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Education

St. Louis student activists say Mizzou cohorts must keep pressing for campus changes

A large crowd gathers at the clocktower on the campus of Saint Louis University.
Tim Lloyd | St. Louis Public Radio
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St. Louis-area student activists said University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe’s resignation has re-energized the student protest movement that sprang up around Ferguson a year ago.

Mizzou students’ demands for a more diverse and inclusive campus are similar to those made by St. Louis student activists.

Saint Louis University junior Jonathan Pulphus said Wolfe’s resignation proves that students' actions can change systems.

“It made my morning,” he said Monday.  “What’s happening at Mizzou is a big win for the movement and we want for them to continue to pushing and for whatever support they need to know that they have us and we want to stand in solidarity with them.”

Pulphus has spent the past year pushing for changes under what’s known as the “Clock Tower Accords,” a 13-point agreement which calls for conversations about race on SLU’s campus and more resources for the African American studies department.

Some of the things the Mizzou students called for:

  • A handwritten apology from Tim Wolfe
  • The removal of Wolfe, and a new amendment that would require a diverse group of students, staff and faculty pick the new president
  • The creation and enforcement of a campus-wide racial awareness and inclusion curriculum
  • A increase in black faculty and staff (to 10 percent) by the 2017/2018 academic year, as well as an increase in mental health professionals of color
  • A 10-year plan to increase retention rates for marginalized students

“There are these myths that the efforts of students, of people in general who do protests, that they are better off just working within the system and not confronting, not questioning, not pushing against the system, that without work, we can just wish it all away,” Pulphus said. “That we can just be hopeful it’ll be better off tomorrow.”
Washington University sophomore Reuben Hogan, 19, said victories like these revive hope. But he said it's sad to think that it took a hunger strike and the football team's refusal to play for administrators to act.

"But, even if the most powerful reason was money, it still means something when you have the ability to stop oppression without being in a position of power," Hogan said.

Pulphus said he hopes Wolfe’s resignation means that Mizzou students activists will get their demands met.

But he says the harder work will begin after Wolfe leaves.

Urgency wanes as time goes on, the student said, and it’s easy for the work to get clogged in meetings and committees.

“The question is how to move forward," he said. 

An earlier version of this story had an incorrect figure in the list of Mizzou students' demands.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.