February 10, 2016

State auditor expands audits of Missouri higher education

The state auditor has expanded her review of the state’s colleges and universities.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway

State Auditor Nicole Galloway

Last year Nicole Galloway’s office launched a review of the Department of Higher Education and of the state’s performance-based funding for higher education, and those continue. Now it’s looking at the affordability of all universities that get state funding, and of the administration of the University of Missouri system.

“So that’s four audits related to higher education in Missouri, because our public colleges and universities must be transparent and accountable to Missouri families,” said Galloway. “It’s an investment that students make in themselves and I value that. It helps our economy. It’s an investment that families make. It’s an investment that we, as taxpayers, make.”

The audit of college affordability will study compliance with a state law that limits tuition increases based on tuition. Galloway said taking a broad look across all state-backed institutions will offer better perspective at how they are following that law.

“I think that we’ll be able to see some comparables across the state. We’ll be able to see how governing boards are making decisions that effect how students and taxpayers are paying for higher education,” said Galloway.

The audit of the administration of the University of Missouri System will review spending and policies as administered by the UM System President and the Board of Curators. Some state lawmakers had been calling for a thorough audit of the MU System, but Galloway says this is the right place to be looking now.

Related story:  Audit to ‘start at the top’ of University of Missouri System, not ‘deep dive’ lawmakers want

“We’re starting at the top. How decisions are made at the top effect students across the entire state, so that’s where our audit starts,” said Galloway.

Audit to ‘start at the top’ of University of Missouri System, not ‘deep dive’ lawmakers want

The state auditor expanding her review of Missouri’s colleges and universities, and it will include the University of Missouri, but it won’t go as deep into that institution as some state lawmakers want.

State Auditor Nicole Galloway

State Auditor Nicole Galloway

Auditor Nicole Galloway announced Thursday afternoon an audit of the affordability of all state-funded universities, and one of the administration of the University of Missouri System. She says the latter is only a top-level review, now the “deep dive” that some state legislators have called for.

“Starting at the highest level – at the top of the UM system administration, which is not within the four campuses within detail … but staying at the top at the university system administration level, which is the president and the curators, and looking at their spending policies and adherence with their own policies, procedures, and law.”

Galloway would not say specifically whether that would include looking at settlement agreements such as that with former system president Tim Wolfe, who said in an e-mail he and the Curators were stalled in trying to reach agreement on compensation for him. Wolfe resigned in November in response to protests accusing him and the University of inadequately responding to incidents of racism on campus.

“If those are decisions made at the president level and the administration level, those would be on the table for review,” said Galloway.

She said the audit of the University of Missouri System Administration was launched a few weeks ago, and would not attribute the decision to conduct it to anything specific.

“Of course we are aware of what’s been reported in the media, the current conversation that has been happening in the public, in the media – we’re not deaf to those. Just like in any audit that we do we take into consideration public conversations and input in these things,” said Galloway. “It is not an individual instance or one individual event. It’s a collection and a totality of looking at these things at a higher level.”

She did say the recent downgrade of the university system’s credit rating by credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s from stable to negative did get her attention.

“Coming from Columbia – previously from this I was treasurer of Boone County – I care a lot about debt ratings. Certainly when S & P had put out that they were having a negative outlook on ratings … whenever you see something like that it does raise levels of concern.”

Several state lawmakers have called for an audit of the University after last fall’s protests and changes in leadership. Among them, Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) has proposed annual audits of the University by the state auditor. That bill is awaiting a vote in a Senate committee.

Schmitt had called for a “deep dive” into the University’s finances, which this review would not be, but he calls it a, “good first step.”

“But we appropriate a half-a-billion dollars a year of taxpayer money to the university system, so I think that university system in its entirety – campuses, all the campuses and all the different departments – we need to have a full-scale review of what’s going on, what can be improved upon for us to move forward,” Schmitt told Missourinet. “I think that a lot of people have lost trust in the leadership at the University of Missouri.”

