This Is Why A Black Graduate Student Hasn't Eaten In Four Days

by
Cierra Bailey
University of Missouri-Columbia graduate student Jonathan Butler has been on a hunger strike since Monday in protest against the university president.

University of Missouri-Columbia graduate student Jonathan Butler is coming close to a week of being on a hunger strike in protest against the university’s president, Tim Wolfe.

Butler, 25, outlined his demands in a letter posted to Twitter on Monday that read,

“I will be embarking on an indefinite hunger strike in opposition to having Tim Wolfe as the University of Missouri system president. I will not consume any food or nutritional sustenance at the expense of my health until either Tim Wolfe is removed from office or my internal organs fail and my life is lost."

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Butler has gained a great deal of support throughout the week and even received a response from Wolfe’s office which was basically a placating statement mentioning the university’s concern for Butler’s health and outlining the “initiative” Wolfe has taken to address racism, which is actually just having a bunch of meetings with no real action.

"It was clearly a statement written up by his staff," Butler reportedly told Mic. "It continues to prove how reactionary and lackluster this administration is, how much they don't care or understand the seriousness of what’s going on."

Butler's hunger strike may seem extreme, some may ask "Why doesn't he just transfer schools?" That would be taking the easy way out.

Running away from the problem doesn't fix it. Not to mention, his efforts aren't just to make things better for himself, but for the entire student body. 

Even beyond his choice to fight for what's right, many other universities, nationwide, suffer from the same destructive issues. 

In the last three months there have been very significant racist incidents that occurred on MU’s campus such as when the student government president, who is black, was called the "N-word" by a group of men in a pick-up truck while he was walking down a street close to campus.

Another incident involved a white student who approached members of the Legion of Black Collegians — a governing body for black students at the university — and called them all the "N-word." Meanwhile, a campus security guard witnessed the whole thing and allegedly did nothing.

The most recent incident happened less than two weeks ago when students in a campus residence hall found a swastika drawn in human feces on a wall.

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As racial tensions seem to only be worsening on the campus — which has 77% white students compared to 7% black — a school-wide mandatory diversity training has been implemented by the chancellor as the solution.

"This program itself is not nearly enough," Butler reportedly told Mic. "It was very impromptu, not well thought-out or strategic."

Butler insists that Wolfe is not an effective leader of the university and he’s unqualified to handle the systemic issues the Butler and other Black students want addressed.

"He needs to be removed by the Board of Curators. But more importantly, there needs to be a culture change, and a conversation around shared governance and appointing someone competent [to the office of president],” Butler said. “Otherwise, they could just replace him with someone like-minded. The goal is not just about removing him. It's about fixing a system that is very corrupt."

Meanwhile, Butler continues his hunger strike while maintaining his active role on campus. Others who are in support of Butler’s protest are camping out on the campus quad until Wolfe is removed.

"I'm trying not to say the 'h-word,'" Butler reportedly said. "But I'm hungry. Physically, I'm drained and exhausted. It's been more than 49 hours now. I've been losing my balance the last several hours, and I have pain in my kidney and lower back. My body is not responding well, but that's normal. I'm still focused on class, still reading my Bible. I still need to operate in my role in the MU community."

Banner Photo Credit: Twitter @DEcultured84

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