November 27, 2015

University of Missouri interim president to seek to meet demands of Concerned Student 1950, and own demands from 1969

The University of Missouri’s interim system president has been with the University of Missouri for 30 years, including as a law professor and deputy chancellor. Before that, Mike Middleton was active in the civil rights movement while a student at the university in the 60s. He was a founder of the Legion of Black Collegians, and was one of the students who demanded more black faculty be hired and that threats and harassment toward black students be stopped.

Mike Middleton addresses reporters after being officially introduced as the interim president of the University of Missouri System.  (photo; Jeremy Schmetterer)

Mike Middleton addresses reporters after being officially introduced as the interim president of the University of Missouri System. (photo; Jeremy Schmetterer)

Middleton, who is African-American, told reporters he suspects his race did play into his being asked to take on the role of interim system president.

“Color, in this country, is an issue that is considered – that effects many, many decisions that are made, positively and negatively. We need to understand that, accept it, and get beyond it eventually,” said Middleton, who said for him to have been asked whether his race figured into his selection is reflective of the institutional racism that so many are trying to move beyond.

Middleton told reporters during his time at MU he has felt marginalized because of his race, whether it was when he was a student, a faculty member, or an administrator.

“Every day. In all three capacities,” said Middleton.

He said he will work to satisfy all the demands of students that can be satisfied, and not just those made this year.

“The demands that were submitted in 1969, the demands that were submitted in 2005, and the demands that were most recently submitted to administration involve complex interactions among many in this university,” said Middleton. “I intend to lead this university towards satisfying each and every one of those demands that can be satisfied.”

Some students have told the media and others they don’t feel safe due to threats, some made on social media in recent days. Middleton seemed to echo the instructions given by the University of Missouri Police to students – to report hurtful or hateful speech or actions – in discussing how such threats would be dealt with.

“Those kinds of incidents will be investigated quickly, dealt with quickly, and the people responsible will be held accountable. MUPD is an amazing law enforcement agency. They are on the job. They will do what they can to apprehend offenders and bring them to justice, but MUPD can not be everywhere. They can not walk hand-in-hand with every student,” said Middleton. “This is a tense situation, so what I can say to them is be careful. Be careful, report anything you see, cooperate with MUPD, and hopefully at some point this kind of turmoil will dissipate.”

Middleton was appointed after Tim Wolfe resigned on Monday, which followed protests, a hunger strike, and the Tiger football team saying it would not play or practice until Wolfe stepped down. Middleton says everyone in the university community must be willing educate one another and be educated about what led to those actions.

“We need to talk about this. We need to come together, let our guard down, sit across the table person-to-person, and respectfully discuss these issues and move beyond them,” said Middleton.

Missouri elected Democrats praise Middleton as choice for interim UM System president

The University of Missouri Board of Curators’ choice for an interim president for the UM System is being praised by the state’s elected Democrats.

Mike Middleton has been named the interim UM System President.  (photo courtesy of the University of Missouri)

Mike Middleton has been named the interim UM System President. (photo courtesy of the University of Missouri)

Governor Jay Nixon calls Mike Middleton, “an accomplished and widely-respected leader who is deeply committed to the university and its students.”

Nixon wrote, “With interim leadership in place, I urge the Board of Curators to select a permanent president through a process that is thoughtful, transparent, inclusive, and efficient. I look forward to working with President Middleton and his permanent successor to continue to improve higher education for the benefit of all Missouri students.”

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill notes Middleton, “has been in significant leadership positions at the University for more than 30 years, and is something that we all know and trust.”

The University also said Hank Foley will begin serving as Chancellor immediately. McCaskill writes, “Combined with the perspective that Hank Foley brings in terms of innovation and research, these changes represent real leadership with the vision to move the University forward, and should come with the support of leaders across Missouri to help make that happen. Now is the time for everyone in the University community to come together and support this strong leadership team.”

Attorney General Chris Koster also applauded the selection of Middleton.

“I have known Mike for twenty-five years, from his days teaching me criminal procedure in law school through his service as deputy chancellor emeritus of the Columbia campus,” wrote Koster. “His decades of leadership and familiarity with the University and its student body make him an outstanding choice to guide the institution through this period.”

