Ten days ago, Tim Wolfe—the ex-University of Missouri System president who famously stepped down from his position last November after a black student’s hunger strike made the state’s flagship campus in Columbia the focus of a national discussion regarding the treatment of minority college students—sent an email to confidants that he labeled “CONFIDENTIAL.”
In the message, which was first reported by local papers in Missouri and stretches five pages, Wolfe presents a bullet point list of people who he believes made it impossible for him to keep his job, a group that includes: his boss, ex-Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin; ex-Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel and his players who joined in the strike; and, most curiously, the presence of an unnamed “significant Ferguson protestor,” a likely reference to DeRay McKesson.
Wolfe places the blame for some of what led up to Jonathan Butler’s protest—temporarily eliminating health insurance for graduate students, the barring of Planned Parenthood from a local hospital—on Loftin, an analysis that at the very least contains partial truth. But despite stating later in the email that he’s “willing to accept some of the responsibility” for his ouster, Wolfe fails to acknowledge the depth of his own culpability: specifically his refusing to seriously consider the demands of Bulter and his organization Concerned Student 1950 until it had become abundantly clear that Wolfe had no way out of the situation.
Wolfe is certainly correct when he states that the “football team’s strike is actually what brought most of the national attention to our university,” though he apparently still thinks that the resultant tidal wave of national attention could have been avoided. “Coach Pinkel missed an important opportunity to teach his players a valuable life lesson,” Wolfe writes, by which we can assume he means that Pinkel should have disciplined his players for exercising free speech.
The funny thing, though, is that it was Wolfe that learned a lesson: football players are more important to colleges than presidents. Or, Wolfe should have learned that lesson—this letter makes it clear that he hasn’t yet. Pinkel, who quickly sided with his players lest he be sacrificed as well, recognized that lesson immediately.
As for Black Lives Matter, Wolfe writes:
My sudden decision to resign was largely motivated by a significant pending event that was to occur on the campus the day I resigned. We had brought in Diversity and Inclusion consulting experts that had dealt with this issue before at other campuses. They, along with the FBI, Missouri Highway Patrol, Columbia Police Department and MU Campus police were aware of a significant Ferguson protestor on our MU campus and there was a threat that more were coming in for significant protest that day. So as to prevent, injury and further embarrassment on our campus, the only way to relieve the pressure and stop the momentum was for me to resign. This was the right decision that was vetted with trusted advisors and board members.
The “significant Ferguson protestor” figures to be DeRay McKesson, who was on campus the day Wolfe resigned, but the entire passage again shows that Wolfe didn’t really learn much from his own resignation. McKesson and further reinforcements from Black Lives Matter weren’t a “threat” to the MU campus, and the only people they were embarrassing were those stubbornly trying to keep the status quo from crumbling.
You can read the full text of the letter, which culminates in Wolfe asking its recipients to pressure the Board of Trustees to reach a settlement agreement with him, below (contact information has been redacted):