Bill that could give UM’s student curator a vote heads to governor’s desk

Saturday, May 17, 2008 | 2:45 p.m. CDT; updated 3:00 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY ­— A bill that would allow the student curator a vote on the UM System Board of Curators was sent to the governor Friday during the closing hours of this year’s session of the Missouri legislature.

Final passage came in the House by a vote of 100-47.

The provisions of the bill, however, are contingent on Missouri losing a congressional district after the 2010 census.

Legislative passage came after the Board of Curators announced its opposition to the bill at its most recent meeting Monday.

“I think the curators’ criticism is disingenuous,” said Bryan Pratt, R-Jackson County, the House speaker pro tem and the bill’s sponsor. “I think they’re looking to preserve their power. I want to open the ivory tower to students.”

Pratt, an MU graduate, continued, “My goal is to make the University of Missouri better. The curators’ goal is to make the university better. I’ll work on that goal daily, even if the curators do make me mad sometimes.”

Three representatives spoke of the bill as a compromise from earlier versions of the legislation.

“This bill does represent a compromise. It doesn’t go as far as previous student curator bills,” said Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia.

Harris cited provisions that would exclude the student curator from voting on personnel matters.

“In this case, the student curator would be excluded from hiring and firing decisions,” Harris said.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, the bill’s Senate sponsor, described the bill as a major victory for students.

“They’re finally going to have to treat the student curator with the respect they deserve,” Graham said.

The Missouri Constitution mandates that the Board of Curators have nine members, one from each congressional district. Missouri’s population is growing more slowly than that of other states and may result in the loss of a district after the 2010 census. Under the bill, the lost congressional district seat would be filled by the student curator.

“The current generation of this bill takes into account the potential loss of a congressional district,” said Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia. “So the timing of adding a voting student curator would be beneficial.”

The bill was met with some opposition. Rep. Gayle Kingery, R-Poplar Bluff and chairman of the House Higher Education Committee, voted against the bill and also tried to add a sunset amendment that would force the legislature to reconsider the bill in 2014.

Kingery said that voting on issues could be jeopardizing for the student.

“When you vote on policy, you could put yourself in a compromising position,” Kingery said.

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