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Should It Really Take a Football Team to Force Change on Campus?

The president of the University of Missouri resigned Monday morning, after weeks of student protests over acts of overt racism on campus, from racial slurs hurled at minority students to a swastika drawn in feces in a dorm bathroom. As early as Oct. 21, students called for President Tim Wolfe to step down for his listless handling of these incidents, and for presiding over an intolerant campus culture. Now they’ve gotten their wish—but only after their classmates on the school’s powerhouse football team got involved.

While there are many lessons to draw from Wolfe’s resignation, that one strikes me as particularly resonant: At universities like Mizzou, where football plays an outsized role in campus life and contributes an outsized haul to the school’s coffers, there is a massive power differential between student-athletes and tuition-paying students. The actions of the black football players who said they wouldn’t play until Wolfe was out—and the supportive words of their teammates and coach—are laudable. They shouldn’t have been needed.