Mun Choi updates MSA Senate on Show Me Renewal and answers questions

The Chancellor seeks to continue to tackle COVID-19 while dealing with MU's financial problems.

MU Chancellor and UM System President Mun Choi presented an update on COVID-19 and financial concerns and answered questions at the Missouri Students Association Senate on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The MSA Senate met Tuesday, Sept. 29 for their biweekly assembly and to hear from Choi. Choi presented an update of the Show Me Renewal plan and closed out his presentation with a discussion of MU’s financial standing.

Choi opened with statistics showing the ways the Show Me Renewal plan has worked. He said if the faculty, staff and students at MU continue to follow the guidelines, MU can continue to fight the virus.

Choi said that students want to continue to learn in person at MU, and the only way to do that is to “recognize that there are risks, but there are also ways to mitigate that risk.” The only way MU can continue to operate, Choi argues, is to continue to follow the systems in the Show Me Renewal plan.

Currently, confirmed positive cases are at an all-time low with a 90% reduction from Sept. 5-Sept. 29.

Choi emphasized the ease of testing and what to do when waiting for results. He wants students to continue to wear masks and avoid demonizing those who have contracted the virus.

Finally, Choi addressed the financial impact of moving online, finance and “budget challenges.”

“The university had to work with situations with the reduction in state report, and also not increasing the tuition as fast as we have done,” Choi said. “If you take the state support and net tuition revenue and divide it by the total number of students, Missouri ranks last [in Revenue Growth Per Student].”

According to an article from the Columbia Missourian from May, these budget struggles have been around since the beginning of the pandemic. At the time of the article, 83 MU employees had been laid off and 1683 furloughed. After 4 months, MU confirmed that number has risen to 200 laid off and 3667 furloughed.

“The challenges we have are real and we know that by working together — with students, faculty, staff, legislators, as well as Missouri citizens — that we will come out of this with a plan for not only addressing COVID, but also financial challenges that are going to sustain this university for a long time,” Choi concluded.

Senate Speaker Mackenzie Beaver moved the conversation to a Q&A section for Choi. This conversation also included Richard Barohn, the executive vice chancellor for health affairs, and Scott Henderson, a medical director at the Student Health Center.

One participant asked Choi about demands from the COVID-19 protests in the prior week.

“I will not resign from the university. I'm … deeply committed to the welfare of the people that work, study and support the university,” Choi stated, “I'm always willing to listen to students who have better approaches.”

Others had questions about the Thomas Jefferson statue and the plexiglass case placed over the Jefferson tombstone. Students have called for the removal of the statue and expressed outrage over the $20,000 cost of the case.

“As I stated before, Thomas Jefferson is really a complex individual," Choi said. “And by having a statue, obviously, we're not commemorating him for his slaveholding past or his relationship with Sally Hemings.”

Choi said that the money spent on the obelisk case came from “non-state, non-tuition” funds. He said that it was paid for from donors’ sponsor funds.

Other participants wanted a response from Choi regarding the open letter from 15 journalism faculty members expressing their disappointment in the MU administration. Choi said he “appreciated the letter” and hopes that faculty and students will reach out to him with their concerns.

In response to a question about blocking students on Twitter, Choi expressed regret but defended his actions.

“Getting some tweets that start off with offensive language, I believe it’s not the right way to communicate,” Choi said.

Some students had not used offensive language at all but expressed concerns about COVID-19 procedures at MU.

Additionally, the panel answered other questions on COVID testing, class attendance policy, food in quarantine, financial endowments, custodial staff’s jobs, graduations, football games and a lot more. The entire livestream can be found on the MSA Senate Facebook.

Edited by Joy Mazur | jmazur@themaneater.com

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