COLUMBIA — Gov. Matt Blunt vetoed a bill that would give a vote to the student member on the UM System Board of Curators — a move that sparked heated responses from an MU student group on Wednesday.
The Associated Students of the University of Missouri, a student lobbying group, made this bill one of its top legislative priorities this session.
“If one of the bills (Blunt) vetoes is a student-led bill, it’s discouraging and frustrating,” ASUM Board Chairman Craig Stevenson said. “I think it’s disheartening that he would end his term on this note.”
The Board of Curators currently has nine voting members, and a student representative serves as a tenth, nonvoting member.
A bill passed this year would have given the student curator voting rights if Missouri loses a congressional district as a result of the 2010 census, because each curator represents one district.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, proposed similar legislation in years past, but it had never passed out of the Missouri Senate until this legislative session.
Blunt said in a news release Wednesday that giving a student a vote on the board would have created problems because it would target a single constituency.
“This legislation would have created ‘stakeholder’ representatives, which is a significant problem because today the nine curators represent the university as a whole rather than a specific university interest, cause or stakeholder group,” he said.
The board’s student representative Tony Luetkemeyer expressed disappointment in Blunt’s decision.
“This was an important bill the governor needed to sign to show his support for education and show his support for students,” Luetkemeyer said. “I wish the governor had seen it that way.”
Stevenson said ASUM would continue its lobbying efforts in an attempt to override the veto. This year, the bill passed in the Senate 31-2 and the House 100-47.
“We have allies in every corner of the state,” Stevenson said. “We’re going to be leaning on them to overturn the veto. This is a bill that has tremendous support behind it.”
Luetkemeyer said he hopes the General Assembly will continue its support and override the veto.
“It would be my hope that the legislature would give consideration to override the veto,” he said. “My hope is that we don’t have to go all the way through the legislative process again.”
Two-thirds of both houses would have to vote in favor of overriding the veto.
The Board of Curators called an emergency meeting May 12 and voted 7-1 to oppose the legislation. Stevenson said the curators’ opposition to the bill led to Blunt’s veto.
“The curators saw Gov. Blunt vetoing the bill as a last ditch effort to kill the bill,” he said. “My guess is that the board has been lobbying Gov. Blunt pretty hard, and obviously it’s worked.”
Graham issued a news release and said the veto was in connection to Blunt’s relationship with Curator Doug Russell, who is also the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party.
“It’s sad that the governor listened to a political crony rather than doing what is right for Missouri students,” Graham said in the release. “This veto is just another example of why it’s a bad idea to politicize the Board of Curators.”
Several curators expressed their support of the veto in a news release.
“I have had the pleasure of working with three different student curators and I believe the basic philosophy for the student curator on the board is to give input to the board regarding student affairs and their concerns,” Curator Don Walsworth said. “The governance of the university should remain in the hands of lay board, which has no specific agenda for any one constituency.”
Board Vice Chairman Bo Fraser said alternative measures should be looked into before 2010, when Missouri could potentially lose a Congressional district.
“This veto will provide ample time to study all alternatives and determine the best course for the University of Missouri if we lose the congressional seat in 2010,” Fraser said.
Graham said in a release that Blunt’s veto would cast a shadow on his term.
“Because of his action, he will forever be remembered as the governor that believes student opinion is worthless, and that the student curator is too stupid to have a meaningful vote,” Graham said.