Editorial: Chancellor’s report card
A retrospective assessment of Loftin’s tenure as chancellor
Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Maneater editorial board.
Nov. 17, 2015
R. Bowen Loftin announced Nov. 9 that he would be transitioning from his position as MU’s chancellor to a new role as director for research facility development, effective Jan. 1. Two days later, the UM System Board of Curators decided to accelerate this process by giving interim Chancellor Hank Foley the responsibilities of the office immediately.
Loftin’s 22-month tenure was not without controversy. We’ve looked back at Loftin’s successes and failures as chancellor and graded him accordingly.
Approachability and Attendance: C+
Loftin always looked the part of a chancellor. His signature bow tie and charming persona created a widely recognizable brand that made him easily approachable and added a unique presence to the chancellorship.
On the surface, Loftin was an exceptionally likable guy. If you happened to see Loftin on the quad and needed a question answered or a problem dealt with, he wasn’t intimidating to approach.
But despite being so approachable, Loftin was a hard man to pin down, as students often found themselves wondering where he was. He routinely made appearances at sporting events, but failed to show at events that focused on campus issues or controversies.
Toward the end of his tenure, Loftin did start to learn, as he was present at the start of one of the Concerned Student 1950 marches and made several visits to the campsite. However, by that point, his image as an inattentive and absent administrator couldn’t be changed.
Student Affairs: F
Loftin’s repeated failures in communicating with the student body caused students to see him as out-of-touch regarding student issues and precipitated his downfall as chancellor. Every time controversy struck campus, Loftin would either hastily put together a statement that lacked sincerity, or remain silent altogether.
He was blindsided by the removal of graduate students’ health insurance. In an interview with the Columbia Missourian, he said he found out graduate students were losing their subsidized health insurance over social media, about four hours after students were informed.
Although he eventually reinstated the health insurance, his lack of awareness sent a message to graduate students that he didn’t care enough about their health insurance, and their rights, to even know that it was about to expire.
His lackadaisical planning of the race relations forums following the events in Ferguson in August 2014 made him appear apprehensive when it came to discussing race. Out of the five forums he proposed, only three ever took place. And the forums were just the beginning of his unsatisfactory performance on race relations.
When Missouri Students Association President Payton Head posted on Facebook that he was called racial slurs on the street, Loftin didn’t issue a response for six days. When he did eventually release a statement, he called the incident an act of “bias and discrimination.” It wasn’t until a similar incident involving the Legion of Black Collegians Homecoming royalty that Loftin finally called it racism.
Title IX: B
One of the greater successes of Loftin’s chancellorship was his bolstering of the Title IX Office. Much of the success came in the wake of allegations of Title IX violations in ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” report on the university’s handling of swimmer Sasha Menu Courey’s case. The progress following has been significant.
The progress began in January 2014 with UM System President Tim Wolfe’s Executive Order 40, which designated all university employees with knowledge of sexual harassment against a student as “mandated reporters.” Loftin also made the position of Title IX coordinator full-time rather than part-time.
Regarding Title IX, Loftin had a refreshing honesty that we never saw in the issues of race relations and graduate student rights. He said in his letter posted on the Title IX website that he cannot guarantee the safety of every student, but that he would do everything he could to ensure students receive unfettered access to an education.
One of Loftin’s greatest strengths as a chancellor was his ability to fundraise for MU. During Loftin’s tenure, MU broke its annual fundraising record of $160.5 million, set in 2008, by raising $164.5 million in 2014. Loftin, in cooperation with Vice Chancellor for Advancement Tom Hiles, also spearheaded the largest capital campaign in MU’s history, “Mizzou: Our Time to Lead.”
In many ways, Loftin’s appearance and behavior was geared toward fundraising. His social media feed was tailored at times to prospective students and alumni donors rather than the students currently attending MU.
Faculty Relations: F
It’s no secret that Loftin has struggled greatly in working with MU’s faculty. Although this category is somewhat difficult to measure because we’re on the outside looking in, the faculty’s resentment toward Loftin largely speaks for itself.
The same day Wolfe announced his resignation, the deans of nine different MU colleges requested the immediate dismissal of Loftin as chancellor. The letter from the deans came a week after a unanimous vote of no confidence from English department and a statement from Faculty Council expressing “deep concern” about university leadership.
Loftin’s removal came at the heels of the Concerned Student 1950 protests, but the motives behind wanting Loftin gone went far beyond his handling of race relations at MU. The deans said Loftin failed as a leader in many ways, including the controversy surrounding graduate health insurance, the elimination of the vice chancellor for health sciences position and the firing of the medical school dean.
In the letter, the deans also claimed Loftin created a "toxic environment through threat, fear and intimidation."
When MU’s relationship with Planned Parenthood was brought into question by legislative bully Kurt Schaefer, Loftin caved. The University Hospital ended refer and follow privileges and around the same time, Loftin agreed to the immediate cancellation of 10 contracts with Planned Parenthood for nursing and medical students to complete clinical hours at its health care facilities.
Loftin’s mishandling of the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood earned him a great deal of resentment from the faculty — and rightly so. If Loftin wasn’t willing to defend MU from Schaefer’s attacks, he had no business leading the state’s flagship university.
The main takeaway is this: It’s one thing to have a handful of faculty members despise you. It’s an entirely different thing when nearly all of MU’s faculty is calling for your removal. For all of these reasons and more, Loftin’s tenure as chancellor was inevitably doomed to fail.
His final GPA speaks for itself — 2.1