy, admitting to miscalculating
the importance of the press and conceding he should have vetted the idea
with faculty first. George Kennedy, a professor emeritus and former
associate dean at the journalism school, said the move illustrated Mr.
Wolfe’s lack of understanding of the university’s core academic mission.
“People saw that as a big sacrifice to make for a comparatively trivial
amount of money,” said Ben Trachtenberg, a law professor and head of the
faculty council. He added that Mr. Wolfe neglected to build bridges to
the various constituencies he served and made management moves some
viewed as inept.
Current and former faculty said Mr. Wolfe struggled with the
public-relations side of his job, while Mr. Loftin, chancellor of the
35,000-student main campus here, cultivated a reputation as a congenial
administrator but bent too quickly to political pressures and often
blamed Mr. Wolfe for his own inaction.
Messrs. Wolfe and Loftin were unavailable for comment Tuesday. A
spokesman for Mr. Wolfe said decisions on issues such as
graduate-student benefits and abortion were made at the campus level,
not the university-system level Mr. Wolfe oversaw.
Unlike Mr. Wolfe, who is leaving the university system, Mr. Loftin said
he would move to a new role as director of the university’s research
facilities development. On Friday, Mr. Loftin said in a statement there
were “robust anti-hate and anti-bias programs” at the university.
Demonstrations erupted on campus in fall 2014 over the police shooting
of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson that August. Students marched
through fraternity row, prompting university officials to organize
forums on race relations.
Some student protesters Tuesday described a forum last fall as
uncomfortable and attended primarily by black students. The forum, they
said, did little more than check a box showing the administrators were
The weeks leading up to start of the school year this past August
brought new student complaints about officials’ handling of race issues,
among other divisive issues.
On Aug. 14, the university notified graduate students of planned cuts to
their health insurance—about 13 hours before the benefits would expire.
Moreover, the university failed to consult graduate-student leaders
ahead of the planned cuts, said Hallie Thompson, president of the
Graduate Professional Council and a PhD student in the division of plant
A few days later, a newly formed graduate-student group threatened a
walkout if the school didn’t improve their pay, housing and child-care
benefits as well as health care. The chancellor reinstated health
benefits Aug. 21, but the students still held a rally seeking further
Some conservative state legislators grilled Mr. Loftin in August about
the school’s relationship with Planned Parenthood. At the time,
Republicans in Washington called for cutting federal funding to the
organization in the wake of videos that showed Planned Parenthood
employees talking about research use of fetal tissue from pregnancies
terminated in its clinics.
Amid the controversy, university officials ended certain hospital
privileges for one doctor tied to Planned Parenthood and halted
agreements that allowed nonmedical-school students to do rotations at a
Planned Parenthood clinic. Those moves drew criticism on campus.
“It’s very clear that Loftin caved in to pressure from a right-wing
state legislator, without much of any consultation with the faculty,”
Mr. Kennedy said.
Still, Republican legislators offered a list of complaints about the
university’s management, ranging from the purchase of a golf course in a
time of tight budgets to allowing a professor to remain on tenure track
while running for public office.
Meanwhile, Mr. Wolfe caught heat for inaction. He remained seated in a
convertible when surrounded by demonstrators during a homecoming parade
Oct. 10, and students say he dismissed their complaints about
institutional racism. Then, on Oct. 24, someone scrawled a swastika in
excrement on a dorm wall.
Inspired in part by the students’ discontent, on Nov. 3, 26 members of
the flagship campus’s English Department voted “no confidence” in Mr.
Loftin. They wrote to the university’s oversight body, the Board of
Curators, that Mr. Loftin’s 21-month tenure “has been marked by
dereliction of duty in maintaining the quality and reputation of
graduate education, violations of the bedrock principle of shared
governance, and failure to defend the University’s educational mission
against outside political pressure.”
Within a week, members of the Department of Romance Languages echoed the
no-confidence vote and nine deans signed a letter asking the curators to
dismiss Mr. Loftin, saying he created “a toxic environment through
threat, fear and intimidation.”
Catherine Allen, one of three people who head the university’s $1.4
billion capital campaign, said she has fielded calls from donors
expressing concern about recent events but that no one has said they
would contribute less in the future.
“I feel that we will come through this, but it is a crisis,” said Ms.
Allen, who is chairman and chief executive of Santa Fe Group, a
cybersecurity and risk-management company, and a 1968 Missouri grad.
—Kris Maher contributed to this article.
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