A House Democrat leader thinks the legislature’s discussion of the University has been too focused on cutting money in response to the handling of protest there last fall, and not enough on racial issues.
The House has proposed a budget that cuts $8.6-million from the University of Missouri’s. It also zeroed out any increase in performance-based funding for MU in Fiscal Year 2017.
Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty thinks the cuts will only hinder the addressing of those issues, and will lead to tuition increases.
“We need to have an honest conversation to say that there is a problem on the campus and that it needs to be addressed,” McCann Beatty told Missourinet. “I have had a number of conversations with some of my colleagues who either don’t believe that there is really a problem on campus or that students just went too far. My response to them is sometimes you have to take things a little far in order to get change.”
See the video interview with McCann Beatty below the article
McCann Beatty says some, including the Legislative Black Caucus, have been having that discussion.
“We believe that some of the demands of the students are reasonable and perhaps some of them aren’t, but I believe we need to give the University the opportunity to try to fix some of those issues. I believe they’re moving in that direction. We’d all like to see things happen a little bit faster but we also know that there are some challenges to doing that,” said McCann Beatty.
She wants to see state aid restored to MU before the legislature completes work on the budget.
Republicans say the cuts to MU have been targeted at administration, so it would be on the University if it chooses to increase tuition in response.
The state Senate begins work on the House’s budget proposal next week when Spring Break ends. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) notes that his proposal to create a University of Missouri System Review Commission includes having that body look at diversity.
“I don’t think it’s a fair criticism to say that we’re not looking at that at all,” said Schaefer.
He said all universities have to deal with diversity and racial issues, and with protests, and he thinks it’s fair to question how the University of Missouri has handled those things.
“The question is why at the University of Missouri when they were faced with that issue did they panic and there was no leadership and the issue wasn’t addressed.” said Schaefer. “As for the issue in the budget, the only way that the legislature has to oversee anything at the University of Missouri is through the budget.”
He notes that the University has record funding this year, “so the legislature has clearly shown support for the University as an institution. I think there’s a distinction between showing support for the institution and showing support for individuals running the institution.”
McCann Beatty says the Legislative Black Caucus believes the legislature should not be telling the University administration or the students what to do, and she thinks personal agendas are driving the cuts to MU’s budget.
“There’s two ways to look at it. One is to say, ‘Well the University is not dealing with racial issues properly. Let’s cut the budget.’ The other is to say, ‘The University should have just shut down the students and since they didn’t let’s cut their budget,’ and I’m seeing more of we’re cutting their budget because they didn’t shut down the students than I am, saying we really have a problem and let’s make sure the University is addressing that problem,” said McCann Beatty.