Representative Steve Cookson (R-Poplar Bluff) said it’s encouraging that the audit is happening.

“We’ll eagerly be awaiting her finding of facts but we’re also going to expect it to be extremely thorough,” said Cookson.

Galloway said she knows lawmakers are hoping for a broader audit of the University, but said her focus is on the “bigger picture.”

“Looking at the affordability of colleges and universities, how that money is spent. Certainly we make a strong investment in colleges and universities in this state with our private tuition dollars, with public dollars, and when we look at students making their own personal investment, families making an investment, of course they should be held accountable to those things, and we are starting by looking at the revenues that are coming in and then we’re starting at the very top looking at how those expenditures and policies are made. I think that this is the right direction to go right now,” said Galloway.

The university system’s interim president, Mike Middleton, issued this statement in response to the announcement of the audit:

“The University of Missouri System prides itself in being excellent stewards of the resources entrusted to us, including taxpayer, donor and tuition funds, which has been demonstrated by the $77 million saved by the UM System due to efficiencies and effectiveness measures in just the past two years alone. We are also committed to being completely transparent and open about our operations, and welcome the review announced today by Missouri’s State Auditor.”

 

Senate leader says legislature’s relationship with University of Missouri ‘terrible’

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) said the relationship between lawmakers and University of Missouri officials is “terrible.” There have been several issues spanning over recent months between Mizzou and the legislature that could support Richard’s argument.

Legislative investigation of Planned Parenthood

Undercover videos released last year alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally profited from the sale of fetal tissue led to the creation of a Senate interim ‘Sanctity of Life’ committee. The panel was charged with investigating if there were any state laws broken by Planned Parenthood in Missouri.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard

In August, then-Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin testified before the committee. In September the University of Missouri ended the type of privileges Doctor Colleen McNicholas claimed as allowing her to perform abortions there.

Under state law, abortion providers are considered ambulatory surgical centers. Doctors at such clinics must have privileges to perform surgery at a nearby hospital or a written agreement with a hospital to take patients for emergency services.

Since McNicholas no longer had the privileges, the Missouri Department of Health was set to revoke the license of the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility on Dec. 1.  Planned Parenthood has been battling the state in court over its license ever since.  The Department of Health told a House committee no abortions have been performed there since December 1.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, said his office’s investigation of Planned Parenthood in Missouri found no evidence to suggest that the organization’s St. Louis facility is breaking any state laws. The office opened an investigation shortly after the release of the undercover videos.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia)

Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia)

Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), chairman of the Senate interim ‘Santity of Life’ committee called that investigation “incomplete.” He said his committee investigating Planned Parenthood still has work to do.

“They just looked at some representative documents from a very narrow window, a very narrow timeframe, and didn’t actually talk to any witnesses,” Schaefer said was his understanding.

The Attorney General’s office said it conducted “multiple interviews of representatives” of Planned Parenthood in St. Louis and the pathology laboratory that examines the fetal remains that result from abortions performed there, but Schaefer says he believes those spoken to were only attorneys.

Pro-Choice advocates have said that Schaefer’s intentions are politically motivated. Schaefer is running for the Republican nomination for Missouri Attorney General.

Campus protests

Two issues were the subjects of protests at the University of Missouri last fall. One was abruptly taking away the health care subsidies from graduate assistants. The subsidies were reinstated shortly after those protests.

MU campus protests November 9, 2016

MU campus protests
November 9, 2016

The second was what protesters called a lack of response to incidents of racism on the Columbia campus.  Student Johnathan Butler and the Mizzou football team also protested. Butler went on a hunger strike for several days. Football players refused to practice or play games.

Criticism over what were called missed opportunities for then-President Tim Wolfe to address racism on campus led to a bipartisan call from state lawmakers for him to step down.

Wolfe resigned shortly after the protests began and then-Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced that he would transfer to another position with the university.

