Legislators left waiting to hear from students

Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:51 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

The scene Monday in Brady Commons was in ways reminiscent of a junior high school dance — only this time the wallflowers were state legislators waiting to talk with MU students.

Sitting at their own tables in Brady, lawmakers who represent areas of Columbia were there by invitation to meet students and to find out what issues concern them.

But with only a handful of students approaching the legislators, the wallflowers rarely got their chance to dance.

“It is kind of like sitting in downtown Main Street watching the world go by,” said Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, who sat in Brady for more than an hour and talked with only a handful of students. Most of them voiced concern about the 3.5 percent increase in tuition.

The longest conversation Robb said he had was with a senior graduating in May: She wanted to know what graduate school she should attend.

The low level of student interest in the event — sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Missouri, the student lobbying organization at MU — became more exaggerated at the top of each hour as dozens of students passed through Brady. They casually eyed Robb and state Reps. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, and Jeff Harris, D-Columbia — and kept right on going.

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, did not attend because of a previously scheduled Medicaid hearing.

Although ASUM officials acknowledged the lack of interest in the local representatives, Craig Kleine, a member of ASUM’s board of directors, said the fact that some students stopped by made the event a success.

“Keep in mind, a lot of the students just don’t recognize who a lot of these people are,” Kleine said.

The event comes on the eve of ASUM’s next big hurdle — gaining voting power for the student curator in the University of Missouri System.

Today, student lobbyists and a number of supporters from Southwest Missouri State and Truman State universities will testify before the House and Senate higher-education committees. They will urge legislators to give the student curator, which has been a part of the UM Board of Curators since 1984, voting rights.

The current student curator, Shawn Gebhardt, of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, only acts as an ex-officio member and cannot vote on issues before the board; the student curator was just recently given the ability to sit in on closed meetings of the board.

The last time this issue went before the legislature was two years ago.

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