Nixon withholds funding for independent review commission of UM System

The commission, created by state Sen. Kurt Schaefer and led by MU contributor Jeanne Sinquefield and former UM System President Gary Forsee, will review the UM System’s policies and administrative structure.

Despite not receiving state money, the University of Missouri Review Commission, created to review policies and administration within the UM System, moved ahead with their first meeting on Friday.

The commission was created in May from a resolution sponsored by State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, to review the UM System’s Collected Rules and Regulations, administration, campus structure and diversity policies.

Schaefer’s resolution came after some lawmakers called for oversight following race-based protests last fall. In the resolution, Schaefer said events at MU “have shown a lack of leadership in the administration of the University of Missouri System.”

The resolution called for House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff and State Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin to each appoint four members to the commission.

Richardson named four Republicans to the commission, including former UM System President Gary Forsee and MU contributor Jeanne Sinquefield. Richard also named four Republicans to the commission, including Dave Spence, a 2012 candidate for governor and Renee Hulshof, a radio talk show host and wife of 2008 Republican nominee for governor Kenny Hulshof.

The other members are Robert Duncan, a former MU vice chancellor for research, Pamela Washington, a teacher, Neal Bredehoeft, president of Bredehoeft Farms Inc. and Michael Williams, an attorney.

During the commission’s Friday meeting, Forsee and Sinquefield were selected to chair the commission and topics of review were divided between members. Forsee and Bredehoeft will review accountability and governance, Sinquefield and Duncan will review research programs and extension and distance programs, Williams and Spence will look at workforce readiness and program performance, and Hulshof and Washington will review diversity and Title IX programs.

The commission is currently working without funding after Gov. Jay Nixon announced on July 7 he had decided to restrict funding from a number of smaller items throughout the budget in order to balance it. Among $115.5 million in funding reductions, he also withheld $2 million from building a new facility at the MU Research Reactor and $750,000 from the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The $750,000 originally set aside for the commission would have reimbursed members and paid staff. Now, options for finding funding for the commission include using appropriations from the Senate and House, or enacting an amendment that allows lawmakers to overturn a governor’s decision to restrict spending.

The newly-formed commission has not gone without criticism. Some feel that the commission will not be objective without bipartisanship since Schaefer’s resolution did not mandate that both Republicans and Democrats had to be appointed, and Richardson and Richard appointed only Republicans.

State Rep. Jacob Hummel, a Democrat representing Missouri’s 81st district, which includes part of St. Louis, said in a news release that the appointments are “geared toward advancing a Republican political agenda.”

The Coalition of Graduate Workers also released a statement condemning the appointments.

“Already Republican leadership has warned that the commission’s recommendations must be followed, or else the university will face severe cuts to its appropriations,” the statement read. “The implication is clear: the review will not seek to support an independent institution founded on freedom of inquiry and a public, land-grant mission. It will instead demand a university that bows to the whims of the Republican supermajority.”

In a news release announcing appointments to the commission, Schaefer said that without oversight, the future of the UM System is unclear.

“The rules have gotten so out of balance,” Schaefer said in the news release. “Many poor decisions were made. The commission will serve as an outside voice and give some much needed feedback on how to ensure the long-term survival and growth of the institution.”

Richard said in a news release announcing the appointments that an exhaustive search had been conducted to appoint “outstanding Missourians” of various backgrounds.

“Last year we witnessed a lack of leadership at the UM System’s highest level,” Richard said in the news release. “The legislature saw the need for objective oversight. This commission will help gain back trust and respect from people across the state.”

The next commission meeting will take place on Aug. 24 in Columbia. By the end of December, the commission will deliver recommendations to the Board of Curators.

Edited by George Roberson |

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