Lawmakers pledge support for UM System

Rep. Caleb Rowden: “Cutting any sort of funding to the university as some sort of retaliatory statement is unfair, it it shortsighted, and it’s unnecessary.”

Four state representatives said at town hall Thursday night that the UM System shouldn’t be punished for the events of last semester.

“The mentality of doing damage to the University of Missouri because my colleagues in Jefferson City are upset with the university makes absolutely no sense,” said Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, who later referred to the university as “a gem.”

The League of Women Voters hosted the annual town hall at the Columbia Public Library. It was billed as an opportunity to hear directly from area legislators. Kendrick; Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport; Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia; and Rep. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, spoke at the event. Sen. Kurt Scheafer, R-Columbia, and Rep. Caleb Jones, R-Columbia, were invited but didn’t attend.

Last September, Gov. Jay Nixon proposed a 6 percent increase to state funding for higher education. However, the negative attention MU received last fall due to the resignations of UM System President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin has led some legislators to threaten budget cuts. Rowden told the audience that it’s up to the lawmakers from the area to rally support for MU and the UM System.

“Cutting any sort of funding to the university as some sort of retaliatory statement is unfair, it is shortsighted, and it’s unnecessary,” Rowden said.

In addition to the resignations, lawmakers have criticized how MU handled the controversy surrounding assistant professor Melissa Click. In a viral video, she is seen calling for “some muscle” to help remove a student from the Concerned Student 1950 campsite. In early January, more than 100 Republican lawmakers signed a letter calling for UM System officials to fire Click. The Board of Curators suspended Click on Jan. 27 pending further investigation.

Basye signed the letter and reiterated his call for Click’s termination at the town hall.

“I think that would be a step in the right direction to soothe some of the anger down in Jefferson City,” he said.

After a woman in the audience told Basye that his stance on Click was unfair to women, he defended his position.

“She clearly violated that student reporter’s right to be there,” Basye said. “A professor at the university is a role model to young people, and I would say the same thing if it was a police officer doing that. She was across the line, and she shouldn’t be in that position.”

Rowden later said that while he personally thought Click should be fired, he was still going to fight for the UM System.

“I’m going to fight tooth and nail to make sure that we don’t punish the University of Missouri if they choose not to (fire Click) because I don’t believe that that’s the right thing to do,” Rowden said.

The four legislators disagreed on other issues during the town hall from Medicaid expansion to a Voter ID law. Yet, they came to an consensus on the UM System’s budget.

“We support the University of Missouri not for a budget line item,” Webber said. “We do it to provide opportunities for students to receive a quality education, an education that stays with them for the rest of their lives. And it is short-sighted and petty for legislators to harm academic opportunities for students for the next 40 years because they are angry in 2016.”

Edited by Allyson Vasilopulos |

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