MU alumni pull $2 million in donations after campus tension last fall

Vice Chancellor of Advancement Tom Hiles said the losses came from donors upset about controversial events like Concerned Student 1950 protests and Planned Parenthood.
Traditions Plaza sits on the University of Missouri's campus on Feb. 15. The Plaza was used as a fundraiser for the university by selling bricks on the plaza.

After students linked arms in celebration of the resignation of former UM System President Tim Wolfe, over 2,000 people called the MU Advancement office asking about the university, according to Vice Chancellor of Advancement Tom Hiles. Many of these calls weren’t just empty threats.

“Currently Mizzou has lost $2 million in gifts,” Hiles said. “The pledges were made, and now donors are saying that they’re not giving the money.”

Hiles said the reasons for pulled donations varied from the build-up of controversial events last fall, including controversies over MU’s affiliation with Planned Parenthood and the Concerned Student 1950 movement. Between five and 10 larger donors are zipping up their wallets.

“We track these calls on a heat app, and even though they’re split up between controversies, the most were concerning the student strikers,” Hiles said.

In October, MU announced the “Our Time to Lead” fundraising campaign, with a goal of raising $1.3 billion in order to invest more in campus institutions and provide more scholarships to students. Even though $2 million in donations were pulled, Hiles said this is a small percentage out of the total $700 million in donations, and that the student aid for next semester won’t decrease.

“Right now, our numbers are holding up, and we’re still tracking our second-best year in history with donations,” Hiles said. “Virtually all of our major donors are staying with us. They were confused and upset by what was happening, but just wanted to hear from us.”

According to previous Maneater reporting, some MU alumni re-examined their campus pride following fall events. Marcia Chatelain, who graduated from MU in 2001, tweeted a photo of a letter she would be sending to MU with a penny taped to the inside, writing it would be her “#lastpenny” donated until the demands from Concerned Student 1950 were met.

MU graduate Chris Brown, a graduate from 1994, was unhappy with the events in the fall, saying that it could be a long time until he decided to donate to MU again.

“I’m pretty irritated with how things have gone,” he said last November.

Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations Todd McCubbin said the pace of annual donations fell by 19 percent in December.

“We definitely took a bump,” McCubbin said. “The overall mood of our alumni indicated how we fell in December. After the issues on campus, they’re unsure and uncertain.”

However, January numbers indicated that donations were only 3 percent lower than the expected pace for annual gifts.

“That gives you an idea of the roller coaster we’ve been on, and hopefully we’ll level out,” McCubbin said.

Moving forward, Hiles said he is working around the clock to ensure direct communication with donors and to keep the office stable.

“Not long ago, Chancellor Foley addressed Mizzou, and in that week we had Melissa Click charged with a misdemeanor and the Tim Wolfe email came out bashing former Chancellor Loftin,” Hiles said. “The greatest challenge is the uncertainty.”

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