UM System Board of Curators discusses plans for the new year at December meeting

The board discussed the naming of New Hall, an MU residence hall, after black journalist Lucile Bluford, who was denied entrance to the journalism school based on her race.

The UM System Board of Curators met at the St. Louis campus on Thursday and Friday to discuss future projects and programs and elect new leadership.

Curator David Steelman was elected as the next chairman of the board, replacing outgoing chairman Maurice Graham. Curator Darryl Chatman will serve as vice chairman.

“I think we have a lot of challenges and opportunities and Curator Steelman is the one to guide us into the next year,” Curator Jamie Farmer said. “On my time on this board, he exuberates the ability to build consensus among us all, but also to keep a pace doing business and holding us all accountable.”

Courtney Lauer, student representative to the board, shared the first ever student representative report.

For the past few months, Lauer has been visiting the other UM System campuses and collaborating with the student presidents and vice presidents there. She said that she’s asked them about their top priorities for their campus as well as student activities.

“I am excited to strengthen the connection of all four campuses,” Lauer said.

Lauer reflected on the work of campus student governments, such as safety walks and affordability initiatives. In addition, Lauer said that many MU students have expressed appreciation for the new administration, such as MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright and UM System President Mun Choi.

Naming New Hall

MU Residence Halls Association has announced its first choice for New Hall’s official name. The proposed name honors prominent black journalist Lucile Bluford.

Bluford applied to MU’s School of Journalism and was accepted but failed to enroll 11 times because of her race. She later went on to work at the Kansas City Call as an editor and publisher.

RHA put together a team in early November to interview MU students, staff and faculty about a name for the residence hall. Chatman said the vast majority of people interviewed were in favor of the name change.

“I think it’s fitting that the hall be named after her because she succeeded despite not being admitted for racial reasons,” Curator John Phillips said.

RHA drafted a letter to the chancellor requesting the official name change. Chatman said the letter has already been sent and they hope to discuss the name further at the next curators meeting.

Employee benefits

Much of the discussion on Thursday focused on university employees. The curators approved a week off work in December for most university staff, excluding employees of the university’s health care system, beginning this year. Administration at each campus will decide what other crucial positions won’t be able to receive the extra week off.

This change is estimated to save over $100,000 across the UM System.

Employees who have worked for the system for at least one year full-time are now eligible to receive a 50 percent tuition reduction for their spouse or dependants. Previously, employees had to work for at least five years.

Similarly, dependants of employees who have retired or died can now take up to 140 credit hours at a reduced tuition rate. In the past, these students could only take one semester of classes at a reduced rate.

The board also approved a system where employees can donate unused vacation days into a pool for other employees with unique circumstances who have run out of options for paid leave.

Retirement and pension plans for the university were also presented to the curators for the first time since 2013. In the future, the university will evaluate retirement age, mortality and future market conditions. In the meantime, the university is working toward finding a more sustainable and affordable plan for retirement and pensions.

Plans for growth

The annual report on research and economic development was presented to the board. The curators discussed how faculty will need to increase grant proposals in the future, especially for larger, competitive research awards, to combat a lack of funding for science departments.

The UM System is expecting to add three new degree programs for the Fall 2018 semester: a bachelor’s degree at UMSL in international relations, a bachelor’s degree at MU in biomedical engineering and a master’s degree at MU in care management.

These degrees will be implemented mostly through existing degree programs and will use courses already offered. They are expected to be relatively low cost to lure in new students.

President's report and budget cuts

Choi gave the UM System president’s report, which he began with a discussion on the value of higher education and later highlighted recent achievements from each campus.

This included the first annual Security and Safety Summit, which gathered experts to discuss campus safety.

Choi continued with an administrative review that presented a new business model focused on reallocating funds according to academic priorities and feedback from faculty and staff.

“As many of you know, support for higher education is undergoing very dramatic changes,” Choi said. “In response, the University of Missouri must implement new business models to reinvest and also grow the priorities of research, student success and engagement.”

The consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers then presented the results of an eight-week study to the board. In five years, the university could have a $160 million gap between revenue and spendings, according to the PwC presentation. The firm identified administrative changes that could save the system between $44 million and $74 million over five years.

According to the firm, the university should focus on the establishment of a transformation management office, which would be funded with current resources, to assist in the process of changing the current operating model.

Before taking action, the curators will conduct a second analyzing study across all four UM System campuses.

The next board meeting, scheduled for Feb. 1-2, will be held at MU.

Edited by Cassie Allen |

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