Click calls for muscle

Senator Richard said part of the reason there’s been a strained relationship between Mizzou officials and lawmakers is the handling of communications professor Melissa Click, who asked for “some muscle” to block a student journalist’s access during the anti-racism protests on campus.

MU Assistant Professor Melissa Click seemed to be instructing students and protesters to block reporters attempting to access protesters’ campsite on public ground. (photo from video by Mark Schierbecker)

MU Assistant Professor Melissa Click seemed to be instructing students and protesters to block reporters attempting to access protesters’ campsite on public ground. (photo from video by Mark Schierbecker)

Click was suspended this week by the MU Board of Curators.

“I understand she’s on leave, but she’s on paid leave. That’s unacceptable,” said Richard.

Senator Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) agrees with Richard.

“The University of Missouri has problems well beyond professor Click. You all as journalists should understand the appalling misbehavior of that woman, not only of assault laws but her absolute journalistic malpractice,” said Onder.

More than 100 lawmakers have demanded that Click be fired, but more than 100 members of the Mizzou faculty have signed a letter in support of Click.

Lawmaker pre-files bill in response to Mizzou protests

Representative Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville) pre-filed a bill in response to the Mizzou football team boycott. He pulled his bill shortly after. It would have revoked the scholarship of any public college athlete in Missouri who refused to pay for a non-health reason.

Rep. Rick Brattin

Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville)

“We saw a coach give his blessing to students to hold a university hostage and refuse to play until they (university officials) give into their demands. “I hope we don’t end up having to pass this legislation,” said Brattin. “I hope the university steps up and does what they should’ve done to begin with and put a stop to this type of behavior and actually enforce rules and regulations that are already there.”

Brattin’s bill would have fined a coach an unknown amount if they endorsed a strike by players.

Some legislators have suggested that the way Mizzou officials handled the fall protests could impact the University’s budget.

A bill that would require annual audits by the State Auditor was heard in a Senate committee this week. Lawmakers have also filed bills that would control faculty teaching waivers and other parts of university operations.

Wolfe email blasts Loftin, Senator, Curator and football team

In an email that circulated this week to the media, Tim Wolfe accused Senator  Schaefer of telling R. Bowen Loftin what to say to a committee investigating Planned Parenthood that’s chaired by Schaefer.

Wolfe accused Schaefer of trying to stop MU professor Josh Hawley from opposing Schaefer in the race for Attorney General.

Former University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe

Former University of Missouri president Tim Wolfe

Wolfe also blamed Loftin for much of the unrest at Mizzou last fall, including the anti-racism campus protests. In the email, Wolfe said he resigned because he had information about a Ferguson-like event on campus, but he blames Loftin for shifting the Concerned Student 1950 focus to Wolfe out of fear that he would be fired.

He said the football team’s decision to boycott practice and games threw gasoline on a small fire.

Wolfe ended the email by telling supporters he wants more money after agreeing to step down.

Senator Richard did not offer ways to move forward with Mizzou officials but the turmoil the university has gone through in recent months has made some lawmakers very unhappy to the point of using their legislative powers.

Agreement would let Missouri professor Click avoid assault charge

Suspended University of Missouri Professor Melissa Click will not face a third-degree assault charge if she meets the condititions of a deal with prosecutors.

MU Assistant Professor Melissa Click seemed to be instructing students and protesters to block reporters attempting to access protesters’ campsite on public ground. (photo from video by Mark Schierbecker)

MU Assistant Professor Melissa Click  (photo from video by Mark Schierbecker)

Click, who called for “some muscle” to block reporters during last fall’s protests on the Columbia campus, must complete 20-hours of community service and commit no violations for one year. She agreed to waive the statute of limitation on the assault charge, which she had pleaded not guilty to earlier this week.

Click was suspended by the MU Board of Curators Wednesday. More than 100 state lawmakers and a member of the Board of Curators had called for her to be fired. In response more than 100 faculty members wrote a letter supporting her.

On Monday, interim Chancellor Hank Foley said he would not rush a decision on whether to fire her or her tenure status.

