On Friday night in Kansas City, a group of University of Missouri students approached the school’s president, Tim Wolfe, outside of a fundraiser at a performing arts center he had attended. They asked him to give his definition of systematic oppression.
“I will give you an answer, and I’m sure it will be a wrong answer,” Wolfe said. Then, “Systematic oppression is because you don’t believe that you have the equal opportunity for success.”
The students reacted in shock. “Did you just blame us for systematic oppression, Tim Wolfe?” one shouted. “Did you just blame black students?”
The encounter was filmed and posted on Twitter by a student, and was widely circulated. The students were members of Concerned Student 1950, which has been staging protests on the university’s campus in Columbia this week against what they say is the school administration’s poor handling of several racist incidents that occurred this fall. The group, named for the year the University of Missouri accepted its first black students, has called for Wolfe to resign.
In a statement released on Sunday afternoon, an apparently defiant Wolfe said he is committed to “listening to all sides,” and that he is “dedicated to ongoing dialogue to address these very complex, societal issues as they affect our campus community.” He mentioned ongoing work on a “systemwide diversity and inclusion strategy,” due to be completed in April. But he said nothing about stepping down or otherwise meeting students’ demands.