Committee Hears Statments Regarding MU Campus Issues
From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

Committee Hears Statments Regarding MU Campus Issues

Date: February 17, 2016
By: Janie Matthews
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 1438

JEFFERSON CITY - Sen. Paul Wieland, R-Jefferson County, filed an official complaint with the University of Missouri against professor Melissa Click during a Joint Education Committee hearing Wednesday, Feb. 17.

During the hearing, members of the MU administration, including Interim President Michael Middleton, Interim Chancellor Hank Foley and Board of Curators member Pamela Henrickson sat before the committee to discuss what the committee sees as the Board of Curators' mishandling of the racial issues that garnered national attention in the fall and the lack of action against Click.

Click is currently on paid suspension while the university is investigating her actions against student journalists and the Columbia Police Department.

"I've seen two videos that show me she's unstable." Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R- Columbia, said. Administration members said they were unsure if Click could be considered a threat to the campus.

"I think the interesting thing about watching that video is you've got students who basically made their statement, listened to law enforcement, were actually moving out of the road, and then you have Professor Click jump in and just try and blow up the entire situation," Schaefer said.

Regarding Click, Sen. Schaefer said that she is "setting the worst image for the University of Missouri that I think anyone has ever seen."

Schaefer said he is frustrated by board's drawn out process of suspending and investigating Click.

"You are now in a position where there is efficient expediency required to show someone is in charge," Schaefer said. 

According to the board, a formal complaint of grievance must be presented in order to get the ball rolling on any decision regarding her employment. Several members of the committee asked if they could present a formal complaint. When Foley said a legislator could file a complaint, Wieland did not hesitate.

Click wasn't the only topic of discussion. Rep. David Wood, R- Versailles, said he would like MU to have more of a "backbone" on other issues.

Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, asked at what point in the future will leadership be stabilized. Henrickson said the board will interview search firms next Wednesday.

"We want the best president we can get for the University of Missouri, and we have no prejudice as to which field they come from," Henrickson said.

In the three-and-a-half months since the interim members of the board took office, Hank Foley said the campus has made a lot of progress regarding response to racial tension on campus. The committee, however, said they still feel that the university has a long way to go.

"We don't have to wait on the actual president to get here or the new chancellor to get here to start doing things," said Rep. Courtney Curtis, D- St. Louis County. "These issues took place 11 years ago when I was a student on campus. This is something that was simmering for years, at least from a minority perspective."

The committee continued to question the board on how they plan to fix the problems that have encompassed the university.

"These things take time, I beg of you give us time," said Middleton. 

Curtis asked the board whether the university has met the list of demands the Concerned Student 1950 group provided earlier in the school year. Middleton said that most of the demands have been met.

Demands from the group include an increase in the percentage of African American faculty on campus, up to 10 percent of the total. The board said they do not feel that they have the funds at this time to hire the number of faculty members required to meet that percentage demand. Foley said that schools in the Association of American Universities (AAU) "range from two to four percent African American faculty."

"There's not a promise that these demands will be met," Middleton said. "The students are not in charge, but the students need to be heard."

Rep. Kathryn Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, said she is concerned with students feeling unable to participate in the free-flowing conversation college classrooms typically allow. Swan said that students feeling marginalized on campus and in the classroom may fear speaking their mind so they do not negatively affect their grades.

"The concern is regarding favoritism in the classroom and the relationship between faculty and students," Swan said."The concern that we have, or that some of us have, is that the academic assessment of students and the grade that is given for the classroom work the merits of that grade is based upon academic performance."

Sen. Jeanie Riddle, R-Callaway County, asked the board what their plans to improve academics on campus are, as the majority of her constituents are most concerned with academic progress at MU. Foley spoke on his plans for the future. He said he hopes for a "destination honors college."

"Students don't want to go somewhere they don't feel safe," said Riddle. 

Foley said that the university has hired a number of "signature" faculty members and that MU is progressing.

By the end of the hearing, the committee was still calling for better leadership on the university's administration's part.

"Take the leadership role seriously, lead on that, and we can be leaders of the nation, we'll never have to be here again," Curtis said.