Middleton defends Click's firing and speaks on racial unrest at MU
COLUMBIA - University of Missouri System Interim President Michael Middleton spoke about Melissa Click's firing and how MU has handled racial unrest since Concerned Student 1950 protests last fall.
Middleton told the National Press Club Tuesday the Board of Curators had a split vote on firing Click, but they acted properly. He defended the decision, saying, at the time, it was unfortunate but necessary.
Middleton said he expects a $30 million drop in tuition because of a steep decline in freshmen enrollment in the fall, according to the Associated Press.
Middleton said perceptions influenced by last fall's protests affected enrollment, but high schools also had predicted a decline. He said there is no evidence the unrest had an impact on faculty recruitment.
"I think we'll get over it. I'm optimistic," Middleton said.
He said people working in communications for the university are trying to rehabilitate the school's image. He said he wants to "accentuate the positive, minimize the negative."
Middleton said he spoke to protesters, who told him their goal was to make MU better because they love the university.
He said he understands the call for safe spaces and trigger warnings and supports privacy, but not the absence of journalism. The MU campus is a first amendment-protected space, he said, so groups that want privacy should meet somewhere private off-campus. Middleton said the UM System is working on policies to find a proper balance.
He asked alumni to get the word out to turn last year's protests into a positive, but said parents will be a harder sell.
Middleton also praised social justice groups on campus working for inclusion. He said it's not easy to fix diversity issues because there are so many of them, but he said the UM System is doing its best.
"Where we find gaps in what we're doing, we are going to fill in these gaps," he said.
Middleton expects to remain interim president until at least the end of the year while a search for a permanent president continues, according to the Associated Press.