The riots at Missouri University over the past few weeks have divided many individuals as to whether the students, or the university were at fault. These issues began to acquire national attention when the football team began to boycott football games, backing a member who was on a hunger strike bringing attention to the racial issues African Americans faced when attending the university – problems the president refused to address. These two issues don’t mark the beginning of the situation, however. Instead, it arguably can be traced back to issues that began with the new university president coming into power.
As a former IT professional and a software executive, Tim Wolfe faced criticism from faculty due to his lack in experience of universities. (1) He acquired the position in 2012, and since then has made some policy blunders such as cutting healthcare for graduate and adjunct professors and temporarily terminating the university’s Univ. of Mo Press. After abstaining from addressing two situations of obvious racism within the university – when a feces swastika painted on a bathroom wall and when the Missouri Student Association president was called the “N-word” multiple times on campus (2) – Wolfe resigned under criticism from both students and faculty at the university, as well as lawmakers.
This relates to the course in many ways – specifically through systematic power. Many students at the University of Missouri expressed disapproval with public issues and how they were handled. Protests, hunger strikes, letters and obvious disapproval of the leadership did not bring any change, however. Instead, it was the boycott by the football team. The team pledged to not participate in any games until there was recognition and change brought about by the president and chancellor of the university, showing support for a student who went on a hunger strike. This quickly gathered a large following national media attention, as well as action from the university.
The fact that none of the prior expressions of contempt from students created a solid reaction from the university president, but the boycott from the football team quickly did, is a form of power within the university. The fact that the university officials only listened to students’ issues when a certain group of students was unhappy with the outcomes of situations is a sign that there is an unfair and unequal power within the university. This shows that unless you are somewhat of a celebrity – for example, a sports team member, you do not and will not have a say in the change that can occur within a college campus.
From governors to boards to presidents to deans, there are concrete and obvious signs of power. Certain individuals can and often will be favored over one another regardless of a greater amount of experience that the ignored may have. For this system to flood into student dynamics and mean that regardless of knowledge on issues, if you are on a sports team, you have more power than ‘the others’ is a serious issue within the distribution of power.
“What Happened at the University of Missouri? – Slate.” 2015. 30 Nov. 2015 <http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/09/timeline_of_u_of_missouri_protests_and_president_resignation.html>
“Racial climate at MU: A timeline of incidents this fall | Higher …” 2015. 29 Nov. 2015 <http://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/higher_education/racial-climate-at-mu-a-timeline-of-incidents-this-fall/article_0c96f986-84c6-11e5-a38f-2bd0aab0bf74.html>
“Should It Really Take a Football Team to Force Change on …” 2015. 1 Dec. 2015 <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/2015/11/the_university_of_missouri_listened_to_its_football_players_after_it_ignored.html>
“Race Wasn’t the Only Issue at University of Missouri – WSJ.” 2015. 30 Nov. 2015 <http://www.wsj.com/articles/race-not-only-mizzou-issue-1447206995>