Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Laying it all on the line

*Sometimes I plan to use this blog for an opinion piece, this is one of those times*

Many of you may have heard about the recent issues coming out of Columbia, Missouri, specifically the University of Missouri (Mizzou) campus.  If you've read my blog before, you know I'm a big fan of the athletic program. If you have never read my blog before (thanks for reading now), know that while I am a fan, I am also very critical of them on certain issues.

While this concerns the athletics department, I will get into that a little later.  I want to comment on a few other things first.  To begin, if you aren't fully aware of everything that has happened recently, here is a timeline as best as I can tell.   A group of students felt actions weren't being done in a timely manner if at all when it came to racial and discriminatory events and situations occurring on the Mizzou campus.  After failed attempts to contact the University of Missouri system (in total the UM system has four campuses, one in Columbia, one in Rolla, one in St. Louis, and one in Kansas City) Tim Wolfe, they decided to take action.  The first attempt took place during the Mizzou homecoming parade where the group of students protested and in the process blocking Mr. Wolfe's car during the parade.  During the protest the car's bumper touched one of the protesters.  Their hopes that day were for Mr. Wolfe to begin a dialogue with them to address their concerns.  This group has said that no dialogue began as a result of this protest.  After this event, more racial tensions arose and in the process the campus started to become divided.

On November 2nd, on of the students decided to go on a hunger strike.  The purpose was to not only create a dialogue they had hoped for from the beginning, but also to oust Tim Wolfe as President of the UM system for not hearing them.  After 3 days, the hunger strike continued and not much else occurred in terms of a dialogue.  The strike gained traction however, as members of the student body and the faculty and some members of the community became concerned for this individual.  While not sports related, some students wanted the media to become aware of this situation (some even asked ESPN to mention the strike during their Thursday Night Game at Mizzou last week).  The strike continued through Saturday, when growing concerns for the student still on the hunger strike became too much for some of the football players (some of the players had been worried since the following Wednesday) and they notified their coach, and some of the football players decided to take a stand.  They stood by this hunger-striken student, and announced they would not continue football activities until he ate again (which would mean for his demands to be met).  On the next day, Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel along with the entire football team echoed those sentiments as well as the Athletic Director Mack Rhodes.

On Monday November 9th, a Board of Curators meeting was called, on the eighth day of the hunger strike.  Shortly after the meeting began, Tim Wolfe announced his resignation, and by doing so, the student was satisfied and decided to end the hunger strike.

Now having said all that, there is a lot more to this story than that, and I may have even left out some major details.  The story didn't even end there, and as of now, the story is still ongoing, and I will try to mention these other events too.   The actual beginning of this movement hasn't been completely pinpointed, and at this point seems speculative.  So with that I chose the protest at the Homecoming parade as the starting point, though more happened before hand that caused it to reach that point.   Two other side stories also occurred that I want to mention.

First is the resignation (or changing of jobs) or Mizzou chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. While all the above was occurring, some of the faculty as well as some students felt displeasure in Mr. Loftin and some of the changes he had recently made.  Among those was cutting funding from the University to Planned Parenthood.  Nine different deans met with MU officials in October to discuss their feelings. Here is a quote from the Columbia Tribune with a bit more insight.

 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."

These deans met with Loftin, TIm Wolfe and other officials in early and mid-October to discuss their displeasure and last week a few departments made statements that entire departments had votes of "no confidence" in Loftin.  Mr. Loftin began his tenure at Mizzou in just 2014, and made the announcement after Tim Wolfe's resignation that he would step aside.  Mr. Loftin will still be a part of Mizzou come the New Year, but for now Mizzou is in search of a new chancellor and the University of Missouri system is looking for a new President.

After the resignations occurred yesterday, another incident happened at Mizzou.  While the student and some faculty were celebrating in what they described as a "safe zone" members of media (including student media) tried to get comments from the group.  The group was adamant about no media in their safe zone and refused interviews.  The situation took a turn when a student media member was pushed by a faculty member and harassed and later another media member was also threatened with harassment by another faculty member after entering the safe zone.

As I stated earlier, this is not everything that has happened in the past few months ( I did not mention a fecal swastika in one of the dorms  as well as other events I may not have heard about or are only rumored to happened).  Part of the racial tensions were caused by members of the black community being called racial slurs on campus on several occasions and had a huge role in this whole matter escalating to the point you may have read or seen on the news.  Again, I didn't include every piece of the story because honestly this post would be a lot longer than it already it.  For the most part I believe I have included all the major points of this still developing story.

Having said all that, I wanted to give my opinion on all of it.  However this is a rather long post as it is, and while I tried to be impartial you may see what side I favor.  I will still give my thoughts on it, but I will make that the next blog, which I hope to have up later today or tomorrow while its still a fresh topic.  Thanks for reading this far, and stay tuned for my thoughts.

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