The University of Missouri system's board of curators named Michael Middleton the new interim system president Thursday after his predecessor resigned over his alleged mishandling of racist incidents against students. Tim Wolfe stepped down Monday amid protests on the main campus in Columbia, Missouri. Middleton, a black retired law professor and deputy chancellor emeritus, said Thursday he planned to address activists' concerns, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
"We all must heighten our focus, improve our culture and climate across all of our campuses and share the responsibility to see our university advance in healthy ways built upon respect for others," Middleton, who founded the school's Legion of Black Collegians in 1968, told USA Today.
— Mizzou (@Mizzou) November 12, 2015
Middleton will be the second African-American man to be in charge of the university system, the Columbia Tribune reported. The protest organizers, Concerned Student 1950, seemed to approve of his appointment.
We are excited for the new leadership under Interim President Middleton!
— ConcernedStudent1950 (@CS_1950) November 12, 2015
Before starting work at Mizzou, Middleton served as an attorney in the federal Department of Justice’s civil rights division and principal deputy assistant secretary for civil rights in the Education Department, according to his university biography page. He was appointed interim vice provost for minority affairs and faculty development in 1997 and retired this past August.
“Mike Middleton is the best person to lead the system during this critical period of transition, with 30 years of leadership experience on the MU campus and past service as a civil rights attorney,” board of curators chairman Donald Cupps said in a news release. “Mike’s outstanding managerial skills and knowledge of the UM System and its four campuses, make him the leader we need to advance our university system forward.”
Demonstrations against university administrators rocked the Columbia campus this week after students reported hearing racial slurs yelled at them and a swastika drawn in feces in a residence hall, according to previous International Business Times reporting.