COLUMBIA — David Walsh stepped to the microphone at a noon forum on Tuesday with MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and said he wants to know where his money goes.
Walsh was among a host of people who turned out at Monsanto Auditorium in the Bond Life Sciences Center to hear about changes for MU. The chancellor spoke about a research program, a medical records partnership and the Nebraska game for about half an hour before taking questions for about 45 minutes. Attendees asked about faculty and staff salaries.
1. Food for the future: Deaton said this builds on the molecular biology work started at MU several years ago. The research for food of the future also partners with MU and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
"We can do this better than any other universities," Deaton went on to say. "It's clearly something the world demands, and we have a comparative advantage."
In addition, research in food for the future provides research for other disciplines, including business — most specifically agribusiness in Missouri —public health, health policy and law.
2. Sustainable energy: Deaton said MU has an edge in energy issues. The MU Research Reactor provides opportunities for research and training in nuclear energy. According to Foster, the federal government is interested in research concerning sustainable energy, making it the most promising area for federal funding.
3. Comparative medicine: This is the combination of MU's veterinary, medicine and animal science programs. Mizzou Advantage aims to combine aspects of all three programs to become competitive with other universities with similar resources and programs.
4. New media: Deaton detailed the grants the Reynolds Foundation gave to the Missouri School of Journalism and the innovative work done with those funds. He also said research in new media would intersect with many other disciplines.
5. Changing technologies and their effect on education: Deaton said the university will invest in faculty and staff positions to accommodate and research these changes. This provides an opportunity for new jobs, because these changes include multi-disciplinary work.
Walsh, a full-time staff member in the acquisitions department at Ellis Library, said paychecks are decreasing for service staff at the university. Walsh pointed out new mandatory pension contributions and an anticipated increase in the cost of health benefits for faculty and staff.
"We're living paycheck to paycheck," Walsh said. "So money is a big issue." He said the people he represents — the staff who work "in the trenches" — get discouraged when their concerns aren't aired.
Deaton acknowledged Walsh's concerns but said salaries won't increase next year. He said it was a UM System-wide decision that he doesn't have control over. The system instituted a wage freeze in November 2008.
He also said that funds will first be directed into "problematic areas."
"We have to ensure the future direction of the university," Deaton said.
During his talk, Deaton said the university has received more money because of increasing enrollment.
But Provost Brian Foster said in an interview that $4 million of that will go into the initial phases of Mizzou Advantage, a program aimed at trying to keep MU competitive in its strong areas, such as veterinary medicine.
The program aims to increase research activities and recognition for the university. Under Mizzou Advantage, five key areas — areas where MU has comparative advantages — would be addressed.
Deaton also brought up the Cerner Corp. partnership and the issues surrounding it. He said a small group of employees at MU Health Care would become Cerner employees, but he was quick to assure that they are "trying to retain the culture of employment" at MU. Out of 123 MU Health Care employees affected, 100 will become Cerner employees.
UM System spokeswoman Jennifer Hollingshead said in an interview the transition will begin Jan. 1. She said salaries are being negotiated.
Deaton also talked about Thursday evening's Nebraska game. Ann Patton, a programmer analyst expert for MU, aired concerns about parking on Friday morning.
Jacquelyn Jones, the vice chancellor for administrative services and one of the panelists for the meeting, addressed Patton's concern.
"There were going to be issues Friday morning as well," Jones said. "Everyone needs to be prepared to be very patient and flexible."