MU Faculty Calls Special Meeting Demanding Change

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COLUMBIA - Scores of MU faculty members filled Jesse Wrench Auditorium to meet with Chancellor Alexander Cartwright amid controversy over how the university is dealing with its budget issues.

Faculty members expressed concerns with the process the university is using to solve its budget problems and the validity of the information being used to make decisions.

Associate Professor Stephen Karian, who helped lead the effort to petition for the special general faculty meeting, specifically cited the use of "Academic Analytics," an external database for faculty research assessment, as a major cause for concern with the Academic Programs Task Force's report.

The faculty petitioned to meet with the chancellor, following a month that saw reports of improved in enrollment numbers and an announcement that some non-tenure-track faculty would not have their contracts renewed, in response to the task force's 39-page report that recommended the elimination of 27 graduate school programs

Faculty members responded with claims that the task force used inconclusive, invalid and outdated information in evaluating many of the programs it recommended for elimination. 

Stephen Karian, who also presented a resolution at the faculty meeting, says the process is flawed.

"It has a serious distorting process," Karian said, of Academic Analytics. "It distorts what faculty members do; it omits many things; and we can do much better."

Chancellor Cartwright responded to criticism by saying that while Academic Analytics may be a incomplete tool, it was "not a major component" in the task force's decision-making process.

The faculty was able to pass a resolution, stating the administration should "allow ample opportunity to correct inaccurate and misleading data, provide a budgetary justification for each closure or merger being considered, and provide a set of procedures and a timeline for moving forward that are transparent and include meaningful faculty input throughout the process."

However, there was significant pushback from faculty members about whether they were just waiting out the inevitable, or passing a resolution that would not functionally change much.

Many faculty members left the meeting still confused about what the next step in the process will be, and whether or not their voices will be included in determining it.

Interim Provost Jim Spain said the next step will involve compiling information from the Dean's Council that may not previously be included in the task force's work.

Spain said that higher education is going to have to adapt to survive.

"We've got to make some strategic decisions about where and how we'll invest the resources that the state invests in us, and that parents invest in us with their tuition dollars." Spain said. "And we're going to have to make difficult decisions about where we will invest to achieve the level of excellence that the state of Missouri is expecting the flagship university, in the state, to deliver."