Monday, November 9, 2015

Ferguson to Mizzou: A Better Kind of Politics

Jonathan L. Butler
It's been 15 months since a white police officer shot unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The town of Ferguson, with a 2/3 majority black population, was ruled by an almost all-white power structure.  The St. Louis county prosecutor controversially decided not to indict. That shooting and its aftermath was full of ugly politics.

Two hours due west of St. Louis, black students at the University of Missouri have been complaining about several incidents of racism on campus this term. The worst was a swastika drawn with feces on a white wall. Students felt the administration, led by UM system president, Tim Wolfe, did not adequately respond to combat a racism issue on campus that had become toxic.

A black graduate student, Jonathan L. Butler, started a hunger strike, vowing not to eat until President Wolfe resigned. The football team backed him up! More than 30 football players on the varsity team banded together and announced they would not practice or play until Butler's demand was met. They had the support of teammates, including white teammates, and the coaching staff.

Mizzou is a Division I school. They play in the Southeastern Conference (currently in 6th place). If the school missed its next game on November 14, 2015 against Brigham Young, the school would stand to lose in excess of $1 million.

Today President Wolfe resigned. The University Chancellor followed suit. It would have been interesting to watch the discussions behind the scenes. Bottom line: one graduate student and 30 football players managed to force the resignation of the president and chancellor of a major university system in less than a week. It's truly remarkable. It's full of glorious politics.

Score one for the underdogs.... even though Mizzou is currently favored to win over BYU on 11/14. It's a game I'd like to see.


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