UM System faces $8 million in proposed cuts

Proposed reductions would include cuts to salaries of Melissa Click, her department chair and the College of Arts and Science dean.

Missouri House of Representatives Budget Chairman Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, proposed a budget for the 2017 year on Tuesday that would potentially cut $8 million in funding from the UM System and $402,059 in funding specifically from the MU campus.

The cuts to MU are equivalent to the salaries of assistant communications professor Melissa Click, communication department chairman Mitchell McKinney and College of Arts and Science Dean Michael O’Brien.

Click has long been a subject of controversy after videos surfaced of her in November arguing with a student journalist over access to a protest site on campus. In the video, Click is seen calling for “some muscle” in order to throw a journalist out of the area which served as a campsite for protesters. In January, a group of more than 100 state legislators called for her removal in a letter to university administration.

Instead of allocating funding to the UM System in a lump sum for 2017, the proposed budget would split funding into seven different lines: MU, UM–Kansas City, UM–St. Louis, Missouri University of Science and Technology, MU Extension, endowed professorships and the UM System as a whole.

Another $7,674,137 reduction in funding is meant to target administrative salaries in the UM System.

In a statement to the media on Tuesday morning, Flanigan emphasized that the decision to reduce appropriations to higher education was not simply motivated by discontent over Click.

“For several months legislators have had stories relayed to us from current and past students, staff and faculty of a vast bureaucracy that rivals the Pentagon in terms of red tape and delays,” Flanigan said.

Flanigan said the cuts are meant to target university administration without detracting from the educational activities of the university.

“The cuts we have put forward are intended to send a strong message to the administration without harming our students, who deserve better,” Flanigan said.

"The Board of Curators and our UM System leadership team will continue to demonstrate to our legislators the considerable value that the system administration brings to our campuses and the taxpayers of our state, and will do so by being completely accountable, transparent and fiscally prudent in our actions and leadership,” interim UM System President Mike Middleton said in a statement on Tuesday.

Middleton also said that nothing would be finalized until the end of the General Assembly’s legislative session in May.

MU spokesman Christian Basi declined to comment, citing MU policy of not commenting on pending legislation.

In addition to the stated grievances against MU and the UM System administration, Flanigan’s statement also criticized the faculty waiver process, the process of addressing conflicts of interest and “the inability to terminate employees who participate in conduct unbecoming the University of Missouri.”

Edited by Taylor Blatchford | tblatchford@themaneater.com

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