KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ As the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus tries to rebound from racial unrest, the system’s governing board is without minority representation after two black members resigned last week _ leaving one-third of the nine seats vacant.
All three departures happened after the Nov. 9 resignations of the university system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the Columbia campus’ chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, in the wake of protests over what some saw as university leadership’s indifference to racial issues.
It was not immediately clear Monday how quickly Gov. Jay Nixon, who is on a weeklong trade mission to South America, planned to address the vacancies. The remaining curators still will be able to do business and vote as long as they have a quorum of five members, university system spokesman John Fougere told The Associated Press in an email.
On Friday, David Steward explained in his resignation letter to Gov. Jay Nixon that he was leaving the Board of Curators because his business, World Wide Technology based near St. Louis, was “blessed with substantial opportunities to continue to expand our business globally.”
“It has been an enlightening experience and I pray and hope the very best for the University of Missouri system and the board of curators moving forward,” said Steward, who was appointed in 2011 and whose term was to expire in January 2017. “Our students are important and will continue to have a vital role in our future.”
Steward did not return messages left by the AP seeking comment Monday.
His immediate departure from the board, which is scheduled to meet Thursday and Friday, came just two days after Yvonne Sparks, who also is black, quit the panel. Sparks, a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis executive who was appointed in November after the unrest at Columbia, said she could not devote sufficient time to both positions.
“The board deserves someone who has the time to do both,” she said.
Ann Covington left the board in November for personal reasons, including her husband’s death and the health of her and her family. Her term was to expire in 2019.
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a Black St. Louis Democrat who’s on a committee that makes recommendations regarding confirmations of the governor’s appointments, urged Nixon to fill at least the Steward and Sparks vacancies with “other minorities who will be qualified and ready, willing and able to serve.”
With the school’s undergraduate population 79 percent white and 8 percent Black, “we have a large amount of African-Americans that attend MU, and they need representation,” she said.
Wolfe, the former president of the four-campus university system, has criticized most officials involved in the turmoil leading to his exodus, insisting to supporters and donors in a Jan. 20 email, which was made public last week, that the university is “under attack” by the Missouri Legislature, rendering curators and other top administrators “frozen” by the pressure.
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said last week that Columbia’s campus needs to heal and that “one way to regard student unrest is a sign that the institution has not kept pace with change, especially with students’ and the public’s expectations.”
Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City, Missouri, contributed to this report.