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University of Missouri System names interim president

Michael Middleton, the University of Missouri’s deputy chancellor emeritus and a professor emeritus of law, was named the University of Missouri System interim president during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

This is a breaking news update. Read the original story below.

Amid the tumult and protests unfolding on the University of Missouri campus, someone just after midnight Thursday vandalized a sign outside the school’s black culture center.

It isn’t the first time the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center has been the target of a racist attack. In 2010, two white students received probation and community service after scattering cotton balls across the center’s lawn. Established in 1972 at the behest of the Legion of Black Collegians, the center was renamed in 2000 to honor civil rights pioneers Lloyd Gaines and Mary O’Fallon Oldham.

According to campus police, an unknown suspect spray-painted over part of the sign outside the center at about 12:48 a.m. Authorities are reviewing videotape in the area as part of the effort to determine the identity of the culprit, police said.

“Safety and security of our students is our top priority, and we are investigating all crimes as they are reported to us,” campus police Chief Doug Schwandt said. “We are receiving assistance from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and will continue to have an increased security presence on campus for the foreseeable future.”

Police have issued a $1,500 reward for any information leading to an arrest.

News of the vandalism came after police announced they had apprehended a second person suspected of making threats on social media.

A Northwest Missouri State University student was taken into custody around midday Wednesday at his residence hall, campus police said.

“University Police had received a report that the suspect made threats on Yik Yak, a social media application, to harm others,” a university statement said. Northwest Missouri State is in Maryville, about a 3½-hour drive from the MU campus in Columbia.

The developments came in the wake of protests at the University of Missouri that brought down two school officials.

Reports of racially charged threats have permeated social media. There was also a rumor the Ku Klux Klan had arrived on the Columbia campus, which turned out to be baseless.

Yik Yak is a social media app that allows users to share anonymous messages, or Yaks, with others in a 5-mile radius.

University officials toppled

African-American students at Missouri have long complained of an inadequate response by university leaders in dealing with racism on the overwhelmingly white Columbia campus.

Protesters clamored for change and for University System President Tim Wolfe to step down.

The protests got two major jolts when student leader Jonathan Butler launched a hunger strike and the Missouri Tigers football team said it would not play until Wolfe stepped down.

The pressure worked. Wolfe resigned Monday, followed hours later by Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

“Our campus has experienced significant turbulence, and many within our community have suffered threats against their lives and humanity. These threats are reprehensible,” the school’s leadership said Wednesday.

“The process of making our campus as inclusive as it must be will not be easy. We have difficult conversations ahead, and we must all dedicate ourselves to learning together,” it read.

How we got here

Protesters say racism at Mizzou — sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle — has simmered on campus for decades.

In September, Head — the student body president — vented on Facebook about bigotry and anti-homosexual and anti-transgender attitudes after people riding in the back of a pickup truck screamed racial slurs at him.

In October, someone used feces to draw a swastika on the wall of a residence hall.

Even on Tuesday night, some reported incidents of threats or intimidation on campus.

“Im shaking and crying these white guys are in a monster blue pick up truck no license plate circling our car we almost couldnt get out,” one student tweeted.

The University of Missouri’s Columbia campus has a population of 35,000 students. The undergraduate student body is about 79% white, and 8% African-American. The school’s faculty is also more than 70% white, with black representation of just over 3%, according to the university.

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