 

Highlights of former MU system president Wolfe’s email slamming football team, curators, others

Former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe has lashed out at University of Missouri officials about events leading up to his resignation in November.

Tim Wolfe announces his resignation as University of Missouri president.

Tim Wolfe announced his resignation as University of Missouri president, November 9.

In an email sent January 19, addressed to, “friends” and with the subject, “confidential,” he said his resignation was “out of love for MU and the rest of the system,” and to, “prevent further embarrassment and a potential Ferguson-like event on the MU campus.” He described what he calls “unconscionable behaviors” that led to his resignation.

Read Wolfe’s email here

Some of the key points in Wolfe’s email are:

 – He said his decision to resign was motivated by a “significant pending event” that was to occur on the campus the day he resigned, November 9. He said Diversity and Inclusion experts, the FBI, the Highway Patrol, Columbia Police and MU Campus Police were, “aware of a significant Ferguson protester on our MU campus and there was a threat that more were coming in for significant protest that day.”

“So as to prevent injury and further embarrassment on our campus,” Wolfe wrote,” the only way to relieve the pressure and stop the momentum was for me to resign.

The day Wolfe resigned, November 9, then-MU Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin stepped down and student Jonathan Butler ended a hunger strike.

 – Wolfe accused Columbia senator and Republican candidate for Attorney General Kurt Schaefer of pressuring him to take away the right of Josh Hawley, Schaefer’s primary opponent, to ask for an unpaid leave of absence while running. Wolfe said when he refused, Schaefer asked him to intervene in a decision on tenure for Hawley.

He also said Schaefer worked with Bowen Loftin in “shaping” his testimony to the state senate’s Sanctity of Life committee, which Schaefer chaired and which investigated Planned Parenthood over the summer. Loftin also made the decision to end “refer and follow” privileges at the University hospital, which is what the doctor performing abortions at the Columbia Planned Parenthood facility cited as meeting state law requiring her to have privileges at a nearby hospital.

Wolfe wrote of Loftin, “his decision and testimony on Planned Parenthood upset the faculty.”

 – Wolfe said “a few” members of the Board of Curators called on staff and faculty to “dig up dirt,” and used their positions to further personal agendas. He said information discussed at private board meetings was leaked to politicians and the media, and said when he approached the board about his belief that then-MU Chancellor Bowen Loftin should be fired, Board members were not responsive.

Wolfe said the Tiger football team’s strike is what garnered most of the national attention during the fall protests over the university’s handling of incidents of racism. He called the strike, “throwing gasoline on a small fire,” and said Coach Gary Pinkel missed a chance to teach players a life lesson.

He also predicts MU will lose more than $25-million in tuition and fees with reduced fall enrollment, and said the University could lose as much as $500-million in state funding. He said those amounts would have made the $1-million penalty the University would have incurred for forfeiting the BYU game pale.

 – Wolfe said interim president Michael Middleton, who had been in charge of inclusion and diversity issues for more than 17 years, had a long-term relationship with Jonathan Butler, a leader with Concerned Student 1950. He said the Board should be asked why Middleton, who Wolfe wrote, “had failed miserably in his capacity as the long-time leader on diversity issues on the MU campus,” and said Middleton should be asked why he did not stop the growing protest by people he had a relationship with.

 – Wolfe said his silence since his resignation has, “resulted in my name being attached unfairly to the issues of racism and incompetent leadership. As I have stated, I am willing to accept some of the responsibility for what happened.”

 – Wolfe said negotiations over compensation for him have stalled and urged those who received the letter to call members of the Board of Curators to tell them to resolve the situation. “The among the board has put on the table for me is equivalent to what I would have been paid if they had terminated without cause and my annual performance and longevity incentive,” wrote Wolfe, adding the Board asked him to agree to a gag order.

“The Board’s last offer is neither fair nor consistent with Loftin and Pinkel’s treatment and is embarrassing in light of which leader did the right thing to help the university and which leader was only looking out for themselves.”