FIVE IDEAS: Hiring freeze hits the UM System

Saturday, November 22, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST

The freeze is on

The University of Missouri System has made a drastic move to fight the ongoing economic crisis.

With fewer funds expected to come in from the Missouri legislature this year, UM President Gary Forsee ordered a hiring freeze Monday on the entire workforce. MU Chancellor Brady Deaton noted Tuesday that 50 positions would remain open, and positions in the progress of hiring will continue as scheduled.

The move is an important one for MU as it strives to maintain its quality and teaching salaries as new undergraduates come to Columbia in record numbers. Forsee said the move should give the university maximum flexibility as it moves forward in these difficult economic times.

Even part-time jobs for students have been frozen as the university tries to find solutions on how to make sure it can get the most out of the money it gets from students and Missouri taxpayers.

Deaton stressed the importance of not changing any of MU’s standards or goals in terms of giving its students the best possible education. Michael O’Brien, dean of MU’s College of Arts and Sciences, also tried to downplay the impact of the decision, saying that he will move forward and his college is adequately staffed to handle next semester’s classes.

How long can the university continue to uphold its standards of excellence with a hiring freeze in place?

A new educational opportunity

Columbia parents will soon have another option when deciding where to send their teenagers to school.

The Columbia City Council unanimously approved the plan for a regional Catholic high school in Columbia. Assuming the required $18.6 million is raised for the project, the school would open in fall 2010.

Public school officials don't expect competition from the proposed Catholic school, and said it could in fact relieve some of the burden caused by too many students in public schools. To this point, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike have shown support for the proposal.

Undoubtedly, some parents in Columbia's three Catholic parishes will be pleased to be able to give their children a religious education, and others may be happy to have an alternative to public schools. But some religious schools have also been accused of recruiting for academics or athletics, and consisting of mostly middle to upper-class students.

Will Columbia's new Catholic school help create higher quality education for all of the city's high school students?

Traffic delays

Mayor Darwin Hindman has never been shy about showing his support for bicyclists.

It's no surprise that a 2005 bike accident was the impetus for the longtime mayor to revive his hope earlier this month that the City Council would implement a delay at Columbia traffic signals. The extra time where all lights would be red could clear the intersection and potentially prevent future accidents.

The change would not incur any monetary cost, but it would throw off the timing of other Missouri drivers living in communities without a delay. Additionally, the delay could have an effect on the drivers who have gotten into a habit of hitting the gas just before they actually see the light turn green.

Hindman also advocated countdown timers, which are already in place at many Columbia intersections.

MoDOT officials will look into the matter and compile reports based on the size of certain intersections and the speed of the cars going through them, among other factors. If a "compelling reason" is found, there should be no hesitation to meet the mayor's demands.

Would a delay on the traffic signals reduce the number of accidents in Columbia?

West Broadway traffic

One of Columbia's more historic drives is likely going to be seeing some renovations.

The city council unanimously approved phase one of a plan to solve traffic issues on Broadway between Garth Avenue and West Boulevard. The council will be taking into account public concerns as well as the results of a 2007 study that suggested left-turn lanes, medians and roundabouts to make the road safer.

Mayor Darwin Hindman stressed the need for improvement of not only the two-lane road, but also the sidewalks running along side of it. Although it's unclear what changes will be made, he called the vote a "very important step."

The designated section of the road is crucial for many Columbia commuters going to and from work each day, but the property of residents living alongside the road is clearly an important concern as well. Any renovations need to be not only practical, but also aesthetically pleasing and not unnecessarily inconvenient for those people that own property along that section of Broadway.

What should be the city's biggest concerns as they address the best way to alleviate traffic concerns on this two-lane section of Broadway?

Revamping the airport

The Columbia Regional Airport isn't done with its revamping just yet.

The public was given its first of four opportunities to learn about the airport's updated master plan as well as projection numbers and changes being made to the runway and other facilities. The few members of the public got to see some of the changes being made based on new security and economic regulations.

Despite the failing economy, lower gas prices combined with a new commercial service provider, Mesaba Airlines, have made flying out of Columbia more reasonable. The airport has tried to capitalize on this opportunity with the launch of a new advertising campaign earlier this year.

The next challenge for airport officials will be coming up with specific proposals to improve the airport and continue to increase productivity. The public is invited to attend a second workshop, tentatively scheduled for January 27.

What could be done to encourage more people to consider flying out of Columbia on their next trip?

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Ayn Rand November 22, 2008 | 11:43 a.m.

It's hard to miss the sad irony of a hiring freeze the same week that the football coach might get a raise from $1.85 million to $2.5 million. It appears ( that currently only $255,000 of his base salary comes from MU, so I assume that means the rest comes from alumni. But it should ALL come from alumni.

George, if you want to see MU free up more money for assistant profs, $255,000 would fund six or seven. Mike Anderson's salary would fund roughly the same amount.

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