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UM Curators call for creativity to meet funding challenges

Friday, October 23, 2009 | 6:22 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Creativity will be key to the University of Missouri System's future, Bo Fraser, chairman of the UM System Board of Curators, told curators on Friday.

Public-private partnerships, such as the recent Tiger Institute for Health, a partnership between MU Health Care and Cerner Corp., "represent some of the finest creative leadership," Fraser said.

This creativity is particularly important in light of the current financial environment. UM System President Gary Forsee said that in fiscal year 2011, the system could have as much as a "10 percent challenge" to its operating budget as federal stimulus money — currently part of the state appropriation — expires.

He stressed that the UM System cannot wait for support from the state that might not be forthcoming. "Now is not the time to be dealing with faith-based budgeting," Forsee said.

To this end, Forsee called for "regional capital forums," arranged around the four universities in the system to bring together city leaders, investors, developers, state officials and campus representatives to deal with insufficient state support for capital improvements.

Forsee said after the meeting that he is not sure what would come out of the meetings, but he hopes that a gathering of "smart people ... committed to the growth of the region" could yield creative solutions.

Forsee also called for matching funds from the state to support science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, initiatives, which could include hiring faculty, introducing new research projects or building facilities. He cited a state program in the mid-90s that provided matching funds from the state to support faculty salaries.

Forsee mentioned tuition variation among the UM System campuses — what he termed "market based tuition" —  as a means of addressing some budgetary needs and stressed the need for increased revenue from patents and intellectual property.

Forsee's five key initiatives for 2009, first unveiled at the Aug. 20 Resources and Planning committee, includes a five-year target for $50 million in intellectual property revenue.

Forsee stressed the importance of salary increases to address concerns about lagging employee salaries raised in the Aug. 2o Compensation and Human Resources committee meeting, but he later acknowledged that in the current economic climate, "our ability to make new incremental investments will be challenged."

The curators voted to approve all committee recommendations, these include:

  • A change to the "Acceptable Use Policy" that allows employee e-mails to be searched in the case of "legitimate business need"
  • A new undergraduate film studies degree and graduate clinical and translational science degrees at MU
  • Changes to Collective Rules and Regulations regarding educational assistance, sick leave, holidays and work incurred injury or illness
  • A sole source power plant maintenance agreement
  • Hiring high yield and bank loan and emerging market debt investment managers to manage part of the retirement fund

All of these votes, save for the investment managers, passed unanimously. David Wasinger voted against the recommended investment manager hires. Don Downing did not attend because of family health issues.

The curators heard from Hal Williamson, vice chancellor for MU Health Care, who presented an update on the status of the reorganization there, authorized by the curators last year.

Williamson said the reorganization has "lined up more closely" the three schools in the Missouri health system: the Sinclair School of Nursing, the School of Health Professions and the School of Medicine. The increased interdisciplinary approach to education is important, Williamson said.

Keeping the schools separate, Williamson said, is akin to MU basketball Coach Mike Anderson keeping guards, forwards and centers separate in practice, only to come together during game.

Some curators said they were pleased with what they saw. Warren Erdman praised Williamson's presentation and the early returns on the reorganization. "We got that one right," he said.

 


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