Curators discuss moving forward after ‘challenging times’ in the UM System

The curators also discussed MU campus developments and tuition and fee increases.

The UM System Board of Curators met at UM-St. Louis on Thursday, Dec. 10 for the first time since former UM System President Tim Wolfe resigned Nov. 9.

Topics of discussion included tuition and fee increases for the 2017-18 school year, new degree programs and new campus projects at MU.

University Relations

Acknowledging the “challenging times” for the UM System, Vice President for University Relations Steve Knorr provided information on how the system was moving forward.

Knorr’s office is focused on rebuilding trust and confidence, showing transparency and results and being accountable. As an example, he cited the fact that the UM System has received 648 requests this year and given out over 140,000 pages of records in response.

He said they reached out to all the congressional representatives in Washington D.C. and Jefferson City.

“We’ve had the phone firmly planted to President Middleton’s ear,” he said.

Knorr also previewed the upcoming legislative session, addressing six potential pieces of legislation. He told the curators to expect bills removing restrictions on the state’s concealed carry laws. Currently, a concealed carry permit doesn’t allow people to have guns on college campuses.

In September, an MU law professor sued the Board of Curators over the firearms restriction, calling the policy unconstitutional.

Knorr said the curators should also expect bills on the composition of the curators, specifically on a voting student representative. This issue is not new. Twenty-seven bills have been proposed to give the student curator a vote. One legislator has proposed a bill to establish a review board for teaching waivers, and the topic of tenure review will be broached.

Finally, Knorr said lawmakers might consider dissolving the UM System, citing a story in the St. Louis Business Journal..

Knorr stressed the need for unity among the curators, as people “will be looking for cracks in the dam.”

“We as a university must speak as one voice,” Knorr said.

Curator Philip Snowden agreed with Knorr.

“In Jeff City, we are the crosshairs, it seems like,” he said. “It would seem that we need to concentrate on being a single voice.”

The Board of Curators voted to approve two new degree programs at MU. The first, an LLM in American Law, is aimed at foreign graduate students looking for an introduction to the American legal system. It will prepare those students for the a U.S. bar exam.

The second, a master’s in data science and analytics, targets students who want to be data scientists and offers a variety of emphases in related fields. The interdisciplinary program might grow to be offered at all four system campuses.

Tuition and Fees

The curators presented proposed changes to tuition and fees at the UM System for the 2017-18 school year. The changes will be finalized at the curators’ February meeting.

Tuition for undergraduate Missouri residents would not increase and tuition for non-residents would increase at the level of the Consumer Price Index, according to the proposal. Senate Bill 389 limits tuition increases for undergraduate students who are Missouri residents to the increase level of the CPI.

MU is recommending a 3 percent increase in supplemental fee costs, a 3.5 percent increase in housing costs and a 1.9 percent increase in dining costs.

Update on MU’s master plan

MU is planning to demolish and rebuild McKee Hall, per Vice Chancellor for Operations Gary Ward’s presentation to the Board of Curators on MU’s master plan.

“It’s not a very good building,” Ward said. “The best solution for McKee Hall is to take it down and rebuild a new building.”

The new building will have an undergraduate focus, and the whole project is estimated to cost $25 million.

MU is currently looking for a private company to develop a graduate and family housing complex at the site of former University Village and current University Heights. A market study conducted by the university found that 400 to 700 graduate students would take advantage of the housing. This past school year, graduate students have called for more university-sponsored housing options and affordable childcare, according to demands issued by Forum on Graduate Rights.

“We also will be exploring the possibility of adding childcare space to this project,” Ward said.

Other projects include a new building for the Sinclair School of Nursing, an interdisciplinary research facility called the Translational Precision Medicine Complex and additional plant sciences buildings on MU’s east campus across College Avenue.

The nursing school building will allow for 80 additional students, larger classrooms and a simulation center.

Ward said the “current nursing facility is not conducive to any modern education.”

Ward will provide a more detailed presentation on the projects at the curators’ February meeting.

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