[Marxism] Race Not Only Mizzou Issue

Louis Proyect 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


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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