Monday, November 9, 2015

Where power resides

The young man starving himself couldn't do it. The growing number of both student and faculty protestors couldn't do it. Not even the governor could do it, although his two cents were probably the nudge that ended it all.

And it is ended, finally. The president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, is officially out, resigning today in the wake of a rising tide of unrest over his handling -- or, rather, his lack of handling -- of a series of racial incidents on campus.

One more testament to the obvious: That King Football reigns over Big Five universities to a degree none will admit, because admitting it would expose the fiction that football serves the academic mission of the university rather than the other way around.

It was, after all, King Football that toppled Wolfe. Young Jonathan Butler's hunger strike aside, the protests over Wolfe's soft-pedaling aside, it took 30 black football players deciding to walk off the job to bring matters to a head. Wolfe goes or we don't play, the players said -- and when the coaching staff backed them rather than crush the rebellion, Wolfe was finished.

It's been a lousy year on the gridiron for Missouri, but the economic clout wielded by football still thunders loudest there. The game is a purely corporate enterprise at the Missouri's of the world -- you can no longer deny it without sounding foolish -- and its prerogatives have become the university's prerogatives to a startling degree. And so when the help decides to shut it down, attention must be paid.

It is, after all, quite the barrel over which a Missouri finds itself when the serfs revolt. If you go all Henry Ford on them -- bring in the strikebreakers, throw the malcontents off the premises -- you as much as acknowledge what you cannot possibly acknowledge: That football at your university indeed functions like any major business anywhere, and your "student-athletes" are in fact indistinguishable from any other workforce. And so you pretty much are forced to acquiesce, at least to some degree.

Or, in Wolfe's case, to the nth degree. When the football players threw in with everyone else, that was the end of him. And it should have been. If you sit by and do nothing while students yell the N-word at members of the Legion of Black Collegians ... when you downplay swastikas smeared in feces on the bathroom wall of a residence hall ... you deserve whatever grief comes down on your head.

You deserve to have the real power on campus -- King Football -- swing its claw hammer. And to be forced to acknowledge it by quitting.


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