Manual graduate Tabitha Awoniyi weighs in on University of Missouri tensions

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Alex Coburn

University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe resigned on Nov. 9 after a series of events sparked by a racial slur aimed at Payton Head, the president of the Missouri Students Association. In the wake of his resignation, Mizzou students have called for more action to prevent racial aggression in the future.

Former J&C student Tabitha Awoniyi (Class of 2014), who is currently majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in International Studies at the University of Missouri, witnessed the tensions of recent weeks firsthand.

“It’s been a little hectic,” Awoniyi said. “I don’t really know how else to describe it.”

Awoniyi said that she initially wasn’t sure what to believe. With nearly 35,000 students enrolled, Mizzou is a big school, and rumors can spread quickly.

“One minute it was just some crazy white kid threatening to kill all the black people, then it was, ‘the KKK is coming on campus.’,” she said.

As soon as the information began to spread, students were scared for their safety.

“I think the most ridiculous part of it all was how uneasy everyone was–black and white–when we first heard that the police couldn’t charge him just because so far he hadn’t actually done anything,” Awoniyi said. “Everyone knows that if a black kid pulled this, they would have the whole city on lockdown.”

While professors have continued to hold class, many students have elected not to attend. Many protesting students have even set up tents on the lawn rather than sleep in their dorms. Awoniyi wasn’t too worried at first, but eventually the frenzied environment on campus started to take its toll.

“I was still planning on going to class that day because my tuition dollars tell me to,” Awoniyi said. “I had an exam that day that my professor was not cancelling, but the next morning I see cop on every corner of campus, I hear people protesting, screaming, crying … I woke up to the sound of a brick being thrown through the glass and that’s when I really started to panic.”

After over a week of conflict, a resolution has yet to be reached.

“Behind the scenes, I’m sure they don’t have a choice but to address it somehow,” she said. “But of course, nothing is public.”

After classes for this week were cancelled, Awoniyi and some friends decided to stay with a friend in St. Louis rather than remain on campus.

“This is the second time I’ve ever been so fearful of my life in Missouri. You see all of these people protesting, but in all honesty, I’m scared. I find myself watching from the sidelines because I’m scared,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to look over my shoulder on campus like this everyday. Campuses are crazy enough. The protesting is good, and, yes, I understand the cause. But at the end of the day, I just want to go to class.”