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University of Missouri President Resigns Amid Protests, Racial Tensions

  • VOA Staff

FILE - University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe is seen in a April 11, 2014, photo.

FILE - University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe is seen in a April 11, 2014, photo.

The president of the University of Missouri says he has resigned, giving in to a key demand of student protesters who said he did not adequately deal with repeated instances of racial and other discrimination on campus.

Tim Wolfe made the announcement Monday at a meeting of the school's governing body at the flagship campus of the 35,000-student university in the central state of Missouri.

"I take full responsibility for this frustration and I take full responsibility for the inaction that has occurred," said Wolfe, who also called on students to use his resignation "to heal and start talking again."

WATCH: video of protesters at university

​The issue attracted nationwide attention after the student government joined some faculty members and players on the school's football team in calling for Wolfe's ouster. Some teachers and students had threatened to walk out over the matter.

Many students at the overwhelmingly white campus are upset at racial slurs directed at some black students in recent weeks and a swastika drawn in human waste found in a dormitory bathroom.

Since then, a diverse array of student groups has joined the protest movement, speaking out against alleged acts of discrimination against other racial and sexual minority groups. Others have been calling for the school to reverse cutbacks to graduate student benefits.

But the protesters appeared to be primarily motivated by racial issues.

A black graduate student, Jonathan Butler, started a hunger strike a week ago, a protest that had drawn increasing support on campus, including from 30 black football players who said they would not participate in any team-related activities unless Wolfe quit or was fired. After Wolfe resigned, Butler said he ended his hunger strike.

The school's head football coach, Gary Pinkel, expressed solidarity with his players' decision to not play, a threat, that if acted on, would have cost the school more than $1 million from next Saturday's game.

University Chancellor Bowen Loftin said before the hunger strike began the school had created a Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, planned required diversity training for all incoming students, committed to a campus climate survey, and required search committees to complete training aimed at diverse and inclusive hiring, all with Wolfe's support and endorsement.

The controversy comes amid ongoing nationwide racial tensions surrounding instances of police violence against unarmed black men. The University of Missouri is about 200 kilometers from where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot after a confrontation with a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in 2014. Investigators ultimately determined the shooting was justified and the police officer was not charged.