Kurtis Dunlap is a fifth-year senior at MU. He is an English major who writes about student life as an opinion columnist for The Maneater.
A lot has been written, and a lot will be written, about the nation’s top high school basketball recruit, Michael Porter Jr., playing at Missouri next season — how many big-time recruits he will convince to come play with him, the number of points he will score per game or if he will live up to the hype. But before he has even taken a step on campus as an enrolled student, Porter Jr. has given this campus something that it has been lacking the last few years: pride.
When I first came to MU five years ago, I had never been on a large, public institution’s campus. Just walking around during syllabus week, I could sense energy that surrounded the campus. Everyone was not only excited to be here, but they were also proud to be here.
That seems like a lifetime ago. Since then, I have witnessed the football team take a nosedive, the basketball team win fewer games each year, graduate students get benefits taken away, major university officials resign and the protests of Concerned Student 1950. Over the last couple of years, MU has not been the electric place it once was.
And this lack of energy goes beyond campus, too. I have talked to people who have graduated who are concerned that their degree from MU will turn employers away from them. People who were once proud to put on the black and gold are now worried a MU diploma will hinder their ability to find jobs.
Over the past few months, this campus has been dying for some good news, but the hits just kept on coming. Seven residence halls will be offline next year because of low freshman enrollment, and the state is decreasing its funding to the university.
Something had to go our way eventually, even though someone had to get fired for it to happen — something we Tigers know far too much about. Lorenzo Romar was fired as the head basketball coach at Washington, Cuonzo Martin was hired at MU and somehow all the stars aligned to bring Michael Porter Jr. home as a Tiger.
Now, all the talk will be about how good this team can be, or any other on-the-court stuff you can think of. But before even taking a single class at MU, Porter Jr. has given this campus exactly what it needed.
I had an extra couple of minutes the other day and just walked around campus, and I am happy to report that the buzz is back. I could feel pride and energy in the student body. I could see the newfound smiles on people’s faces, and I could again see why I fell in love with this campus.
Back when I first started writing for The Maneater, I wrote a column about how it didn’t matter what the administration did, that we — the student body — had the power to change and get this campus back on the upswing. Little did I know then that it would take a high school senior to make us all proud again and excited for the future.