UM System should focus more heavily on research, UM president says

Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 9:22 p.m. CDT; updated 9:44 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 22, 2012

COLUMBIA — The University of Missouri System should consider a new business model, closer to that of research-focused private universities, President Tim Wolfe said Thursday.

At an MU Faculty Council meeting, Wolfe said that as the state cuts funding for higher education, the UM System needs to move toward self-sufficiency.

"I would suggest you look more and more like a Wash U," he said. "If you don't, what do you look like?"

Washington University in St. Louis spent $604 million on sponsored research for the 2010 school year, compared to $136 million for MU the same year.

Wolfe said university research benefits the state's economy and helps students by giving them professors who are top researchers in their fields.

"Student success in our business model has high dependence on research, and I like that," he said.

Wolfe said student success is the UM System's top priority as it tries to close a $47 million budget gap.

"We would like not to be draconian in capping enrollment or cutting merit- and need-based scholarships," he said.

Another priority is making "tough decisions" about which programs can take more severe cuts than others, rather than cutting funding uniformly across the board, he said.

Wolfe did not say how decisions about program cuts would be made. He said he didn't know what sort of metrics were used to make decisions about which programs get cut, and that Chancellor Brady Deaton was more equipped to make those decisions.

He said about 245 jobs within the UM System could be at risk.

Wolfe said he would like to increase appreciation for the system's contributions to economic development, job creation and educating the future workforce.

"My vision for this university is that it's globally recognized ... I don't see anything that's in our way to getting to that particular point in time," Wolfe said. "What we need is support."

In other news

The Faculty Council discussed a few other items at Thursday's meeting.

  • Veterans memorial: A new memorial for veterans who have worked for or attended MU could be located in what is now a vending machine area in Memorial Union South. The proposed memorial would include a kiosk with searchable pictures of the veterans and any related audio from the Library of Congress or Missouri oral history programs.
  • Definition of "faculty": Council member Clyde Bentley said 37 percent of MU faculty are on a non-tenure track and are therefore unrepresented on Staff Council or Faculty Council. He proposed allowing such full-time faculty to serve and vote on campus faculty committees and the Faculty Council and to vote in campus faculty elections.

  • Update on the Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute: The dissolution of the institute is on hold following a meeting of faculty and administrators. The March 11 decision to dissolve the institute will likely be reversed, said Faculty Council Chairman Harry Tyrer, a professor of computer and electric engineering.

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