MU student leader calls state of system board \"extremely concerning\"

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COLUMBIA - A University of Missouri student leader said she's concerned students' voices are not being heard by University of Missouri System board members while they search for a new president.

Tori Schafer, the vice president of the University of Missouri's student association, made a post on Facebook Tuesday night outlining the lack of student representation at board meetings. 

The UM System Board of Curators rotates a student representative to the board every two years. Gov. Nixon nominated Patrick Graham, a student at the Columbia campus, for the position March 10. The Missouri Senate had not confirmed Graham for the position as of Thursday, meaning Graham had not been allowed to sit in on closed board meetings. The UM System's website also listed the position as currently vacant. 

In her post, Schafer said the Senate was deliberately delaying Graham's confirmation.

"The excuse he has been given by the Missouri State Senate is that his 'liberal social media' is preventing him from going through the confirmation process," Schafer wrote. 

Lauren Hieger, a spokesperson for the GOP Senate, said the confirmation process this year was no different than years past. She said Sen. Ron Richard, R-Dade and Senate President Pro Tem, had said he wouldn't confirm anyone to the board this session, students included.

Schafer said the lack of student representation at board meetings leaves students without a say in key decisions.

"He cannot sit in on closed meetings and represent the students of ALL FOUR UM System campuses," Schafer wrote. "We get one student to represent 70,000+ of us, and that student isn't being able to be heard."

Schafer said it was "extremely concerning" to her that the lack of a student presence came at a time in which the board is searching for a new system president. 

John Fougere, a communications officer for the UM System, said in a statement there were still other ways for students' input to be heard during the search.

"The committee has held four public forums (at MU, UMSL, UMKC and Missouri S&T during the first week of April) that were open to any and all UM System students, providing them with an opportunity to give their input on the next president," Fougere said. "Not to mention, any and all UM System students can give their input on the search by going to the presidential search webpage (https://www.umsystem.edu/ps) at any time."

Fougere also said Rakeem Golden, another student from the Kansas City campus, serves on the presidential search committee for the UM system. Golden was the only student representative listed on the committee pending Graham's confirmation. 

"The two students on the committee are two more than were on the committee during the last presidential search," Fougere said.

Schafer said she hopes there is a way around the pending confirmation so students can have a say in the selection process.

"Hopefully, Gov. Nixon will pull the nomination and allow Graham to serve as interim," she wrote. "In the interim position, he can still serve in those closed door meetings."

If the Senate has not confirmed Graham within 30 days of the 2017 legislative session, he will be removed from the position. Hieger said the governor can ask for his letter of nomination back, and it would not prevent Graham from a future nomination.

Graham said he did not want to comment on any board matters until he is confirmed. 

Schafer's post has since been deleted.

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