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$1 billion MU raised won't go toward assistant professors, classrooms

Thursday, November 13, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

Last week's billion-dollar triumph for our university almost got lost in the furor over the election. So before we turn our attention to the fiscal frustration that lurks just a couple of pages ahead in the calendar, let's pause to celebrate.

To paraphrase Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace, who ever could have imagined that our middle-of-the-pack university out here in the middle of nowhere could raise that much money? Never mind that the University of Illinois has done nearly $3 billion. This is Missouri, where we're cheap and proud of it.

Somehow Chancellors Wallace and Deaton, their hard-working dollar chasers and an astonishing number of generous supporters pulled it off. A billion dollars, it turns out, buys quite a bit. There are 1,500 scholarships, 86 newly endowed faculty positions, $448 million worth of new or improved programs and facilities and $223 million in research funds.

(Disclosure: I'm a beneficiary. I'm being allowed to camp out this year in the spiffy new Reynolds Journalism Institute.)

Hooray!

OK, now that we've celebrated, it's back to the dark side. What that billion doesn't buy are assistant professors and the teaching assistants to handle the flood of new students that have pushed enrollment near the 30,000 goal once enunciated by former UM system president Elson Floyd. That flood seems likely to crest next fall.

Donors hardly ever want to underwrite the basics. Understandably, they want their names on something new and, preferably, highly visible. The basics — from steam pipes to classrooms and what goes on in them — are supposed to be provided by the state. This is, after all, the flagship campus of Missouri's top-tier university.

Supposed to be, I said. In fact, as we know, Missouri stands near the bottom in its support of higher education. Less than half of MU's budget now comes from the state. Tuition revenue provides a bigger share than does the legislature. There's no reason to expect that to change in the next session of the General Assembly.

The ills of the automobile industry are already being felt in Columbia and across the state as the Big Three Losers and their suppliers cut back and close down. Tax revenues are already declining. The state government budget surplus predicted for the current fiscal year is already shrinking. Nobody thinks we've hit bottom.

You probably saw the news story a few days ago in which the Republican leaders of the legislature welcomed our new Democratic governor by telling him they're not going to restore Medicaid coverage to the victims of the Blunt budget axe. There's no money, they said.

And that was Governor-elect Nixon's top priority. University funding wasn't at the top of his or anybody else's list. When the little band of liberals we elected to represent Columbia in the House of Representatives announced this week their big goal for the session, it was campaign reform and early voting. As much as anything, I thought, that's a recognition of budgetary and political reality.

I hope our celebratory mood sees us through the holiday season. Come January, the facts we'll have to face won't be much fun.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.


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Comments

Charles Dudley Jr November 13, 2008 | 1:33 p.m.

Ya with the luck of the donators the money will go to build something and then put somebody's family member's name to it. That would be pare for the coarse.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 13, 2008 | 1:36 p.m.

Another University of Missouri campus is now into the final quarter of a drive to raise $200 Million. Since that campus has only one-fifth the students and one-fifth the living alumni that MU has, the two funding drives can be looked at as being pretty much "equivalent."

It will be very interesting to see how each campus actually spends the funding it has raised.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 13, 2008 | 1:59 p.m.

Hi, JoeMiner!

(Report Comment)
James Patchett November 13, 2008 | 2:19 p.m.

Boy that was a dead give away wasn't it Ayn ?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 14, 2008 | 7:31 a.m.

Well, folks, my letters have been published rather frequently on the editorial page in that "other" local daily newspaper (you know, the newspaper that actually makes a profit) since 1998. I've never on that format made any attempt to hide my identity, nor am I interested in doing so.

A letter was published Monday.

So what's the big deal?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 14, 2008 | 7:50 a.m.

I think all people who post on a main line news paper's pages where it is allowed should be made mandatory where you must to use your real name for creditability issues.

Too many times anonymous posters are allowed to post things and are allowed to get away with it in our press today.

There must be a standard of accountability to peoples posts and especially if they are on the actual newspaper articles like we see here.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 14, 2008 | 8:30 a.m.

Good point, Chuck. Meanwhile, access Monday's Tribune home page, click on "Commentary," scan down "Open Column" (below the editorial), and read about our very own NASA astronaut, Sandra Magnus, whom EVERYONE at University of Missouri should take pride in! Launch is scheduled for today (Friday).

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 14, 2008 | 9:09 a.m.

Yes, let's all use our real names so we can have freaks such as those who pester John Schultz plaguing us, too. No, thanks.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 14, 2008 | 11:35 a.m.

Ayn Rand if you cannot post with your real name for accountability as a whole then you really and truly are only online with places like this to cause decent and trouble IMHO.

Accountability these days in the news is a very big thing and if you are going to be posting information of any kind trying to educate the public at large you should be required to use your true and real name.

If you cannot stand up and be accountable on the internet what does that really say about you in real life.

You yourself are here demanding accountability of this newspaper but yet you refuse to use your real name. Your arguments in all actuality do not hold the weight they would if you used your real name. IMHO your ranting holds no weight at all.

Are you afraid people who actually know who you are or will recognize you as a past "trouble maker" will tell all? If that is the case then good. If you are clean as a whistle or even if not it is only right to use your real name and especially when your commentary is right on the front page and can potentially be seen by everybody nation wide.

If you cannot use your real name to stand behind your presentations then IMHO your comments should certainly not be posted on the front page of a newspaper like this.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 14, 2008 | 11:42 a.m.

Well Chuck, I will dare to disagree with you. If the Missourian lets "Ayn Rand" post here as that name, that is their decision. It matters not one iota to me what name that poster uses. I am able to attach a reputation to it, just like I am able to anyone else who uses a constant moniker, whether their given name or a handle on a message board. This county has a strong history of anonymous publishing with pseudonyms, such as our Founding Fathers. I look more at the content, than the name attached to it. For all you know, I am not the John Schultz you think I am.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 14, 2008 | 11:43 a.m.

As a side note, why don't you and Ray Shapiro post with your real names on the Tribune's forum?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 14, 2008 | 12:24 p.m.

I have links on the Tribune site(s) that lead right back to my blogs so anybody and everybody knows who I am.

I will not speak for ray shapiro on this issue that is his privilege to do so not mine.

My opinions still stand that if you are going to be posting and your comments are posted right here on the very front page then you should be required to use your real name.

All of you demand accountability out of this newspaper so why not show your own accountability and use your real name unless like I said you are only here to cause ongoing problems and that case you should not be allowed to post anyway freedom of speech or not IMHO.

All of you forget the one basic concept of any news media: The owners,editors reserve the ongoing and perpetual rights to allow or disallow any and all commentary at their discretion which also means anybody and everybody who might be posting on this site under an assumed name only to cause derision amongst the readership.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 14, 2008 | 2:59 p.m.

Printing a letter or other commentary with the writer's name withheld is definitely acceptable - if the owner of the publication deems it to be so, but it's also a bit like someone paying you with an unsigned personal check. The check may look VERY impressive, but what is it really worth?
Those who really believe in what they say will at some point put their name on what they say.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 17, 2008 | 12:20 p.m.

If higher ed would lose the publish-or-perish fetish, then faculty could spend most of their time teaching.

Will MU or the J School have the guts to break this ridiculous tradition?

(Report Comment)

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