Lawmakers grill University of Missouri leaders over problems at Columbia campus

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO (KPLR) - Missouri lawmakers looking for answers from University of Missouri leaders found much of their responses disappointing. They questioned the interim president, interim chancellor and board of curator’s president before the Joint House and Senate Committee on Education Wednesday night. Committee members indicated they were dissatisfied with the pace of the administrators' response to both student protests and the notoriety brought to the Mizzou campus by an assistant professor who tried to block a student journalist from covering a protest over racial issues.  The video of that confrontation went viral and drew national attention and scrutiny to the Columbia campus.

Lawmakers wanted to know why a formal complaint against Asst. Prof.  Melissa click had not been filed by anyone on campus even though the incident happened in November. State Representative Stephen Cookson of Poplar Bluff pointed out 100 lawmakers had signed a letter of complaint. Interim chancellor Hank Foley responded explaining a lengthy process that needed to be followed under the university's regulations. He said he thought it was better that the curators had ordered an investigation and would soon tell university administrators what to do in Click's case.

The Columbia campus has seen a drop in anticipated enrollment for next fall of 900 students and that could cost of the campus $20 million in lost revenue. Foley said they are addressing the problem with more recruiters and attempting to better communicate with students already enrolled.

Complaints from African-American students are not new according to state representative Courtney Curtis. The St. Louis Democrat said the same issues existed when he attended Missouri University 11 years ago. He wanted to know what has been done to change the climate and culture on campus which makes African-American students feel uncomfortable. The interim president for the University of Missouri system Mike Middleton said he begged them to give them time to make the changes.

Middleton pointed out many people learn their racial attitudes unconsciously and it will take time to change those attitudes. Foley indicated diversity training and training on sexual assault and safety on campus will be part of orientation for all new students. Faculty and staff will also participate in sensitivity and diversity training.

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