Middleton was announced this afternoon as the UM System’s interim president. He will serve in that role until a permanent replacement for Tim Wolfe is found. Wolfe resigned Monday in response to criticism over the handling of incidents of racism on campus, and after calls for his resignation by students, state lawmakers, and the MU football team. That included a hunger strike by one student who said his strike would end with Wolfe’s resignation or his own death.

Middleton came to MU as a law processor in 1985 and retired as deputy chancellor August 31 after serving 17 years in that role. He had been serving in a part-time capacity at the university, directing efforts to improve inclusion, diversity, and equity within campus activities.


Professor: Protests like those at University of Missouri could happen at other colleges, universities

Two issues have been the subjects of protests at the University of Missouri this fall. One was the taking away of health care subsidies from graduate assistants. The subsidies were reinstated shortly after those protests.

Lori Patton Davis, Ph.D.

Lori Patton Davis, Ph.D.

The second was what protesters called a lack of response to incidents of racism on the Columbia campus.  On Monday, those protests resulted in the resignation of system president Tim Wolfe and the announcement that R. Bowen Loftin would transfer out of the position of Chancellor.

Students at colleges and universities elsewhere in the U.S. could begin demonstrations similar to those seen at the University of Missouri, after seeing the results those had, according to Indiana University Higher Education Professor Lori Patton Davis.

“I think what has occurred at Mizzou could be an indicator of what’s to come on college campuses nationwide and in the Midwest, where most of the campuses are predominantly white,” said Patton Davis.

She said racial tension at colleges is not new.

“It’s sort of been brought to the surface in a different way but I think those same issues exist at Indiana University, Big 10 institutions, Big 12. The same issues exist, especially predominantly white institutions where the majority of faculty, administrators, students and curriculum are white,” said Patton Davis.

Patton Davis said many college students of color feel a lack of belonging and involvement on their campuses, including athletes.

She said the Mizzou football team demonstrated its level of influence when it refused to practice or play until Wolfe resigned.

“It will be interesting to see how teams at other institutions show up in student movements and protests, if they get to that point,” said Patton Davis.

Patton Davis studied student protests from the civil rights movement and feels a resurgence of student activism is occurring.

Her prediction could already being playing out, as hundreds of students at Ithaca College in New York staged a protest Wednesday to demand the resignation of President Tom Rochon. Some students say he has not responded appropriately to recent racially charged incidents on campus.

A campus group known as People of Color at Ithaca College is calling for a confidence vote on Rochon.  The college’s faculty council is also organizing a vote.

Another Missouri college student arrested for threat made on social media

A second Missouri college student has been arrested for threatening on social media to hurt others.

Northwest Missouri State UniversityNorthwest Missouri State University Police have arrested the student. He was taken into custody at his residence hall on the campus in Maryville but has not been charged.

He is accused of making threats on Yik Yak, the same social media application a Missouri S & T student is accused of using to make threats. 19-year-old Hunter Park was arrested early Wednesday morning and has been charged with making a terrorist threat.

Nadia Thacker, KFEQ, contributed to this report

Former curator predicts many applicants for next University of Missouri System president

The next University of Missouri president will be faced with increased challenges and intensified scrutiny. He or she will be chosen by the Board of Curators even as the University is dealing with criticism over its handling of incidents of racism, and as students are looking for the institution to find solutions.

Tim Wolfe announces his resignation as University of Missouri president.

Tim Wolfe announces his resignation as University of Missouri president.

CEO and President of Walsworth Publishing Company Don Walsworth was a curator from 2003 to 2009. He thinks many people will apply to take on those challenges.

“We’re a huge research institution and I just think this will be a great opportunity for some man or woman to take this over and build the university even more and better than it has been in the past,” said Walsworth.

He said the new president and administration must do all it can to respond to the incidents that spurred protests and demands for President Tim Wolfe to resign.

“We want all students at the University of Missouri to be very comfortable and feel safe on all of our campuses and to have a good college experience. That is paramount,” said Walsworth. “I am confident the Board of Curators and the administration of this university and this system will accomplish that.”

As for how the university deals with its current situation, Walsworth said, “I think there needs to be open discussion with the students and the faculty. I think we have to listen to their concerns and their problems and try to make them much more comfortable than what they are at the present time, or at least what I’ve been hearing. There’s some deficiencies down there and I think that the administration will address those.”

Walsworth anticipates an interim president to be named. The Board of Curators meets later today, but what it will talk about hasn’t been discussed publicly.