Capitulation and consequences at Mizzou
by Janie B. Cheaney
Posted on Monday, March 28, 2016, at 3:59 pm
The institution fondly known as “Mizzou” has fallen on hard times. On March 9, the interim chancellor of the University of Missouri sent an email to current students letting them know that their school is facing a $32 million budget shortfall with enrollment down by 1,500. The prospective fall 2016 freshman class could be down as much as 25 percent from the previous year. The reason, of course, is the notoriety acquired during last fall’s student protests. Yale, Princeton, Claremont McKenna, Amherst, and other prestigious colleges saw raucous student protests, too, but Mizzou has taken the hardest hit.
My husband, class of 1970, returned to Columbia, Mo., for a year of graduate studies when our kids were little. I enjoyed the town, and the university was and is no worse than any other left-leaning institute of higher education. But what did the school do to deserve this?
The chain of events began in August when grad students staged a protest after hearing their insurance benefits were going to be abruptly cut. In September, the school discontinued “refer and follow” privileges for a local abortionist, ending abortion services at the local Planned Parenthood. More protests. In October, a drunk in a passing pickup truck yelled racial slurs at students practicing for the homecoming parade, and students reported a swastika drawn in feces in a dormitory restroom. From these random events, an ad hoc activist group calling itself Concerned Student 1950 stitched together a document citing “the realities of oppressed students, faculty, and staff.” The group’s list of eight demands included “the immediate removal of Tim Wolfe as UM system president.”
In November, graduate student Jonathan Butler staged a hunger strike on the quad. Students walked out of classes, the football team threatened to strike, the chancellor came under fire, and a journalism student was threatened while he tried to film the protests. Eight days after Butler stopped eating, both Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned, and the drama began to step down—but the consequence stepped up.
The current Mizzou Magazine, an alumni publication, tries to put a brave face on the terrible news. “[W]e must work harder to make the Mizzou experience positive for all our students,” say the editors, citing “big plans” like listening sessions, teach-ins, more diverse hiring, a new vice chancellor of “inclusion, diversity, and equity.” And Spike Lee is making a documentary for ESPN called 2 Fists Up. Give it 50 years, and this will all be forgotten.
In the meantime, a degree from Mizzou will be greeted with a smirk. By failing to stand up for intellectual rigor and due process, President Wolfe sacrificed not only himself but also the entire student body, including the protesters. As “Anonymous” points out in an open letter to Concerned Student 1950, “You’ve indiscriminately harmed thousands of current and former Mizzou students. You’ve damaged the value of our degrees and hurt our career prospects.” But university administrators deserve equal blame: If they don’t value the institution enough to fight for its integrity, why should anyone else?