Desperate times call for desperate measures. This is certainly what Gary Forsee, the University of Missouri System president, had in mind when he issued a hiring freeze for university faculty and staff in November.
The freeze affects all four UM System campuses and applies to all open positions, except those that are fully funded by grants, endowments or federal work study programs, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said. A position can be unfrozen by petitioning the chancellor’s office. Each petition will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will depend on this basic criteria: if the position has a possibility for revenue generation, if it will encourage student recruitment or if it is necessary to patient care in health care facilities. Other special circumstances will be considered.
Betsy Rodriguez, UM system vice president for human resources, said the freeze is meant to prepare for a troubled economy in the future and is not a response to current budgetary constraints.
However, in spite of all the staff cutbacks, MU football coach Gary Pinkel was offered a new contract in November. Some of his perks include more than $2.3 million in other guaranteed compensation, a $25,000 discretionary fund, two courtesy cars and $200,000 per year in deferred compensation, up to $750,000 for incentives depending on how well the team plays. The contract expires in 2015.
If money talks, what does Pinkel’s contract say about the university’s priorities? Is this acceptable?
Investigating the police
The Columbia Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit cleared Hickman Resource Officer Mark Brotemarkle for any wrongdoing Thursday. But will he be cleared in the eyes of the community?
Brotemarkle received three formal complaints, one accusing him of using excessive force when removing Hickman student Diamond Thrower, 16, from a fight in October. The second complaint accused Brotemarkle of pushing and dragging a female student to the office. The third complaint was filed by Hickman parent Demetria Stephens, who said that Brotemarkle exhibited an intimidating demeanor toward her. All of the complaints were deemed unfounded in Thursday’s report.
"I fully expect some community disagreement with some or all of the findings made in this report," Interim Police Chief Tom Dresner stated in the report.
While many people are happy that Brotemarkle was cleared, some, like Stephens, say they think that a different entity should’ve been responsible for the report.
“I wish we could get someone from outside to investigate, instead of in-house,” she said. “You’ll always get the same results that way.”
Rex Campbell, chairman of the Citizen Oversight Committee, said he could understand the level of force Brotemarkle used, but that he had also received several complaints about the officer’s use of force and demeanor.
This situation is just the kind of issue that a proposed citizen review board would address.
“I can speculate that a (citizen review board) might recommend to the Police Department that they should review their policies and procedures for school officers,” Campbell said.
Who should have the responsibility to review police officers' actions?
This was supposed to be the year.
The 2007 season for MU football was the best the Tigers had seen in years: a No. 1 ranking, a Big 12 championship game, a win at the Cotton Bowl against Arkansas. While hopes for a national championship were dashed by Oklahoma last December, the Tigers had put themselves on the map.
MU enrollment numbers soared this fall, which many attributed to the national attention on the football team. The team had 16 returning starters, including Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy candidate Chase Daniel. Star players Chase Coffman, Jeremy Maclin and William Moore were back as well. Tickets sold out, and the stadium was packed with eager fans.
The season started out well, but after back-to-back losses in October to Oklahoma State and Texas, the momentum seemed to be lost. The Tigers’ recent defeat to key rival Kansas was another blow.
Going into Saturday night's Big 12 Championship, the team had a chance to make up for not only the recent trend of this season but also the heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma last year.
Considering all the preseason expectations, was this season a disappointment?
Turning rivers dry
The Lake of the Ozarks is notorious for its intoxicated boaters. In 2006, the lake accounted for more than half of Missouri's boating accidents and almost three-quarters of all drunken boating arrests by the Missouri State Water Patrol. Legislation has been passed to discourage those dangerous behaviors at the lake.
A recent bill submitted for prefiling to the Missouri Legislature is trying to make sure that kind of behavior is regulated on Missouri's rivers as well.
The bill, submitted by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, would make it a Class A misdemeanor to have a beer bong, alcohol in gelatin form or a container with more than a gallon of alcohol on a river. The bill would also ban Mardi Gras-style beads, claiming that they are intended to cause fighting, nudity or obscene language.
The bill is just one of the many that were filed on Dec. 1, the first day to prefile bills for the 2009 session.
Do you think that drinking on Missouri rivers is a problem? Could this legislation solve the issue?
Big deficit to overcome
Gov.-elect Jay Nixon has a lot on his plate: What to do about a projected $324 million budget deficit?
"By making tough decisions and instilling the right priorities, we will have additional resources to create new jobs, make health care more accessible and help middle class families during these tough economic times," Nixon said.
The state's budget shortfall is a complete turnaround from predictions six months ago, when economists anticipated a surplus of $281 million. Commissioner of Administration Larry Schepker said he doesn't think the deficit will be as bad as some are predicting, but Nixon is still preparing the state for a worst-case scenario.
His ideas for a solution include a freeze on long-term contracts for goods and services, requiring all departments to make a plan for reducing expenses, having state departments administer performance reviews and reviewing construction projects.
Will Nixon's proposals be enough to offset the anticipated deficit or will deeper cuts in spending be necessary?