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Black administrator named Missouri System's interim head

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University of Missouri grounds maintenance workers begin to clean up Mel Carnahan Quad on the University of Missouri campus Wednesday, Nov.11, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. The Concerned Student 1950 activist group tent city was disassembled overnight after both University of Missouri grounds maintenance workers begin to clean up Mel Carnahan Quad on the University of Missouri campus Wednesday, Nov.11, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. The Concerned Student 1950 activist group tent city was disassembled overnight after both
This booking photo provided by the Boone County, Mo., Sheriffs Department shows Hunter M. Park. The 19-year-old man who is suspected of posting online threats to shoot black students and faculty was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, authorities said, add This booking photo provided by the Boone County, Mo., Sheriffs Department shows Hunter M. Park. The 19-year-old man who is suspected of posting online threats to shoot black students and faculty was arrested Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, authorities said, add
The Yik Yak app, lower, left, is seen on an iPhone in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Internet users of the Yik Yak social media gossip app popular among college students aren't nearly as anonymous as they believe: Missouri police within hours arres The Yik Yak app, lower, left, is seen on an iPhone in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Internet users of the Yik Yak social media gossip app popular among college students aren't nearly as anonymous as they believe: Missouri police within hours arres
Students walk outside the University of Missouri Student Center on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. On Tuesday night death threats were made to black students via social media, and made some students feel unsafe to attend classes. Various busine Students walk outside the University of Missouri Student Center on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. On Tuesday night death threats were made to black students via social media, and made some students feel unsafe to attend classes. Various busine
The University of Missouri's Student Center remains largely unpopulated Wednesday morning, Nov. 11, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. University of Missouri police said Wednesday they have arrested a suspect accused of making online threats against black students an The University of Missouri's Student Center remains largely unpopulated Wednesday morning, Nov. 11, 2015, in Columbia, Mo. University of Missouri police said Wednesday they have arrested a suspect accused of making online threats against black students an

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri's governing board on Thursday appointed a recently-retired senior administrator from its flagship campus to be the university system's interim president.

Michael Middleton, 68, takes over for Tim Wolfe, who resigned abruptly on Monday amid student-led protests over his administration's handling of racial complaints.

Middleton, who is black, resigned as deputy chancellor of the Columbia campus in August and took on the role of deputy chancellor emeritus. He had been working part-time with the campus' chancellor, R. Bowen Loftin, on a plan to increase inclusion and diversity at the school.

Loftin also announced Monday he would be stepping down at the end of the year for a different role at the school. His and Wolfe's resignations came after 30 black members of the football team gave a big boost to the protest movement by vowing not to take part in team activities until Wolfe was gone.

MU Policy Now, a student group made up of graduate and professional students, had been pushing for Middleton's appointment.

"Given the recent turmoil, Deputy Chancellor Emeritus Middleton is a strong transitional figure," the group wrote in a letter of endorsement posted on its Facebook page and sent to curators. Several student organizations signed the recommendation letter, including the Legion of Black Collegians.

Middleton has a bachelor's degree from Missouri and became one of the first black graduates of the law school in 1971. He worked with the federal government in Washington and was a trial attorney in the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division before joining the university law faculty in 1985.

He also helped found the Legion of Black Collegians, a student group involved in the current protest, and himself participated in previous campus protests for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.

He was interim vice provost for minority affairs and faculty development starting in 1997, and a year later was named deputy chancellor.

In that role, he was credited with turning women's studies and black studies programs into their own departments.

Meanwhile, a 19-year-old man accused of posting online threats to shoot blacks on the Columbia campus was expected to appear in court via a video link from jail, where he's being held on bond.

Hunter M. Park, a 19-year-old sophomore at one of the other University of Missouri System campuses in Rolla, is charged with making a terroristic threat, which is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The threatening posts showed up Tuesday on the anonymous location-based messaging app Yik Yak, and were concerning enough that some classes were canceled and some Columbia businesses closed for the day. They were made during a time of racial unrest on campus that resulted in the resignations Monday of the university system president and the Columbia campus chancellor.

One of the threats said: "Some of you are alright. Don't go to campus tomorrow" — a warning campus police Officer Dustin Heckmaster said in a probable cause statement that he recognized as one that appeared ahead of last month's Oregon college shooting involving a gunman who killed nine people and himself.

Heckmaster wrote that Yik Yak willingly gave him the cellphone number that Tuesday's poster had used to create the account from which the threats originated. AT&T later told investigators that the number was Park's and that cellphone towers showed that the postings came from the Rolla area, the officer wrote.

University of Missouri-Columbia police records show the department had contact with Park last January, Heckmaster wrote without elaborating. Those records noted that Park was a student at MissouriUniversity of Science and Technology in Rolla, where Heckmaster confronted Park early Wednesday in the sophomore computer science major's dorm room.

Heckmaster wrote that Park admitted the posts were "inappropriate." He said he asked if the threats amounted to "saber rattling," and Park responded, "pretty much."

When questioned specifically what he meant by the phrase, "Some of you are alright. Don't go to campus tomorrow," Park "smiled and stated, 'I was quoting something,'" Heckmaster wrote. When pressed whether it was mimicking the Oregon shooting's posting, Park replied, "Mmhmm."

When asked why, Park said, "I don't know. I just ... deep interest," Heckmaster wrote.

A message left on Park's mother's cellphone was not returned, and there was no response to knocks on the door of the family's home in the affluent St. Louis suburb of Lake St. Louis.

A second student was arrested at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville for allegedly posting a threat on Yik Yak that read, "I'm gonna shoot any black people tomorrow, so be ready." NorthwestMissouri State spokesman Mark Hornickel told several media outlets that authorities hadn't linked the incident to threats at the University of Missouri's Columbia campus.

Authorities also are investigating another threat on Yik Yak, this one leveled at the Rolla campus by someone saying, "I'm gonna shoot up this school." And police at the Columbia campus say someone spray-painted over part of a sign early Thursday at the black culture center. They were reviewing video surveillance from the area, a school spokesman said.

On Wednesday, the university said an employee who was among those who clashed with a student photographer during campus protests was placed on administrative leave while her actions are investigated.

Janna Basler is the school's director of Greek life. The videotaped clash helped fan a debate about the free press. Basler did not return a message seeking comment.

A communication professor also drew criticism for trying to stop a photographer from taking pictures. Melissa Click apologized Tuesday.

Months of protests culminated in a tumultuous week on the Columbia campus.

Back in September, the student government president reported that people shouted racial slurs at him from a passing pickup truck, galvanizing the protest movement. Last week, a graduate student went on a hunger strike to demand the resignation of Wolfe over his handling of racial complaints.

Then more than 30 members of the Missouri football team refused to practice or play in support of the hunger striker. Those developments came to a head Monday with the resignation of Wolfe and Loftin, the top administrator of the Columbia campus.

___

Associated Press writers Jim Suhr and Jim Salter in St. Louis and AP researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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