UPDATE: Craig Van Matre is out as a UM System curator

Thursday, February 2, 2012 | 1:02 p.m. CST; updated 7:49 a.m. CST, Friday, February 3, 2012

COLUMBIA — Craig Van Matre is disappointed that his run as curator for the University of Missouri System is over before it really got started.

As the UM System Board of Curators met in Kansas City, Van Matre's nomination by Gov. Jay Nixon went, at last, before the state Senate on Thursday morning.


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Shortly after noon, as several legislators objected to Van Matre's confirmation, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, withdrew the nomination.

"It's how I understood it would happen — that the filibuster could not be broken and, therefore, I was toast," a deflated Van Matre said a few minutes later in his Columbia law office.

Van Matre has been the board's interim representative for the district that includes Columbia and Boone County. Unless he is replaced soon, that district won't be represented on the board when it votes on proposed tuition increases. Those increases are being discussed at the meeting under way, and a vote is expected in the next few weeks.

The deadline for confirming Van Matre is this week. He said he had known for about a week that this was how his appointment would shake out. That was why he didn't attend the board meeting.

Nixon appointed Van Matre as a curator three times: in January, June and October 2011. Each of the first two times, Van Matre’s name was withdrawn before it could be voted on by the senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee. On Monday, the committee voted 8-1 to move Van Matre's appointment forward to the full Senate.

The dissenting vote came from Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles. He said Monday that his vote was influenced by a 2007 Columbia Daily Tribune editorial in which Van Matre criticized state Republicans' reaction to the Missouri Nonpartisan Court Plan.

That was again raised Thursday in the Senate debate. Finally, calling the proceedings "an insurmountable hill," Schaefer withdrew Van Matre's nomination.

That leaves two openings on the nine-member board, Van Matre's and that of Judith Haggard, who resigned recently. Pamela Henrickson of Jefferson City was confirmed last week.

Asked whether he would like to continue his involvement in the workings of the UM System, Van Matre said he didn't think the time was right to decide that.

"If being involved would hurt," he said, "I don't want to do that."

Van Matre has attended board meetings since his initial appointment. He called his opportunity to serve on the board an honor.

"It's an opportunity to do good work," he said.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Nixon said that during Van Matre's time on the board and throughout his professional career, he has served the University of Missouri and the state well. 

"Craig is an eminently qualified and dedicated public servant," the governor said, "and I appreciate his willingness to help move our state forward."

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Mike Martin February 3, 2012 | 8:16 a.m.

I'm no fan of Mr. Van Matre's clientele (big, taxpayer-funded developers), or what he helps those developers do (line their pockets with taxpayer incentives).

But if the part about a Trib editorial costing him this curator's spot is true, it's an outrage. Freedom of speech means a lot of things, including that people should be free of official retaliation for what they write or speak. Of course, Senator Dempsey and colleagues can argue that "it's just politics," but it's petty politics at best.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 3, 2012 | 1:12 p.m.

Freedom of speech means a lot of things, including that people should be free of official retaliation for what they write or speak.

You're kidding, right?

Perhaps you need to send your comment to the US Senate where they do the judicial confirmation thingies.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor February 3, 2012 | 2:31 p.m.

I think Mike is right about one thing. It is not good and makes the legislators look childish. If Mr Van Matre had written and editorial that had anything to do with his ability to carry out the duties of curator or disparaged the University or something, I could see this. But, use your big stick to keep the best from the job just because they wrote something you didn't like that had nothing to do with the issue at hand?

I bet my dad could beat up your dad...

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 3, 2012 | 2:46 p.m.

Partisan state university curators aren't non-partisan Federal Supreme Court Justices. And besides, the criticism holds regardless the venue.

Given that Van Matre is a Dem (I know a lot of people think he's GOP) and the Senator who smacked him down is GOP, this reeks of petty politics.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 3, 2012 | 2:47 p.m.

To repeat what I said elsewhere on this subject (curator selection procedures), this is like arguing over how the dining room table should properly be set while the house itself is slowly burning, "the house," being the financial state of pubic higher education in Missouri.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 3, 2012 | 4:27 p.m.

What do you mean by "Partisan state university curators aren't non-partisan Federal Supreme Court Justices?"

i.e., the definition of "partisan" in this context. To me, the word in this sentence implies curators are "supposed" to be partisan...favoring one thing (idea/philosophy) over another...which is what this whole hoo-haa is all about and why it is being criticized on these pages. It's arguing in a circle.

I also think it that because a person is of one party, and another is from another, that the word "reeks" does not necessarily follow, especially just because you don't agree. That mindset is one of the reasons we are so polarized, that he/she/it is a [democrat/republican/CEO/activist/etc] and their words are automatically discarded and discredited.

For me, I think there are many hidden, underlying things going on, interrelationships/past happenings that are in play, and Van Matre's articles are just the external excuse. I'm neither happy nor sad about Van Matre not being a curator; I do not know him and I know virtually nothing about him.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 3, 2012 | 4:36 p.m.




PS: I was sooooo afraid it would be me.

PSS: Maybe it was intentional...."pubic higher education in Missouri." hmmmmmmmmm.


Whew. Glad that's over.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin February 3, 2012 | 4:56 p.m.

---What do you mean by "Partisan state university curators aren't non-partisan Federal Supreme Court Justices?"---

Just what I said. Read up on the curator appointment and confirmation process.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 4, 2012 | 6:45 a.m.

Whatever turns you on, Michael. :) Maybe we've progressed from the twilight zone to the erogenous zone. (I could go on to compare the latter zone with the state of funding for higher public education in Missouri, but the comparison just might cause me to be permanently banned from posting on this forum. It wouldn't necessarily mean the comparison wasn't valid).

I keep telling everyone that engineers are known to be notorious at spelling. One of these days you're going to believe it. The problem with trying to spell "Flagship" has previously been discussed.

Somewhere, Sigmund Freud is laughing.

(Report Comment)

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