I almost always attend the twice-a-year sessions that are called “General Faculty meetings.” They’re called that, but the general faculty never shows up. Wednesday’s meeting was no exception. The one attempt to take a vote failed for lack of a quorum, and that only requires 50 members.
Usually, the lack of attendance speaks well of my colleagues’ judgment. The meetings are typically highly scripted and pretty dull. I often leave the room thinking this was 90 minutes I’ll never get back.
Not this time. Sure, there was the script. Faculty Council Chairman Craig Roberts ticked off the standard list of issues the council intends to discuss. There were the ritual references to “shared governance” and the accompanying complaints that the administration doesn’t share enough.
(As to deciding on the Renew Mizzou moves of faculty, staff and museum pieces from Pickard and Swallow halls, for example, the faculty asks “Who?” and “How?” To which the administration replies “What” and “Why,” he summarized.)
The perennially disgruntled nuclear engineering faculty again voiced their disgruntlement.
All that was covered nicely in Thursday’s report by Molly Duffy in your Missourian.
The highlight of this meeting, though, was what amounted to Chancellor Brady Deaton’s valedictory address. After nine years of presiding over these sessions, and over the campus, the chancellor will retire Nov. 15.
He’s a modest man, more given to crediting others than taking credit. True to form, he invited us to applaud newly hired faculty and the also-retiring provost, Brian Foster. He praised the “rich discussions” in the Faculty Council. He said, “I very much honor shared governance.” (But he added that sometimes, as with Renew Mizzou, time pressures and short deadlines preclude wide involvement in decision-making.)
Then he treated us to a review that from a less self-effacing leader would have sounded a bit like bragging. Delivered in his familiar Kentucky hill country twang, the recitation of achievements struck me as more a straightforward accounting of his stewardship.
During his chancellorship, he reminded us:
- Enrollment has increased 28.7 percent;
- Minority enrollment has increased 113 percent;
- Research expenditures have increased 47.5 percent;
- Faculty researchers have registered 77 patents yielding $43.6 million in licensing fees.
That was just the beginning. The campus has 21 new buildings, one of which – the Life Science Business Incubator – houses 25 startups. Enhanced engagement in the arts and humanities has included acquisition of the Missouri Theatre and creation of a new music program and of the Confucius Institute. International connections have been established with the European Union, China, Japan and Thailand. We have more than 2,000 international students and about 800 international scholars visiting at any one time.
He mentioned, almost in passing, the successful completion of an unprecedented $1 billion fundraising drive and the planning of an even more ambitious campaign. The first drive has funded 1,500 new scholarships, more than 90 endowed faculty chairs and nearly $500 million in program improvements. The next drive has already landed $313.4 million in pledges.
All this has been accomplished, he didn’t need to say, in the face of a national recession and a shamefully stingy state legislature.
Still ahead, awaiting his successor, he noted, lurk the continuing needs to recruit top-quality faculty, build on the interdisciplinary Mizzou Advantage programs, grow high-impact research and develop a revenue model that will support it all.
After his conclusion, the meeting descended into a muddle that led to a vote that, in turn, eventually led to a determination that the vote couldn’t count because so few faculty remained in the room. It was the sort of thing that might make an outsider wonder about the faculty’s capacity for “shared governance.”
All in all, though, I suspect the handful of us there came away feeling at least a little better about our institution. I know we felt good enough about our departing leader to give him a standing ovation.
It’s too bad the general faculty missed it.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.