By Kevin Murphy
COLUMBIA, Mo. (Reuters) - The University of Missouri student whose allegations of racial abuse on campus partly led to the school president's resignation last year told a public forum on Wednesday that the university's next leader must support its students better.
Payton Head, president of the Missouri Students Association, outlined his suggestions at a public forum on the school's main campus in Columbia. Former President Tim Wolfe resigned last November over what protesters called the school's soft handling of reports of racial abuse.
The forum was the third of four to be held by a panel appointed to name Wolfe's successor. In May, the 10-member panel will recommend candidates to the university's board of curators, which has the final decision.
In contrast to the demonstrations that drew national attention and led to Wolfe's exit, the hearing on Wednesday was calm as Head said the school's leaders must better stand behind the student body and the university.
"The students here have the courage to speak up for these issues because they love this school so much and want it to be better for the generations to come," Head said.
Interim Chancellor Hank Foley of the university's main campus in Columbia said the school was at a turning point and must find the right president.
"It's critical we get things right," Foley told about 85 people at the forum.
Unrest at the university, widely known as "Mizzou," started last September when Head said on his Facebook page that he was repeatedly racially abused on campus by someone riding in a pickup truck.
Head's post went viral, and students demonstrated over what they said was the lack of a strong reaction by Wolfe.
In November the university's football players refused to practice or play until Wolfe stepped down, and some teachers and students threatened to boycott classes.
(Editing by Ben Klayman and Fiona Ortiz)