JEFFERSON CITY - University of Missouri president Manuel Pacheco told a key Senate committee that U.M. needs to reclaim its place as one of the nation's premier research universities.
"We can move the University of Missouri into the top tier of public teaching and research universities," Pacheco said. "It was at the top tier, it has slipped, but it's possible to get us back there."
Pacheco was one of 12 top college and university officials from around the state who appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday evening to defend their 1999 budget requests.
The hearing let the presidents highlight to the committee their schools' top priorities, and the questions the senators ask can sometimes give clues about which funding requests will be honored and which will be cut.
For every $1 invested in research programs, Pacheco said he believes the university can increase support by $3 from other sources, such as federal and private funds.
"Frankly, before I came here I was not impressed with the success the university has had over the last several years," Pacheco said. "I believe it's possible to get our fair share."
Gov. Mel Carnahan requested the legislature approve $15 million for Mission Enhancement in fiscal year 1999, the first year of four years of funding.
While Pacheco emphasized broad themes, senators fired questions at him about the bottom line, asking him to explain a news article published in the Columbia Missourian in June which showed Missouri's curators spend more than their counterparts at other Big 12 universities.
"Is anyone getting a handle on this?" Sen. Larry Rohrbach, R-California, asked. Pacheco said he hadn't seen the article nor had his position when the spending for items like chartered airplanes to ferry curators to meetings occurred.
"I don't know enough to comment one way or the other," Pacheco said.
Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Joplin, asked Pacheco whether the university planned to request $4 million every year to help fund endowed chairs.
"When is the jar going to be full?" Singleton asked. "Do you want an endowment for every professor you have over there?"
Pacheco said that the income produced through funding for the endowed chairs is matched by private donations.
Pacheco also answered questions from Sen. Mike Lyber, D-Huggins, about hours faculty teach.
"Eight hours is a pretty nice deal," Lyber said.
Pacheco responded that teaching hours don't reflect hours spent on preparation or research, and consequently, don't reflect the whole picture. To illustrate his point, he drew a parallel to legislators' duties.
"I don't mean to be contentious," Pacheco said, "but we don't measure your (senators') productivity by the amount of time you spend in committee hearings."
At the end of the hearing, Lyber thanked Pacheco for his testimony.
"I hoped we haven't been too hard on you your first time," Lyber said.
"I'm not going to say I enjoyed it," Pacheco responded, "but on the other hand, you've been very kind."