Majority of state officials support Wolfe's resignation as UM System President
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Majority of state officials support Wolfe's resignation as UM System President

Date: November 10, 2015
By: Jill Ornitz
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A majority of state officials view the resignation of former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe as a step in the right direction for creating change at the system's flagship campus in Columbia.

Statements from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to individual representatives and senators state that Wolfe's resignation was appropriate in allowing the university to make meaningful change to address the racial climate on campus.

"Tim Wolfe’s resignation was a necessary step toward healing and reconciliation on the University of Missouri campus, and I appreciate his decision to do so," Nixon said in a statement.

Senate Education Committee Chair David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, said he hopes brining in a new president and chancellor will improve the campus climate.

"I think it's important that we get input from the group 1-9-5-0," Pearce said. "It would not be responsible to ignore their thoughts and wishes."

Pearce referred to the group of students who protested on central parts of the University of Missouri's campus. They called the group "Concerned Student 1950," referring to the first year African American students were admitted to campus.

House Committee on Higher Education Chair Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, called for Wolfe's resignation in a press release published the weekend before Wolfe left his post.

"After all of this, it has become clear that Mr. Wolfe can no longer effectively lead the University of Missouri system," Cookson said in the release. "He should show leadership in his official act and step aside, failing that the University of Missouri system Board of Curators should remove him."

Lt. Gov Peter Kinder broke from the majority to express his concern regarding the "extreme actions," being used by protesters.

"While I respect the right to peaceful protest and sincerely pray for the health and safety of all involved, I cannot ignore the necessity of law and order at our universities," Kinder said in a statement. "However, our universities cannot be run by individuals' making demands or using extreme actions. The Board of Curators is in place to make informed decisions and govern, and they must be free to do so. Otherwise chaos ensues, and no student is served by that."

Kinder also criticized faculty and staff members at the University of Missouri for attempting to stop a reporter and student in the Missouri School of Journalism from covering the protests. The student attempted to photograph protesters when he was blocked by protesters who said he was invading their personal space.

The exchange was caught on video that showed Assistant Professor of Communications Melissa Click and Director of Greek Life and Leadership Janna Basler attempting to block the access of a news photographer. Basler was shown telling the photographer he needed to leave and attempted to block him from working. Click is shown calling for student help to "muscle" the videographer out of the inside of the protest.

A call to the University of Missouri Office of Greek Life was not returned immediately.

The Missouri School of Journalism Dean David Kurpius showed support for the student photographer.

"The Missouri School of Journalism is proud of photojournalism senior Tim Tai for how he handled himself during a protest on Carnahan Quad on the University of Missouri campus," Kurpius stated in a release. "The news media have First Amendment rights to cover public events. Tai handled himself professionally and with poise."

Kurpius also said in the release that Click holds a courtesy appointment with the journalism school and that faculty members are "taking immediate action to review that appointment."

He tweeted that Click is "not a J-School faculty member. Removing courtesy title in process."

The Missouri Press Association issued a statement saying that the organization, "fully supports Tai’s First Amendment stance and reminds people that access to public space, such as the grounds of a university funded by taxpayers, is available to all citizens, without prejudice."

"Student photographer Tim Tai should be commended for not only defending his First Amendment rights to document the student and faculty protests on the MU campus, but doing so in such a manner as to avoid escalating tension," said MPA President and Columbia Daily Tribune Managing Editor Jim Robertson.

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