A Pressing Issue

The Globe explores the recent outpouring of events at the University of Missouri through the lens of previous Clayton students.


Noah Brown, Managing Editor


Out for a run around University of Missouri’s campus on the evening of Nov. 7 was Peter Baugh, a current Mizzou student and former editor-in-chief of The Globe. Suddenly, his phone began to ring as he received a call from the editor of The Maneater, the Mizzou student-publication Baugh now works for.

“Saturday night, I was going on a run when I got a call from my editor and she said, ‘The football players are going on strike. We need a story now,’” Baugh said.

Several members of the Division I Mizzou football team, in statements circulating social media, agreed to boycott football activities amid the racial debate going on around campus. In doing so, the players joined and provided traction to a historic and nationally recognized movement.

The players’ boycott, on a different level, more specifically targeted the President of the University of Missouri system Tim Wolfe, attempting to force his removal from presidency.

Removing the president was a priority on the minds of many, including Mizzou graduate student, Jonathan Butler, who was on a hunger strike which he began Nov. 2, seven days before the team announced their decision to stop all football activities. Head coach Gary Pinkel and the athletic department issued a statement saying that the Missouri Tigers, “do not plan to return to practice until Jonathan [Butler] resumes eating.”

Butler, whose intentions echoed those of many other Mizzou students, sought the removal of Wolfe, and developed as a leader from the very incipient stages of the movement.

Students’ anger and complaints were derived from the administration’s handling of several racial events that took place on campus. Baugh explained that these incidents sparked an increase in discussion about these controversial issues.

“There were a few racist incidents on campus that gained a lot of attention, some of which also went national. That started bringing racial tensions to the forefront of a lot of dialogue going on between students,” he said.

In addition to the event Baugh spoke of, the reactionary steps taken by students in attempts to solve these problems have also gained national attention.

“Sports are powerful because a lot of people follow them and a lot of people care. It’s very shocking when a group of people who have worked at their sport for their whole life say, ‘We’re not going to do anything until Tim Wolfe resigns.’ It was just striking, it was huge,” Baugh said.

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The President of the Missouri Student Association Payton Head authored an influential Facebook post in which he told the story of several of his encounters with racism, one most notably the time when he was called the n-word on campus. Head ends his poignant remarks with the words, “It’s time to wake up Mizzou.”

Following the lead of inspired and vocal students, namely Head and Butler, among others, Mizzou’s student body and community has been able to voice their reservations about the systematic injustice in a very public manner.

The group targeting racial injustice and discrimination is called Concerned Student 1950, 1950 being the year the University of Missouri became integrated. Through their inspired actions, the group has already begun to initiate change around the school community. Wolfe resigned from his duties two days after the football team’s boycott on Nov. 9, marking a pivotal point in the process.

Natalie Miller, a former Globe reporter, CHS graduate and now a freshman at Mizzou, is inspired by what the group has been able to achieve but recognizes that the issue is far from being over. Miller explained, however, that Wolfe’s resignation is a step in the right direction.

“I think it’s great that the students behind the group Concerned Student 1950 and the many others who have been involved in the protests and demonstrations have displayed such bravery in their fight for change,” she said. “I fully support the removal of Tim Wolfe as UM President, but I believe that it is a very small step towards a long journey towards equality and fairness for all marginalized students and faculty at this school.”

Students accused Wolfe of not properly and sufficiently addressing the issues at hand. Nate Gatter, a CHS graduate and current Mizzou student, speaks of other students’ discontentment toward Wolfe’s leadership, or lack thereof. Gatter, like Baugh, also contributes to the Maneater.

“The focus shifted when students had a tough time getting responses from Tim Wolfe, and then they finally, at the homecoming parade here at Mizzou, which is a very big deal, stepped out and blocked his car,” Gatter said. “Not only did Tim Wolfe refuse to get out of the car or acknowledge them, and not only did the crowd boo them, but Tim Wolfe’s driver actually tried to drive through the line of students and ended up striking one of the students. He wasn’t injured, but the message at that point was communicated pretty clearly and Tim Wolfe didn’t apologize for that until more than a month later when the national attention started to come down on him.”

Soon thereafter, the University of Missouri now finds itself wrapped up in a complex debate over societal issues such as institutionalized racism. The progression of events has led to chaos and controversy among Mizzou students and administration alike.

What may seem like a recent outpouring of events within Mizzou’s campus actually embodies a deep-rooted problem in the university’s history.

Gatter thinks that the recent events cannot be used to define an entire history of struggle.

“This story has been going on for a long time; this isn’t something that gets ignited by one or two particular events. I think you can trace this all the way back to the events in Ferguson in August of last year, if you really want to,” Gatter said.


What has remained consistent over the course of events is the solid, informative coverage of the situation by local student media.

Roaming the Mizzou campus, as Baugh and his newspaper colleagues expected, were representatives from a multitude of national media outlets. The widespread media coverage is one factor that led to increased discussion among students, as Baugh explained.

“There’s definitely a different feeling going around campus and it is definitely the main topic of conversation which is cool to see. It’s not everyday you have national media just wandering around campus. It’s very, very interesting,” he said. “There are a lot of students talking about it. There are a lot of different viewpoints being shared and that’s been pretty powerful.”

However, both equipped with journalistic backgrounds, Gatter and Baugh recognize and appreciate the capabilities of local media as opposed to national media outlets.

“As much as we love and trust name brands like the New York Times, ESPN, USA Today and what have you, local media will always have the story best. They’ve been covering it the longest, they already have the relationships with their sources at the university, they have the best understanding of how the university operates, who the people involved are and how the story has been going and will go,” Gatter said.

Former Globe editor and current sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Benjamin Hochman realizes the power of journalism, yet stresses the importance of accuracy. Hochman is a Mizzou graduate and, like Baugh, covered the events that unfolded at his alma mater through a journalistic lens.

“It’s times like these where you realize the importance of journalism. The diligent journalists in Columbia told the world a story that otherwise wouldn’t have been known outside of Boone County. The power aspect of journalism can’t be overlooked, though — journalists have the ability to capture the story, and thus have the responsibility to capture it accurately,” Hochman said.

The use of social media has aided the coverage of the events.

“Twitter is the modern newspaper. Really, it’s even more than a newspaper — it’s a bulletin board, it’s a sounding board, it’s the way we connect to moments and places and issues and people,” Hochman said.

Despite the advantages, like most outlets for discussion, social media can have its downsides. Gatter has seen the harmful use of social media and its impact on those trying to initiate change.

“Social media provides a platform for a lot of people that shouldn’t have one. So there has been a lot of hate that has come from social media,” he said.

Even with the hate being voiced on social media, Gatter thinks its downsides are ultimately outweighed by the benefits.

“I think it can be a great way to have a grass roots movement like this take hold. Overall, I think it’s safe to say that social media has been more good than otherwise,” he said.

As Gatter highlighted, parallels have been drawn between the more recent situation at Mizzou and the series of events involving Ferguson and the death of Michael Brown.

Baugh, who has had the opportunity to cover both from a journalistic perspective, has allowed his experiences to teach him greater things about history.

“When I took pictures for the Ferguson cover story [for the Globe] last year, I got a sense that I was covering history, that this was an event that would be remembered for years to come,” he said. “I got a very similar feeling as I was covering the events that unfolded here. I personally find that feeling to be one of the coolest of journalism, knowing that the work I’m doing right now is part of history. That’s an amazing feeling to have and that’s one of the things I took away from both situations.”