Mizzou has been in a state of tension for the last three months, sparked by several incidents of racism on campus.
Protests, which have been led by an organization called ConcernedStudent1950 (named so for the year the school admitted its first black student), have been driven by incidents like Missouri Students Association (MSA) president Payton Head being harassed with racial slurs, more racial slurs being used against the Legion of Black Collegians on Oct. 5, and a swastika drawn with feces on a bathroom wall in the school’s Gateway Hall on Oct. 24.
Mizzou first gained national attention on Nov. 7, when black members of the football team announced their plan to boycott any football-related activity until school president Tim Wolfe resigned.
Five days earlier, Mizzou student Jonathan Butler announced he would go on hunger strike, also effective until Wolfe’s resignation. When he made the strike public, Butler had already gone five days without food.
Butler said in a letter to Mizzou’s board of directors, “During this hunger strike, I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office, or my internal organs fail and my life is lost.”
“I was surprised because the incidents [Concerned Students 1950] were citing, like the racial slurs blacks had been called on campus and other incidences, just seemed like stuff prevalent in America that happens everyday to black people,” Mizzou freshman Lily Moore, who is black, remarked. “That kind of racism makes me feel trapped, but it didn’t inspire protest in me.”
“The threats and overall negative response on Yik Yak made me realize this campus is overwhelmingly racist, or overwhelmingly ignorant at least,” Moore said.
Butler and the football team had their cries answered on Nov. 9, when Wolfe at last resigned. Butler’s hunger strike came to an end, 12 days after it had started.
Other prominent incidents on campus over the last month include the protesters’ attempts to prevent media coverage of their demonstrations. One video, shot by senior photographer and Webster alum Mark Schierbecker, highlighted the media’s struggles.
Schierbecker, along with Webster alumni Alex Ring (representing the general student body) and Cam Hilton (representing the football team), have shared their experiences regarding the events at Mizzou with the ECHO. Here are their stories.
Mark Schierbecker: Class of 2012
In the aftermath of Tim Wolfe’s resignation, Mizzou senior and photographer for The Maneater newspaper Mark Schierbecker was filming as protesters blocked the press from having access to the campsite occupied by ConcernedStudent1950 at the Mel Carnahan Quad.
In the video, protesters form a circle around the campsite in order to shut out media personnel. Schierbecker is left alone in the middle of the circle at the end, and when he approaches a communications professor Melissa Click, she yells to “get some muscle over here” to remove Schierbecker.
“MUPD is charging [Click] with assault for grabbing my camera,” Schierbecker said. “In another instance, one of the protest allies blocks my view of the camp with her sign. Then she waves it violently, hitting me.”
Schierbecker’s video has gone viral since he posted it on Youtube, earning him national attention for his work as a photographer and free speech activist and over 2.7 million views.
“At first, ConcernedStudent1950 defended their no-media stance on social media – vehemently even. They held that position until Tuesday (Nov. 17) afternoon, when they took down their signs and invited back the media,” Schierbecker said. “It was a proud moment for free speech.”
Cam Hilton: Class of 2015
On Nov. 7, members of Mizzou’s football team announced they would not play until Tim Wolfe resigned. Cam Hilton was one of these players.
At first, Hilton was not part of the group that boycotted playing, but as his “family” members in the football team started joining the movement, Hilton decided to stick with them.
“I didn’t really want to not play in the game, because football means so much to me, but I started to realize that sometimes things are bigger than football. I didn’t know much about it at first, so I didn’t want to commit myself to something I knew little about,” Hilton said.
Hilton said a few of the football players presented the idea to boycott playing to the rest of the team, and the rest of the team agreed. It was after hearing this presentation that Hilton decided to not play.
Two days after Hilton and his teammates announced they wouldn’t play, Wolfe resigned.
“I think everyone was just thankful that we got to play and relieved that [Jonathan Butler] ate before he died,” Hilton said.
Hilton said there is hope for Mizzou to make progress towards a more racially equal campus.
“It was a small step to fixing a bigger problem,” Hilton said.
Alex Ring: Class of 2015
In the time around Tim Wolfe’s resignation, freshman Alex Ring has tried to stay involved to understand the issues.
He’s been in dance circles, “gettin jiggy with it” to Kendrick Lamar, read threats on Yik Yak and taken part in the celebrations at the Mel Carnahan Quadrangle camp site.
“Because I go to Mizzou and am a part of what’s going on, I think it’s a part of my responsibility to understand what is going on here,” Ring said.
On the night of Nov. 10, someone posted on Yik Yak “Some of you are alright. Don’t go to campus tomorrow,” mimicking a post from Chris Harper-Mercer before his Oct. 1, Oregon mass shooting.
Despite this and other threats on social media, Ring said he didn’t feel in harms way at any time.
When Tim Wolfe resigned, a group of about 50 or more people celebrated on the campground with people surrounding them in locked arms to block reporters from coming in.
“That was something I was confused about. There was definitely a sense of anti-media at first, but then in the past day or so they’ve opened up to the media,” Ring said.