The University of Missouri System is a state university system made up of four public universities, a healthcare system, an extension program providing distance learning opportunities and 10 research parks home to high-tech companies. Funding comes primarily through tuition, hospital services and educational revenue. The UM System annually receives $430 million from the state, 14 percent of current fund revenue sources. Its total revenue is $3 billion.
The four campuses, MU, UM-Kansas City, UM-St. Louis and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, are each separately accredited and offer both undergraduate and graduate/professional programs. MU, the flagship campus, is the oldest and largest school within the system.
The Board of Curators governs the UM System and chooses the system’s president, who reports to the board. Each campus has a chancellor who reports to the president. There are also five vice presidents, a chief of staff and UM Healthcare Advisory board who report to the UM System president.
MU was founded in 1839, but the UM System wasn’t created until 1963. The Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy was established in 1870 as part of a compromise between the General Assembly: The Colleges of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts would be housed at the Columbia campus, and an additional campus would open in Rolla. When the UM System was created in 1963, the Missouri School of Mines became UM-Rolla (now known as Missouri University of Science and Technology).
UMKC was the University of Kansas City before becoming part of the UM System. At the time, MU was having trouble attracting Kansas City-area residents and the University of Kansas City was $1.5 million in debt. Richard Drake, a former president of the University of Kansas City, told MU President Elmer Ellis that he saw no future for his former school unless it became part of MU. To benefit both schools, plans were made to merge the two campuses.
After a country club sold land in St. Louis to the Normandy School District to create a junior college in 1950, the college, Normandy Residence Center, opened under the supervision of MU. After a large increase in enrollment, it was suggested that it become a four-year institution and a campus of MU. In 1963, the St. Louis, Kansas City, Rolla and Columbia campuses merged to become the UM System.
The Board of Curators is the governing board of the UM System. It is in charge of appointing a UM System president. Both the board and president are in charge of the four-campus system, with the board delegating power to the president.
Before the UM System was created, MU had a president. Now, there is one UM System president and a chancellor for every campus. The interim UM System president is Mike Middleton (above). The interim MU chancellor is Hank Foley (below).
The fall semester of 2015 was punctuated by protests and resignations that put MU in the national spotlight. Beginning in August, when graduate student health care was cut, MU experienced a number of protests about graduate rights, Planned Parenthood and racial injustice that culminated in the resignations of Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and UM System President Tim Wolfe on Nov. 9.
It is commonly believed that Loftin and Wolfe both resigned because of the issue of racism on campus and what some saw as the lack of an administrative response. Loftin, however, did not resign solely because of student discontent, but also because of growing discontent from faculty and administrators.
In October, nine deans met with Loftin, Wolfe and Provost Garnett Stokes to ask for Loftin’s resignation, citing miscommunication, frustration with Loftin and a relationship that was irreparable. He didn’t resign.
Faculty were also unsatisfied with Loftin’s leadership; Faculty Council drafted a statement voicing their concern, and the English department faculty voted no confidence in his leadership. School of Medicine faculty were unhappy with the resignation of Dean Patrice Delafontaine, whom many thought Loftin forced out. Loftin also came under fire from students for his handling of a series of racial incidents on campus. Hours before Loftin’s resignation, the deans signed a letter calling for Loftin’s removal because of the “toxic environment” he had created.
While students were unhappy with Loftin’s handling of the racial incidents that occurred in fall 2015, Wolfe became the new target of dissatisfaction after an October Homecoming parade incident in which Wolfe’s car was blocked by Concerned Student 1950 protesters. The protesters were trying to get Wolfe’s attention after they said he had not responded to racial injustices on campus in years past and never responded to letters or emails. Ten days later, Concerned Student 1950 released demands for MU and UM System administrators. The first demand was that Wolfe issue a handwritten apology and hold a press conference acknowledging his “white male privilege.”
In November, following a Missouri football player boycott and national media attention, Wolfe resigned. Hours later, Loftin resigned too. Since then, many have wondered if Wolfe was the wrong target and if it was his role as president to get involved with MU’s problems. The chancellor plays a more direct role in day-to-day life on MU’s campus, whereas the UM System president’s role is typically seen as more overarching. But if the chancellor fails to address problems, as Concerned Student 1950 believed Loftin had done, then is it the president’s role to step in?
It is unclear where the line stands for the president versus the chancellor's roles given the vague nature of the bylaws that govern the chancellor and president.
