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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.