MU faculty, community members express opposition to museums' move

Thursday, June 6, 2013 | 8:10 p.m. CDT; updated 1:18 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Dozens of MU faculty and community members gather at a Faculty Council meeting Thursday at Memorial Student Union. Many faculty members expressed concern that they were not consulted about moving the Museum of Art and Archaeology and the Museum of Anthropology to the former Ellis Fischel Cancer Center site.

COLUMBIA — Dozens of MU faculty members and Columbia residents attended the MU Faculty Council meeting Thursday afternoon, where they expressed concerns with how the university handled the decision to move two museums off its main campus.

Jackie Jones, vice chancellor for administrative services at MU, started the meeting by explaining why the university's administration chose to renovate Jesse, Swallow and Pickard halls all at once.

Jones said it costs less for Campus Facilities to renovate whole buildings instead of replacing pieces bit-by-bit. Jesse needs a sprinkler system, a new fire alarm system, a second elevator and better heating and cooling, Jones said, and Swallow needs more classroom and multipurpose space.

The situation with Pickard is more complicated because of lingering radiation from experiments conducted there in the early 20th century. Jones said the university has a commitment with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to have the building empty by Dec. 31 so radiation testing can begin in January.

Pickard is now home to the Museum of Art and Archaeology, and Swallow contains the Museum of Anthropology. Both will have to move two miles north to the former Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, which the university has renamed "Mizzou North."

When the university announced the renovations May 23, it stated that the museums would be located off the main campus "for the foreseeable future." The former hospital has more space and better parking than the museums’ current locations, Jones said.

"At the end of the day, this is going to be much, much better," Jones said.

Several faculty members said moving the museums off campus would limit the number of visitors they receive. Mike Urban, associate professor of geography, said he knows plenty of faculty members and Columbia residents who are worried about what will happen to the museums.

“Just saying that we have plans for them to go back (to Pickard) would alleviate a lot of the concerns,” Urban said to applause.

University administrators will not know what will become of Pickard until testing is complete, Jones said. She did not specify whether the university or the commission would be conducting the radiation testing. MU spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken also said she was unsure.

Jones said the former hospital is the best location the university could find for the museums.

"This is a way to keep the museums open," Jones said.

Several faculty members said the university should have asked for their input on the decision to move the museums.

"I think a lot of people in this room are here because of the decision process," said Nicole Monnier, an associate teaching professor of Russian. "It’s the end of the semester, the end of the academic year, and you dumped this information on us now."

Jones said the administration did not intend to make faculty feel left out. She also said she agreed that faculty should have a say in which departments or programs would become permanent residents of Mizzou North.

At the end of that portion of the meeting, Faculty Council Chair Harry Tyrer took a raised-hand vote to see how many attendees would be interested in setting up another meeting with administrators. Most raised their hands, and Tyrer said he would do so. 

Most of the crowd, including Jones, left the meeting after the discussion was over. Several of the council members who remained could be heard comparing this decision to last year’s decision to close the University of Missouri Press.

Soon after the spring 2012 semester ended, University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe announced the University of Missouri Press would be closing. The decision was met with backlash from faculty, staff and community members. About seven weeks later, the university announced plans to reopen the press.

Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.

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Kevin Gamble June 7, 2013 | 1:55 p.m.

Here's hoping the administration does the right thing and promptly moves the museum back to Pickard as soon as the renovations are complete. The museum is part of campus culture, and by extension the culture of that part of the city. To move it to the outskirts is bad enough temporarily, and would be terrible long-term.

Is it too soon to worry about an MU campus future that's stuffed with student high-rises and devoid of any heart at the center? I hope that never happens.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders June 7, 2013 | 2:48 p.m.

I don't understand why any of these faculty members think that their opinion is desired. It's almost as if their own education has left them unprepared for a life working within a hierarchical institution.

Is that irony?

(Report Comment)

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