English department vote highlights faculty dissatisfaction

The English department took the vote Tuesday.

Citing low morale among faculty and a poor campus climate, faculty members in the English department voted no confidence in Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin’s leadership.

The vote was held during a department meeting Tuesday. Two members abstained and the other 26 voted no confidence, according to a letter by professor Samuel Cohen.

“While we recognize Chancellor Loftin’s service, his twenty-one month tenure has been marked by dereliction of duty in maintaining the quality and reputation of graduate education, violations of the bedrock principle of shared governance, and failure to defend the University’s educational mission against outside political pressure,” Cohen wrote in the letter.

The letter was addressed to the UM Board of Curators, which controls Loftin’s employment status. The curators have held two closed-door meetings in the last two months. The meetings lasted for several hours and attendees didn’t speak to the media after each.

The stage for the English department’s vote was set in August when MU administrators announced that graduate student workers wouldn’t receive their health insurance. After that announcement, graduate students rallied together. A grassroots organization, Forum on Graduate Rights, popped up and issued several demands to administrators that ranged from increased stipends to a return of on-campus childcare. Graduate student workers are currently working to unionize.

Then, in September, MU ended its relationship with Planned Parenthood. In the past, nursing and social work students could have completed training with the women’s healthcare provider. The decision to end the partnership came on the heels of an investigation by the Missouri Senate’s Sanctity of Life Committee. Students have called on Loftin to restore the agreements, which were partially restored in late October.

“Because of these failures of leadership, we believe the best course of action is to find a new Chancellor who will be better equipped to repair the damage done to our graduate programs, adhere to the principle of shared governance, and defend academic freedom at the flagship campus of the public university serving the citizens of Missouri,” Cohen wrote.

Tuesday’s vote wasn’t directly related to graduate student Jonathan Butler’s hunger strike, a topic that was brought up at the Faculty Council meeting this week.

Angela Speck, chair of the Diversity Enhancement Committee, spoke at the meeting. Speck is also leading the push for a pilot program of a general-education-level diversity class.

“Regardless of whether we approve of this method of getting action, these are our students and they need our care,” Speck said at the meeting. “Showing up and talking to the students out there and listening to them would be fabulous.”

When The Maneater reached out to Speck to discuss Butler’s hunger strike, she provided a statement from Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, a tutor with the athletic department.

“I'm not asking Wolfe to resign, because I don't think the MU curators know how to select diversity mature candidates — I'm asking him get on the learning curve to lead the charge with Chancellor Loftin to alter the course and fix the hostile racial climate on campus by collaborating with the City and other leaders to make some serious and constructive change,” Wilson-Kleekamp said in the statement.

The Graduate Professional Council also passed a resolution in support of Butler and the social justice movements on campus.

“The Graduate Professional Council stands in solidarity with those Mizzou community members and student organizations who are fighting for the collective social justice movement; and be it also resolved that the Graduate Professional Council expects the administration at Mizzou to develop appropriate, adequately-supported solutions to the social justice concerns being voiced by the student bodies, and to do so without passing undue burdens onto student activists or student leaders,” read the resolution, which was submitted by GPC Treasurer Alex Howe.

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