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Nov 9, 2015 12:17 AM

Latest on Missouri turmoil: Protesters pray, set to camp out

The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) The latest on the protests and turmoil over racially charged incidents at the University of Missouri. All times local.

10:30 p.m.

Around 150 protesters have gathered on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia as part of ongoing demonstrations over matters of race and discrimination at the college.

For months, black student groups have complained of racial slurs and other slights on the overwhelmingly white campus, and they're now calling for President Tim Wolfe to step down. One black graduate student is on a hunger strike, and on Saturday night, black members of the football team joined the outcry.

Those gathered late Sunday near Jesse Hall prayed for the hunger-striking student, among other things. They also chanted, sang songs and read a Bible verse.

Organizers at one point called student-athletes forward to lead a prayer.

At least 20 tents were set up, and many planned to camp out overnight amid temperatures that had dropped into the low 40s. Students huddled together, wrapped in blankets.

Other stopped by the campsite to drop off food and other supplies.

Two university police vehicles were parked nearby.

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9:15 p.m.

Two graduate student organizations at the University of Missouri are calling for walkouts in solidarity with protesters who want the system president to resign.

The Steering Committee of the Forum on Graduate Rights and the Coalition of Graduate Workers called Sunday for the actions. The organizations say walkouts by student workers on Monday and Tuesday will send a message of support for protesters seeking the removal of President Tim Wolfe.

The group Concerned Student 1950 and black members of the football team are calling for Wolfe to step down over the way he has handled matters of race and discrimination at the flagship school of the four-campus system. One black graduate student is on a hunger strike. That student, Jonathan Butler, has also cited the removal of graduate student health care subsidies as a concern.

Wolfe has given no indication he intends to leave the position, but he issued a statement Sunday saying that "change is needed."

The graduate committee criticized Wolfe's statement, saying he and the administration are doubling down on "business as usual."

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7:30 p.m.

The governing body of the University of Missouri system has set a special meeting amid ongoing protests over the handling of matters of race and discrimination at the system's flagship campus.

The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced in a statement it will meet Monday at 10 a.m. on the system's Columbia campus.

According to an agenda provided in the statement, part of the meeting will be closed to the public.

The statement says Missouri law allows the group to meet in a private "executive session" to discuss topics such as privileged communications with university counsel or personnel matters.

A university system spokesman didn't immediately respond to questions about whether the group would address the status of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe. Wolfe has been the target of protests by students, including 32 black football players who announced they will not participate in team activities until he is removed. One black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

Wolfe has given no indication he intends to step down.

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6:30 p.m.

The chairman of a Missouri House higher education committee says University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe should resign.

Poplar Bluff Republican Steve Cookson said in a statement Sunday that Wolfe "can no longer effectively lead" and should leave his post.

Cookson's statement came as student groups and black members of the football team are calling for Wolfe to step down over the way he has handled matters of race and discrimination at the flagship school of the four-campus system. One black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

The GOP lawmaker says the recent events are just the latest problem at the University of Missouri system, which he says has been "slipping behind over the last few years in everything from faculty productivity, to fiscal health ... to national rankings."

Wolfe has given no indication he intends to step down. But he issued a statement Sunday saying that "change is needed" and that the university is working to draw up a plan by April to promote diversity and tolerance.

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6:10 p.m.

New York Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson says he's standing by the football players at his alma mater, the University of Missouri, who are calling for the resignation or removal of the school's president.

Speaking after the Jets' 28-23 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Richardson said Tim Wolfe "does need to go" over his handling of recent racial incidents on campus. Richardson added that "some stuff happened back then when I was there," but he declined to provide specifics.

Richardson played two seasons at Missouri from 2011-12. He was suspended the first four games of this season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He could face additional discipline from the league after he was charged with resisting arrest in Missouri in July after speeding. The case is pending.

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2:15 p.m.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill says the University of Missouri Board of Curators needs to "send a clear message" to the students at the Columbia campus that they'll address racism.

McCaskill, a graduate of the state's flagship campus, said in a statement Sunday that she's "confident my university can and will do better in supporting an environment of tolerance and inclusion."

Student groups and black members of the football team are calling for President Tim Wolfe to step down over the way he has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus, and one black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

Wolfe said earlier Sunday that changes will come as part of a systemwide diversity and inclusion strategy that's due to be announced next April.

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2 p.m.

A University of Missouri student who is one of the Concerned Student 1950 organizers says black and other minority students are treated differently than white students.

Abigail Hollis and others have been camping out in the heart of campus in protest since Monday.

Student groups and black members of the football team are calling for President Tim Wolfe to step down over the way he has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus, and one black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

Hollis said while there have been issues with the campus' administration, there's been a "stark difference" between meetings with Wolfe and those with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. She said Wolfe has shown a "lack of concern and ... understanding for us as marginalized students."

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1:55 p.m.

University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe says changes will come to address racially charged incidents at the school as part of a systemwide diversity and inclusion strategy and plan that's due to be announced next April.

Wolfe said in a statement Sunday that it's clear "change is needed" and that he appreciates the "thoughtfulness and passion which have gone into the sharing of concerns."

He also says the majority of items that Concerned Student 1950 listed in their demands were in the strategy that's being worked on.

Student groups and black members of the football team are calling for Wolfe to step down over the way he has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus, and one black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

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1 p.m.

A former Democratic state lawmaker and former chairman of the University of Missouri's Board of Curators has defended President Tim Wolfe's campus leadership.

Student groups and black members of the football team are calling for Wolfe to step down over the way he has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus, and one black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

Longtime lawmaker Wayne Goode said Wolfe is "one of the best managers I've ever worked with." Goode also said Wolfe has "very strong support on the board," though he declined to indicate whether he had spoken with anyone on the board or with Wolfe.

Wolfe, 56, is a former software executive and Missouri business school graduate who grew up in Columbia and whose father taught at the university.

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12:15 p.m.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon says the University of Missouri must address concerns over "racism and intolerance."

The Democratic governor issued his statement on Sunday, a day after 32 black football players announced they will not participate in team activities until university President Tim Wolfe is removed.

Student groups have protested the way Wolfe has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus in Columbia, and one black graduate student is on a hunger strike.

Nixon's statement says the concerns must be dealt with so that the school is "a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion."

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12:10 p.m.

The verified Twitter account for Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel has posted a picture of the team and coaches locking arms.

It comes a day after 32 black football players announced that they will not participate in team activities until university President Tim Wolfe is removed.

The tweet posted Sunday reads: "The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players. #ConcernedStudent1950 GP".

Student groups have protested the way Wolfe has handled matters of race and discrimination on the campus in Columbia.

It isn't clear whether the athletes' announcement will affect next Saturday's game at home against BYU.

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