Missouri professor resigns after refusing to cancel exam amid racial threats

Police line up to block the street as protesters gathered after a shooting incident in St. Louis, Missouri August 19, 2015. © Stringer
A University of Missouri professor filed his resignation after his decision to not cancel an exam amid anonymous death threats that sparked a new wave of outrage on campus. The university has not accepted the resignation despite the turmoil.

Dale Brigham, a nutrition professor at the University of Missouri, came under fire after sending an email to his students informing them that the exam scheduled for Wednesday would proceed.

"If you give in to bullies, they win," Brigham wrote in his email. "The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose."

Brigham also wrote that student’s who “don’t feel safe” can skip that class, but he would be there administering the exam.

“I know which side I am on. You make your own choice,” the professor wrote.

His email sparked a wave of criticism among students as well as in the media, where “white professor” Brigham was accused of “challenging” black students as death threats spread across the campus.

Furious students shared Brigham’s contact information, calling on other pupils to send him an email.

Under intense pressure, Brigham postponed both the test and announced his decision to step down from his position.

“The exam is cancelled. Our students will be able to take the exam at an alternate date with no loss of points,” he emailed. “No one will have to come to class today. And, I am resigning my position.”

Shortly after, Brigham confirmed to KOMU news that he had submitted his resignation, but "his leadership" had not yet accepted it.

"I am just trying to do what I think is best for our students and the university as an institution," Brigham wrote. "If my leaders think that my leaving would help, I am all for it."

Many Missouri students have taken to Twitter to voice their despair at Brigham’s potential departure, calling him “the nicest guy” and their favorite professor.

However, KOMU soon reported that the Missouri University News Bureau said Professor Brigham's resignation had not been accepted.

The Wednesday conflict flared up after students of color were allegedly threatened online by 19-year-old Hunter M. Park, who was arrested by police. The suspect is believed to have posted threats to "shoot every black person I see" on Yik Yak, an anonymous location-based messaging app, and other social media.

MU has seen its two top administrators, as well as another professor, resign amid racial tensions. The president of the MU system, Tim Wolfe, stepped down on Monday amid the protests. Wolfe's decision came two days after black students on the football team refused to play, and a week after a graduate student declared a hunger strike until Wolfe vacated his position.

The chancellor of the system's flagship campus in Columbia, R. Bowen Loftin, followed suit and announced his resignation.