A month ago, the University of Missouri celebrated its 104th Homecoming, the oldest and one of the largest celebrations of its kind in the country. Alumni from all over came back to Columbia to celebrate their alma mater. It was a celebration of unity and traditions.
A week ago, Mizzou was preparing for its first Thursday night home game in six years against Mississippi State. Campus was painted black and gold. People were spirited despite the losing streak.
A day ago, Missouri football players went back to practice after uniting with the support of their head coach to support a colleague’s health.
A month ago, a group of students halted the homecoming parade. They stood in front of Wolfe’s car. They asked to be heard.
A week ago, Jonathan Butler was on a hunger strike. He and many others were angry at Wolfe’s handling of race concerns on campus. He vowed not to eat until Wolfe resigned.
A day ago, the same students who celebrated a victory on Monday at the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation—the same students who linked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome” in unity—were scared for their lives.
Walking on MU’s campus at any time, it’s easy to notice the marks of tradition everywhere you turn. But in the last month, it’s been a campus pushing for change.
For some, the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation was cause for celebration. For others, it was an inciting incident that led them on a path to anger. Social media is filled with MU news, and MU news is filled with conflicting positions.
Some say the systematic oppression of minorities needed to be dealt with at the highest level. Some say Wolfe didn’t deserve all the blame. Some say the football players and Coach Pinkel should stick to their contracts and worry about their roles on the football team. Others say it’s an issue bigger than football. Scrolling through the news of the day, MU has made itself heard, no matter what the opinion.
So what has this publicity done for the campus environment? It started on Monday, the day of the resignation. Carnahan Quad—aside from the tense media situation—was a place of celebration. People came together to sing and dance and cry. They felt their voices had been heard, and they were ready to move on to the next step.
The next day, tensions grew. The opposition also wanted to be heard. Some went to the extreme. Anonymous posts on Yik Yak threatened the lives of black people on campus. People joined at Speaker’s Circle to shout their frustrations at passersby.
Professors cancelled classes. MU’s police department upped its patrol. MU’s alert system was on its toes. People were reaching out to others on social media to offer rides and housing off of campus. Parents called their children begging them not to go near the school. The place 35,000 people called home suddenly seemed like a dangerous place to be.
Early on Wednesday morning, police arrested the suspect making threatening posts on social media. Turns out he wasn’t even close to Columbia. While the threats may have been faulty, the atmosphere remained rigid. Many students stayed home, even though the university assured everyone that there were no immediate threats to their safety. Those on campus were untrusting of each other.
On Veterans Day, a day meant to celebrate the lives and sacrifices of the brave few who choose to serve and protect our country, Mizzou itself is suffering from a tense divide. In the coming days, weeks and months there will be more attempts at unity, and there will be more opposition. Some will continue to push for what they believe in. Some will try to silence the opposing side. Some will stay low and wait for the storm clouds to pass.
But how long will Mizzou be riding out the rain? On a campus filled with passionate, strong-minded and active students, the push might last a while. For some, this is a good sign. For others, this is a nuisance. For all, this is reality: MU is a campus of tradition, but change is inevitable. For now, the atmosphere is cloudy, but who knows where we’ll be in a day, a week or a month.