State lawmakers who don’t like how University of Missouri leadership has responded to protests and dealt with embattled professor Melissa Click have voted to eliminate its funding increase in the next state budget.
A state budget subcommittee voted to reduce the 6-percent increase Governor Jay Nixon (D) proposed for the state’s colleges and universities to 2-percent for all of them but the University of Missouri. MU was to get a 26.8-million dollar increase in the next state budget.
Chairwoman Donna Lichtenegger (R-Jackson) proposed eliminating MU’s increase and said it’s because, in part, of how University leaders dealt with Click, who was seen on video asking for “some muscle” to keep a student reporter away from protesters on campus last fall.
“I think they need to start showing some leadership,” said Lichtenegger. “The only one that I have seen show leadership in anything was the Journalism School, and the Journalism School right away said we’re not going to have this and took Melissa Click’s privileges away … had the chair of Mass Communications done the same thing we wouldn’t be in this mess right now.”
She also cited how the Board of Curators dealt with being interrupted by members of Concerned Student 1950 during its meeting last week.
“That doesn’t show me that they have students on their campus that are respectful and that know why they’re supposed to be there. They are there to learn, not to protest all day long … and when the Curators immediately didn’t do something about that problem, that was kind of like the last stroke for me.”
Representative Stephen Webber (D-Columbia) says University leaders won’t be the ones affected.
“Retaliatory action from the General Assembly, the legislature, is not going to be felt by administrators that people are frustrated with. It’s going to be felt by students by way of higher fees and reduced educational opportunities,” said Webber.
Lichtenegger said she has heard from others, including constituents and major donors to MU, who wanted lawmakers, “to literally just take as much as we could, and I fought not to do that. The best thing I could get was not doing the 2-percent increase.”
In all, the increase in Fiscal Year 2017 state aid to colleges and universities would be reduced from the $55.8-million proposed by Governor Nixon to $9.9-million. Nixon announced his proposal in September as part of an agreement with the state’s colleges and universities that they would freeze tuition in the 2016-17 school year. Many of their boards have voted to do just that.
The proposed higher education budget moves next to the full House budget committee, then the full House, before going through the Senate. More changes could be made before it must be delivered to Governor Nixon.
Lichtenegger said she is hopeful no more cuts are made, but is doubtful the increase to MU would be restored along the way.
“Unless some big things happen at the University, no,” said Lichtenegger.