A University of Missouri-Columbia professor may have quit his job as racial tensions continued to flare on campus.
Dale Brigham, a nutrition and exercise professor, caused an uproar with his email to students Tuesday night imploring them to come to class to take an exam despite the turmoil. Parts of that email were widely shared on social media. Brigham couldn’t be reached Wednesday but confirmed to the Washington Post that he wrote it.
Photos circulating online Wednesday of emails to his students included a line saying he was resigning.
An MU spokeswoman said Wednesday afternoon that Brigham is still employed by the university. She did not elaborate.
Tuesday’s controversial email to his Nutritional Science 1034 class said: “If you don’t feel safe coming to class, then don’t come to class. I will be there, and there will be an exam administered in our class.
“If you give into bullies, they win,” he wrote. “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.
“I know which side I am on,” Brigham said in the email. “You make your own choice.”
Brigham was lambasted on social media and labeled a racist for wanting to hold class. Other current and former students took to Twitter to lament his possible departure, and praise his teaching.
He signed emails to his class Wednesday morning, saying “It is an honor to have been your professor. Good Luck, and Godspeed, Tigers!”
Photos of more emails to individual students were circulated on social media Wednesday. The emails said students could make up the exam later without losing points. “Also, I am resigning my position,” the emails said.
Later Wednesday afternoon, Brigham wrote another email to his classes, apologizing for his “lack of compassion for students who felt unsafe.” He said when he wrote the initial message, he had “failed to understand the depth of fear that students may be experiencing” and “not aware of the Yik Yak threats.”
He also said his class will be covered by other faculty.
Brigham has been an MU professor since the mid 1990s, according to his online résumé. He earned a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University in 1995, a master’s degree in nutrition from Texas Tech University in 1985 and a bachelor’s degree in biology from Texas A&M in 1977.
Greek Life director placed on leave
Also Wednesday, Janna Basler was placed on administrative leave and relieved of her duties as the university’s director of Greek life as the Department of Student Life investigates her “recent actions,” according to a statement from Student Life Director Mark Lucas.
Basler made headlines as one of several school faculty and staff members who tried to block student journalists from covering the protests in the Carnahan Quadrangle at the university. Protesters, calling themselves Concerned Student 1950, formed a circle there Monday to block the media from students who had set up tents.
In a cellphone video, Basler can be seen confronting Tim Tai of St. Louis County, a student who was taking photos for ESPN. When he asked for her name, she responded only as “Concerned Student 1950.”
Tai said he remains neutral about news of Basler’s suspension, but he said she had personally apologized to him.
“I’m disappointed that there was shoving going on and that professors and students responded in the way that was recorded in the video,” he said. “But I don’t know how to judge whether the suspension should happen or not.
“As a journalist I didn’t think twice about that encounter or trying to get some kind of punishment out of that.”
Tai said a member of the Student Life marketing department contacted him Tuesday asking if he would consider meeting with Basler — a message he said he didn’t receive until Wednesday. When he agreed, Basler met him in person.
“She apologized and I accepted that,” he said. “She was very nice about the entire thing. I told her I was very sorry that it’s blown up the way it did, but there are no hard feelings about the matter.”
Basler told Tai she was trying to protect students who were experiencing a rush of emotions at the moment when UM System President Timothy M. Wolfe resigned.
“I told her I was really sorry that she is getting a lot of flak as well, that’s unfortunate,” Tai said. “There is inexperience on both sides.”
Koran Addo and Christine Byers of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.