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Occupational diversity, 2-year budgets among recommendations for UM System

Quadrangle at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
(Flickr Creative Commons User Adam Procter)
A mid-Missouri landmark, the historic columns and Jesse Hall on the flagship campus of the University of Missouri system in Columbia, Mo. The Board of Curators for the system meet today in St. Louis to discuss possible tuition hikes.

Republicans lawmakers reacted to the 2015 protests on the Mizzou campus by creating a commission to review the entire university system’s operations and recommend changes. And if the UM System failed to implement those changes, lawmakers would respond by slashing the system’s budget.

Those recommendations were released today.

They fall under four general categories:

  1. Governance, accountability, and administrative agility
  2. Workforce readiness, program analytics, and articulation
  3. Diversity, Title IX, freedom of speech, and academic freedom
  4. Research, extension, and distance learning/e-learning

Under the first category, commission members specifically set out advice for incoming Republican Gov. Eric Greitens when choosing new members for the Board of Curators: They want any new curators to be picked based on “occupational diversity,” in addition to race and gender.
“The prior set of curators were pretty much all lawyers, and we felt that they didn’t have enough diversity in their background to deal with a lot of the issues that come up,” said commission chair Jeanne Sinquefield. “It did not mean that individually (they aren’t) strong, qualified people, it’s just you need people with a research background, for example, or (from) a regular business, or who were graduates from the university (system).”

The report notes that Greitens will “have up to five system curator appointments” to bring before the Missouri Senate after he’s sworn into office next month.

Other category one recommendations include reviewing all rules and regulations while also looking at “best practices” from other universities, and a broad set of accountability measures that includes a “scorecard.”

Under category two, commission members want the legislature to approve the budget for the UM System every two years, instead of annually, to allow for “more accurate forecasting, planning and budgeting.”

“If you’ve ever run a business, it’s hard to have abrupt changes every year, if you’re trying (to plan),” Sinquefield said.

That recommendation, though, won’t likely see the light of day in the Missouri House.

“I understand why the review commission would recommend something like that, because on the surface it would appear that it would (provide) more budgetary certainty,” said House budget committee chair Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob. “But it would tie the legislature’s hands moving into the second year, (and) two years in the budgeting world is a pretty long time. It’s so hard to predict even one year in the future what revenues are going to bring, much less two years.”

Under the third category, commissioners want to adopt policies that promote “academic freedom” for students, regardless of their political beliefs.

“That was more of a recommendation based on a lot of universities,” said Sinquefield, “and we want to make sure that it’s very clear that the University of Missouri System is a welcoming place for the discussion of ideas.”

Recommendations under the fourth category include:

  • Insist on academic excellence in hiring and expanding programs
  • Measure departments using approaches like academic analytics and other “objective sources”
  • Build research partnerships with industry, federal research facilities, consortia, and strategic nonprofits
  • Dual appointments of vice chancellor (campus) and vice president (system) for UM extension efforts
  • Establish a cross-campus committee to recommend ways to expand distance learning

UM System interim president Michael Middleton released the following statement:

“Upon receiving the University of Missouri System Review Commission Report, I plan to review with the leadership team to assess the recommendations. We will certainly consider adopting any recommendations that add to the betterment of the university’s mission and will help us continue to provide a high-quality education for our students.”

The full report can be viewed here.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.