The Board of Curators was first created in 1839 under the Geyer Act, the same legislation that created MU. Under the act, the curators had the power to conduct business in the interest of the university, draft the school’s bylaws and appoint a president.
The Board of Curators, being the governing board of the UM System, has the final say in all decisions relating to the four-campus system. While the board delegates authority to various officers of the UM System such as the president and chancellors, the curators have the right to act as they see fit. Essentially, the board has the combined power of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.
Some of the board’s responsibilities include assessing the UM System president’s annual performance-based goals, approving the annual budget and tuition, reviewing the university’s mission and “exercis(ing) such other authority as from time to time it deems appropriate” within the laws of the U.S. and Missouri, according to the board bylaws. The board also has the right to make, change or repeal board bylaws and rules.
Curators also have individual responsibilities, such as becoming familiar with the board’s bylaws, accepting and defending “academic freedom and the practice of collaboration governance” and working with the board to balance the public’s interest with the UM System’s need to fulfill its mission.
The board is based in Columbia, since MU is the flagship campus, but it holds regular meetings at all four campuses each year in addition to their annual meeting at MU. The board also has the right to hold any special meetings as they see fit. During meetings, the board sometimes goes into executive session to discuss confidential matters, such as the hiring and firing of personnel and contract negotiations. There must be five members on the board at any time in order to conduct business.
In the beginning of the board’s history, there were 15 curators who served two-year terms. After going through changes throughout the next 30 years, a provision about the board was put into the Missouri Constitution. The new legislation lowered the number of curators to nine and stipulated that curators would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Missouri Senate. Curators serve six-year terms.
In the past, the governor and Senate have clashed over board nominations. In these cases, the governor will either withdraw the nomination and attempt to appoint the person at a later date or be forced to appoint someone else.
No more than two curators can be from the same congressional district, and no more than five can be from the same political party. Three curators’ terms expire every two years. Curators are not paid, but any expenses incurred are paid by the UM System.
There are currently six curators and three vacant seats. The six curators are Chairwoman Pam Henrickson, Don Cupps, Maurice Graham, John Phillips, Phillip Snowden and David Steelman.
Since November, three curators have resigned. One of the former curators, Ann Covington, resigned in mid-November. In January, before the Senate could confirm her appointment, Yvonne Sparks resigned. On Feb. 1, David Steward resigned.
The resignations left the board with a noticeable lack of diversity; there is now one woman serving on the board and no racial minorities. Gov. Jay Nixon said he would fill the vacancies as soon as possible, but the Senate has promised to rebuff his attempts to appoint new curators until a new governor takes office next year.
The UM System president, according to an overview of the UM System organization, is charged with providing “overall leadership, vision and direction for the University of Missouri System” and carrying out the UM System’s mission. This includes creating a positive learning environment, developing an effective administration and setting high standards for community-university engagement.
The president serves as the “chief executive and academic officer” of the UM System, according to the overview, and has the authority to act for and on behalf of the board in any way he sees fit, within the bylaws, board rules and specific instructions of the board. He is accountable to the board and they have the final say in all matters.
The president has the right to vote at all faculty meetings and appoint all non-board committees. Additionally, he reports on progress and needs of the UM System at board meetings and recommends changes as he sees fit.
The four chancellors are the chief academic and administrative officers of their campuses and are tasked with managing their campuses and reporting to the president. Their foremost responsibility is to “attain excellence of programs and offerings within the resources available to the campuses,” according to the Collected Rules and Regulations of the UM System .
Chancellors are also responsible for private fundraising and ensuring student support services are provided. Additionally, each year, the Board of Curators and UM System president visit the chancellors at their respective campuses to meet with the chancellor, deans and a select number of faculty and student representatives.
The president is selected after an extensive presidential search by a committee that selects the private search firm they will use, decides what qualifications they want to see in the next president, interviews candidates and selects the president.
The committee holds forums before they begin the search to gain an idea of what the four campuses and Missouri community as a whole wish to see in the next president. Then they meet to discuss the input received and draft a qualification statement. As candidates begin to emerge, the search committee interviews them and meets with constituent groups before choosing the next president. The process typically takes close to a year.
The presidential search committee for the next UM System president will be composed of 11 representatives from all four campuses — two faculty members, two students, one staff member and all six curators.
The process to hire a chancellor is similar; there is an MU chancellor search committee composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni and administrators. Public forums are held to determine what the community and stakeholders wish to see in the next chancellor, and a search firm is chosen to assist the search committee. Past search committees have conducted searches both only within the UM System and also nationwide.