A Second Step in Missouri

R. Bowen Loftin, the chancellor of the University of Missouri’s flagship campus at Columbia, will resign, the University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators announced just hours after the system’s president stepped down amid intense student and other protests over racial tensions.  Loftin will become the system’s director for research facility development.

Although most of the attention and criticism from minority students in recent weeks had focused on President Wolfe, some faculty and staff members also called for Loftin’s resignation. In a letter to the board, the deans of nine different MU colleges requested Loftin’s dismissal. The deans said they wanted to express “our deep concern about the multitude of crises on our flagship campus” and call for Loftin’s dismissal. The nine deans met with Wolfe on October 9 and on October 13 met with Wolfe, Loftin and Provost Garnett Stokes to express their concerns, according to the letter.

“The issues we raised in those meetings have continued to deteriorate into a campus crisis that demands immediate and decisive action,” they wrote. “It is the Chancellor’s responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer of the campus to effectively address these campus issues.”

Loftin, the former president of Texas A&M University, has been chancellor at MU since February 2014.

The deans’ letter was signed by Daniel Clay, dean of the College of Education; Kristofer Hagglund, dean of the School of Health Professions; David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism; Judith Miller, dean of the Sinclair School of Nursing; Gary Myers, dean of the School of Law; Neil Olson, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine; Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science; Thomas Payne, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; and Barton Wechsler, dean of the Truman School of Public Affairs.

The deans said Loftin had shown failed leadership through a number of instances, including the elimination and eventual reinstatement of graduate assistant health insurance and the elimination of the vice chancellor for health sciences position. The deans claim Loftin created a “toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation.”

“It is imperative to take immediate action to begin the process of resolving the issues and improving the environment,” they wrote.

On Sunday, faculty members of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures sent a letter to the Curators saying they had no confidence in Loftin’s leadership. The letter said 28 faculty members in the department expressed no confidence in Loftin; two abstained from the vote. The faculty members said Loftin’s leadership has created a “climate of mistrust, miscommunication, chaos, despair, and anger.”

“The demoralizing campus climate under his lack of leadership is no longer conducive to our fundamental duties of teaching, research and service,” the letter said. “We believe that the only way out of this impasse is to find a new Chancellor who … will find the resources needed to increase rather than dismantle the excellence of our institution.”

The letters came less than a week after faculty members of the Department of English sent a letter to Wolfe and the Curators with a similar vote of no confidence in Loftin. The English faculty cast 26 votes of no confidence, zero votes of confidence and two abstentions.

The board’s chairman, Donald Cupps, issued an apology for the university’s perceived inattention to the concerns expressed by students and others about the racism they perceive at the institution. “To those who have suffered, I apologize on behalf of the university for being slow to respond to experiences that are unacceptable and offensive in our campus communities and in our society,” Cupps said in announcing the resignations. “Significant changes are required to move us forward. The board is committed to making those changes.”

One thought on “A Second Step in Missouri

  1. clearly the place was in disarray and inadequate responses to racism were only part of the problem. I think John Wilson should review his blog post in the light of these developments.

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