For a school known for journalism, the University of Missouri is tremendous at making headlines. The only problem is, over the last few months, those headlines have been downright humiliating for students, alumni, and staff from Mizzou. While it pains me to say it, it’s the truth: I’m embarrassed by my alma mater.
I had a great time at Mizzou. I met new people, joined a fraternity my freshman year, watched the school join the SEC, cheered the football team to back-to-back 11-plus win seasons, rushed the field multiple times, got a little too drunk even more times and still managed to get a quality education and graduate in four years. Overall, I had nothing negative to say about the school I knew and loved. I considered myself lucky to be a Missouri Tiger.
That’s changed in recent months though.
I had a job interview a few weeks ago. It wasn’t too out of the ordinary. They asked the standard questions about my background: what my current position is like, where I grew up and, oh yeah, where I went to college.
“So, you went to Mizzou, right?” the hiring manager asked.
“Uh, ha. Um, yeah, I did,” I responded.
Ask me that question six months ago and the response would’ve been nothing short of “You bet your sweet ass I did! Mizzou Tigers, ride or die!” It’s different now. For an alumnus, the word Mizzou makes you shudder as you wait to hear what’s gone wrong next.
Here’s a brief timeline of events that have happened at Mizzou:
Aug. 2015 – Mizzou announces it will no longer pay for graduate students’ health insurance. Graduate students hold rallies, classroom walkouts. The university’s decision is eventually reversed.
Sept. 2015 – Missouri Student Association president Payton Head posts on Facebook about racial slurs hurled at him while he was walking on campus. Six days later, now-former MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin issues a statement.
Oct. 2015 – Rallies against racism continue on campus as Loftin orders diversity and inclusion training for staff and students.
Then, the first domino falls in the #ConcernedStudent1950 fight against now-former UM Systems President Tim Wolfe. Protesters block Wolfe’s car during the Homecoming parade. After a tense few minutes, protestors claim seventh-year student Jonathan Butler was hit by Wolfe’s car.
This might be the most infuriating part of the soon-to-be protests. The protesters allege this incident proved Wolfe’s lack of consideration for black students. However, when you check the video around 6:38, it’s clear Butler is the one who runs into Wolfe’s car.
Regardless, the protesters submit a list of demands, calling for an apology from Wolfe and for his resignation. Days later, a seemingly unrelated poop swastika is drawn in a dorm bathroom.
Nov. 2015 – It hits the fan. Jonathan Butler begins a hunger strike. By this time, Butler’s already been deeply involved in the grad student protests and Planned Parenthood protests. This marks at least his third political protest of the semester, according to student newspaper The Maneater.
Protesters later set up a tent city on campus, Wolfe issues statement for his concerns about Butler, and then the protesters confront Wolfe in Kansas City.
— Qiana (@Qiana_Jade) November 7, 2015
This video was another turning point. Wolfe reluctantly engaged the protesters, responding with his definition of systematic oppression. Unfortunately for him, the few words he was able to get out weren’t the right answer.
Shortly thereafter, Mizzou players boycott football activities in support of Butler. Head coach Gary Pinkel later tweets support of players’ actions.
— Coach Gary Pinkel (@GaryPinkel) November 8, 2015
Nov. 9, 2015 – Wolfe resigns, Loftin resigns, protesters celebrate, professor Melissa Click is caught on camera calling for muscle to remove journalist. The campus remains tense through the night. Two threats are posted on social media (none coming from MU students). MSA president Payton Head posts on Facebook the KKK is on campus and he’s in contact with the National Guard. The KKK wasn’t on campus and Head would likely be the last person the National Guard would call. The post is later removed and Head apologizes.
Gary Pinkel retires as head football coach days later.
January 2016 – Wolfe sends scathing email, Click is charged with third-degree assault and later suspended, video of quarterback Maty Mauk snorting a white substance is released, Mauk is suspended and later dismissed from the team, MSA president-elect Hayden Gomez resigns amid campaign allegations, MSA Vice-President-elect takes over presidential responsibilities, appoints Head as Vice President, then resigns. Head takes over as interim MSA president.
That’s enough scandal to last a university a lifetime. Instead, it’s been crammed into six short months.
I don’t believe ConcernedStudent1950 is the source of all the university’s problems. Wolfe was hired in 2011 and Loftin was hired two years later. Unknown at the time, the cracks had already started to form.
The Greek community specifically started questioning leadership, especially Loftin’s leadership, after a list of half-baked ideas to reform Greek Life leaked over the 2015 summer. The proposals included drug testing fraternity and sorority members, banning women from fraternity houses during party hours and more.
That being said, I do believe #ConcernedStudent1950 protesters used childish tactics to get what they wanted. A few stomped and shouted under the veil of poor and defenseless college students oppressed by the big, bad Wolfe. They gained momentum. The football team’s actions turned the protests into an unstoppable force, bent on destroying anything in its path. It didn’t matter if it was school officials or student journalists, go against the tide and you’re a racist.
So now, here we stand. A school with a football team in disarray. A school with no leadership. A school with no pride. A school with no plan. A school with little to no appeal to prospective students.
And the embarrassments aren’t over yet because the fallout of these events will continue to shadow every move the university makes. The school won’t recover from this past year for a long while.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope I look back on this article one day and realize how stupid it is, but today is not that day. Tomorrow won’t be that day either. I’m not sure when that day will come.
I used to be proud to be a Missouri Tiger. Right now, I couldn’t be any more humiliated..
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