Lose to Win

It might appear that two top administrators at the University of Missouri stepped down late on Nov. 9 under pressure from black students demanding more action in response to campus-wide racist acts.

Nov 11, 2015 at 10:23 am

It might appear that two top administrators at the University of Missouri — President Timothy M. Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin — stepped down late on Nov. 9 under pressure from black students demanding more action in response to campus-wide racist acts.

Feels like a real kumbaya moment, doesn’t

it? These men took an “L” not for racial justice but because of the intersectionality of money and college sports.

They’re each estimated to be making $450,000 annually, compared to the university’s football program, which brings in an estimated $83 million annually in television licensing deals, naming rights, paraphernalia, etc. And it was a large swath of the team’s black players who united and threatened to boycott the season’s final three games, thereby risking football money, the ire of alumni, any ability to attract and retain future black athletes and students and, well, that old school spirit.

The New York Times reported that forfeiture of Missouri’s next game against Brigham Young alone would have cost the school a cool $1 million.

We can neither abide by the loss of large sums of money nor the loss of team sports in this country, and when those two worlds collide, race does matter little.

Race becomes incidental; coincidental.

However, the irony here is that it took black athletes, the very spine of most big college sports programs (and professional ones, too), to put the chancellor and the president on their respective hot seats and force the university’s board into some real action.

It’s being rumored that Jay Nixon, Missouri’s Democratic governor, might have also leaned on Wolfe. The athletes announced Nov. 7 that they wouldn’t be suiting up for their final three games unless Wolfe stepped down. The chancellor’s ouster was their two-point conversion, though he’s apparently being reassigned to a new role at the beginning of the year.

Nixon told reporters he met with Wolfe the same day the athletes announced their boycott and that Wolfe seemed “kind of oblivious” that he was “at the center of this.”

President Wolfe had absolutely no intentions of resigning or even addressing or interacting with protesting students who’d already blocked his car and confronted him during a school parade; a graduate student staged a hunger strike until Wolfe was gone and faculty cancelled classes for two days to, instead, have a teach-in focusing on issues of race, according to The New York Times. 

I can just imagine the Big Meeting where all the figures were laid out on the table for the president and the chancellor, and I can see very clearly the moment when they were thrown under the bus and told to march right out and read publicly their resignation letters written by the school’s public relations officer. Ouch.

For his part, Wolfe made it seem as though he was falling on his sword for the good of the university system. He said all parties involved stopped listening to each other and instead resorted to yelling and intimidation.

Even his canned remarks are color-coded.

That’s his way of saying black students are loud, boisterous and scary.I’m not calling Wolfe a racist. He was maybe ignorant all this time.

Ignorance skips through its field of daisies hand-in-hand with fear, so when the demands started coming in that he do something about all the incidents of racial intimidation, about the swastika on the bathroom wall rendered in feces, all he could do was duck and cover, hoping the black students would punch themselves out.

But these days in America, racism don’t count until somebody counts the money.

Thank God black football players and Gary Pinkel, their white head coach — who wholeheartedly and publicly supported them despite what their boycott would have done to the remainder of his season — had the guts to stand in the gap. Further, they probably didn’t — until now — realize the power they wielded off the field.

Black students at the University of Cincinnati could sit up and take several lessons from what just went down at the University of Missouri, where students formed Concerned Student 1950, an activist group demanding the university address the campus’s racism. It is a reference to the first year the school accepted black students.

UC has a scattershot group called Irate8, a reference to the eight percent comprising the college’s black population. They have gotten some media attention, but their message is nebulous and their list of demands is untenable — much too complicated and wordy to usurp my word count here, so do a Google search of the group’s name to see what they are demanding of President Santa Ono and UC’s administration.

Besides a to-do list that includes “legislating” that everyone learn about racism in a classroom setting — a sure way to crystallize hardened racists and turn off the apathetic — the group does not have the collective ear of every constituent it could and should have going into battle.

There is no “or else” to their equation of combat, and they are, therefore, not being taken seriously. Remember how the black football players at Missouri took the mantle to get Wolfe out of office?

UC’s group has no such powerful entity in its corner to make Ono and the rest pay attention. They haven’t done any real work to first unify and multiply themselves, so goofy, bored, racist students are posting all kinds of insensitive and telling remarks online in response to the group.

Like Wolfe, Ono was first silent, but has since said he was “looking forward” to listening to what they have to say.

I have a black woman in my advanced reporting class who is sick of what they have to say and is in opposition to the group’s demands. She does not want to have anything to do with them and is in a cultural and deeply interior struggle with their message.

She’s tried twice writing about it for class but is having as much trouble articulating herself as the group is having being taken seriously. And there is plenty to be taken seriously when it comes to race/racism at UC. The black former College of Arts and Sciences dean was lampooned in a racist cartoon posted campus-wide, then was demoted back to his previous position. Samuel DuBose was shot dead by a UC “officer” in Mount Auburn who lied about the circumstances.

Black students — unless they know one another — don’t even speak to each other on campus; likewise, black faculty and staff.

How do you stage a winning revolution when there’s no fundamental camaraderie?

UC’s status quo is fully in tact. Missouri wins in overtime.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: [email protected]