After the resignations of system president Tim Wolfe and R. Bowen Lofton, chancellor of the Columbia campus of the University of Missouri on November 9, members of Concerned Student 1950 at the University of Missouri vowed to continue their activism. The student group vowed to press for agreement on a list of demands one of which was to increase the percentage of Black faculty to 10 percent within two years. Currently, Blacks make up about 3 percent of the university’s faculty. One estimate said that the university would have to hire 400 new Black faculty members to meet the demand.
Tensions remained high on the Columbia campus after threats of violence targeting Black students were made on the social media site Yik Yak. One message stated, “I’m going to shoot any Black people tomorrow, so be ready.” Police made two arrests relating to the threats. Both people arrested were students at other Missouri universities.
On Thursday, November 12, Mike Middleton was named interim president of the University of Missouri System. Middleton retired as deputy chancellor of the Columbia campus on August 31 of this year after serving in the role for 17 years. Since his retirement as deputy chancellor, he remained at the university on a part-time basis working on diversity and inclusion projects on campus. In accepting the appointment, Middleton said, “The time has come for us to acknowledge and address our daunting challenges, and return to our relentless adherence to the University of Missouri’s mission to discover, disseminate, preserve and apply knowledge.”
Middleton was the third African American to graduate from the University of Missouri School of Law. He then worked as a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Middleton later worked as director of the Office of Systemic Programs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and then as principal deputy assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education.
The university also took other actions. Donald Cupps, chair of the board of curators stated that the board “will not tolerate hateful activities on our campuses – period. We are taking additional measures to ensure that our campuses are free of acts of hatred, so that our campuses all embody a culture of respect.”
The board promised a review of all policies relating to student and staff conduct. It pledged to provide support for the hiring and retention of diverse faculty and staff and to provide support for students, faculty, and staff who have experienced discrimination or hateful conduct. The university also said that mandatory diversity, inclusion, and equity training would be instituted for all faculty, staff, and future incoming students.
The board also acted quickly by appointing Chuck Henson as interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity, and equity. He is the associate dean for academic affairs and trial practice at the University of Missouri School of Law. Professor Henson has been on the university’s faculty since 2009. Earlier, he was an assistant attorney general for the state of Missouri. He is a graduate of Yale University and the Georgetown University Law Center.