Note: as this was being written, it was announced that Mizzou’s head football coach Gary Pinkel will resign at the end of the season for health reasons. He has non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Best of luck to the coach in this struggle.
Okay, America. In a free speech environment where everyone has an opinion whether or not they have the facts, we all know without a doubt that all these delicate little hothouse flowers going to college in the middle of Missouri made up racial slanders and slurs as a way to drive top administrators out of their positions for no good reason. They should learn respect for authority!
(The view is so great from the cheap seats.)
Well, this writer sat down with a source from inside the University of Missouri system – not a student, but an employee – and found out that not only are many of the people who know all the players involved highly entertained by the antics of the current tiger’s den, but that they’re actually far more okay with the interim president of the system Michael Middleton than the outgoing president AND the interim chancellor at Columbia is very well-liked. The source had a lot to say about what former UM-System predisent Tim Wolfe and former Mizzou Chancellor Bowen Loftin did and did not do to bring about their resignations which were quite welcome from the faculty and staff perspectives, let alone the students.
It has been well established that Tim Wolfe was brought into the University of Missouri system to bring expenses down. Yes, the place eats money, but only 30% of the budget is a stipend from the state. The faculty does bring in revenue for their research. Wolfe is a business man who looks at things from a business mind, not an academic one. As such, one of the first things he did was close something called the University of Missouri Press in 2012. This was a publishing house that put out a handful of tomes a year, usually dissertations written by students on other campuses who needed a house to publish which was not on their own campus. The Press was founded in 1958 by the English department and served as an integral part of Mizzou’s membership of the national academic community. It also got a stipend of $400,000 for operations. As such, this was low hanging fruit for someone with the objective of being a “good steward of the people’s money” to eliminate. (For comparison, Gary Pinkel, the football coach, makes over $3 million a year.) Right after The Press was closed, Wolfe and company announced a $32 million capital campaign for a new football stadium. Somehow, the faculty, who depended on The Press in a variety of ways, got the idea that football trumped academics in Wolfe’s mind.
The source also discussed Wolfe being a little too connected to Columbia. He is a graduate, a dad, a son of retired communications department people, and a resident of the town. As such, the other three campuses within the state system aren’t always considered or consulted when decisions are made. This writer will not repeat the language used to describe Wolfe. Let’s just say, the faculty and staff are glad he’s gone. To be honest, it sounds like Wolfe was over the whole system, but St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla more or less ran their own shows. UMSL, UMKC, and Missouri S & T all have different missions and ways to get there, but there is no reason to treat them like ugly step children considering they each are vital in the fields they teach.
One of the big bones of contention on the Mizzou campus which has gotten some national ink was the dropping of health insurance for graduate student assistants. Several reports do state that the Mizzou graduate assistants were notified the week before classes began and after the contracts were signed and after these people would have had an opportunity to find employment in the field elsewhere if health insurance was an issue for them. What hasn’t been reported so much is that the other campuses knew this was a possibility at the system level and were able to notify THEIR graduate assistants to give them time to find something else if needed, and be able to replace them months earlier. The decision to not communicate this in a timely manner at Mizzou was essentially Bowen Loftin’s. That was probably the most egregious example of his lack of communication, but not the only one, and part of the push behind all the faculty no confidence votes.
This sort of lack of communication exacerbated a problem with the faculty at Mizzou in that they were not involved in a lot of decision making. This is contrary to the way other campuses operate. The explanation was that a university is more like a law firm where all the partners get together and make decisions. In the case of closing The Press, for example, according to the source, that decision should have had faculty input and did not. And it is still sticking in people’s craws.
So, from those perspectives, Wolfe walking away, and Loftin moving to another position (a move that was in the works already and was made immediate rather than at the end of the semester as offered) were actually welcome. In fact, the entire episode would not have been encouraged or had faculty participation if there weren’t issues underlying.
As for the race thing…the source was actually sympathetic to the students after a fashion. The source, like many colleagues on campus, is a Mizzou alum. Each of them experienced some form of discrimination and name calling from a religious or racial perspective. Blacks, Jews and Catholics, specifically, were on the receiving end. Yes, taking the insult was part of growing up, but the question the alumni have is has this ever been addressed at the top at Mizzou at it was on at least the campuses at UMKC and UMSL. Has it ever been said to not just faculty and staff, but the STUDENTS who aren’t from the two big metropolitan regions, or the other college towns (Springfield, Cape Girardeau, and Kirksville), or Jefferson City or Joplin that saying “Catholics breed” is not just an insult, but unacceptable? What was said about Jews and Blacks was even worse. That is what students in decades past faced when going to Mizzou. From that angle, having a safe place to go even if it is not school sanctioned is not a bad thing. The extreme stuff, yes, is stupid, but there’s no need to rub salt in any wounds or bodily openings.
As for Melissa Crick, the Assistant Professor in Communications who held a courtesy appointment to teach in Journalism and is now on the hook for criminal charges, that is a standard practice, actually. What it means is that she had privileges to teach a journalism class if needed. She’ll be up for tenure sooner or later, and the source says the rumor mill has it the Communications Department at Mizzou is beyond ready to move on from this incident.
So, there you have it. The outside world may be looking at Mizzou in horror and asking how the inmates can run the asylum, but the reality is that the change at the time was actually needed, and the people within the system are ready to move on. The budget issues remain and there are people on all campuses justifiably worried about their jobs, but being rid of Tim Wolfe is a relief for the academics on a number of levels not described here. The outside world may not see this, but there are reasons why this is a good thing.
It’s time to move on and quit paying attention to Mizzou. They will do better sorting this out without the microscope.
BTW, for those who think Mizzou is amazingly liberal, in Missouri, visit Saint Louis University, Washington University in St. Louis, Rockhurst University (Kansas City) and Westminster College in Fulton. Mizzou’s not bad next to them.