A discussion by the University of Missouri System Board of Curators on Friday about the system’s organization likely will advance consideration of permanently combining system president and University of Missouri chancellor.


The item is listed as an information item on the agenda.


Curators approved University of Missouri System President Mun Choi as MU chancellor on an interim basis after Chancellor Alexander Cartwright left to lead the University of Central Florida.


"This is going to be further discussion of the administrative organizational structure of the University of Missouri System that began when they appointed Mun Choi as interim chancellor," said MU and UM System spokesman Christian Basi about the agenda item.


The discussion will include permanently combining the positions, Basi said.


"It was going to be a few months of exploration," Basi said. "That’s what I believe is the plan."


There’s not a timeline for a decision, he said.


"There’s plenty of different ways this could go," Basi said.


The conversation will be facilitated by consultants Terry MacTaggart and Rich Novak, Basi said.


Both are with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and MacTaggart said during a 2018 curators meeting that in a system defined as a flagship model, the job of overall university leadership and leadership of the main campus are combined.


Clark Peters, MU Faculty Council chairman, said he knows there are advantages and disadvantages to each and he has heard from members about it.


"This kind of thing percolates all the time," Peters said. "It’s on peoples’ minds. I think there’s a broad diversity of opinion on this."


The other system campuses are less inclined to think combining the positions is a good idea, he said. Where at MU, there’s a threat of interference by having system leadership nearby, other campuses think it’s a huge advantage to have the lion’s share of attention and resources at one’s doorstep.


His own opinion is that extending the temporary arrangement with Choi as interim chancellor is a good way to save money in this time of austerity, he said.


There have always been tensions between presidents and chancellors, but returning to the pre-1963 model would bring other problems, Peters said.


"It’s hard to disentangle the roles and personalities," Peters said. "Even those who disagree with President Choi have a tremendous amount of respect for him."


He drew attention to an essay on the faculty council website written by Linda E. Mitchell, the Martha Jane Phillips Starr Missouri Distinguished Endowed Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Missouri—Kansas City.


Her reaction to the planned reorganization was dread, Mitchell wrote.


"The Curators are all UM-Columbia graduates and, as such, are loyal to and feel nostalgic about their ’home" institution,’ Mitchell wrote. "Their demographic—mostly white, privileged, suburban—also reflects the world that UM-Columbia embodies. This is a problem, because this nostalgia for times past can lead to a lack of empathy for the goals and missions of the urban-serving universities in the UM System—UMKC and UMSL—which then leads to a failure to think, process, and envision a future in which the urban-core institutions are more relevant to the needs of the population than the ivy-covered beauty of the Columbia campus."


Art Jago, professor emeritus of the Trulaske College of Business and frequent MU and UM Sytem critic, has provided his own report to curators, outlining two alternatives for Missouri universities.


In one model, all 13 state public universities would be governed by one board, which he wrote is the model in 18 states. The model would offer economies of scale, he wrote.


Jago’s other model would extend the organizational structure of the nine universities outside of the UM System by establishing governing boards for each individual university.


"Only inertia favors the status quo, but such complacency should not govern the day," Jago wrote in the report that he also provided to the Tribune.


On Thursday, curators will consider a 2.3 percent tuition hike, in line with the inflation rate.


Also on Thursday’s agenda is a 2020-21 budget featuring a 4 percent decline in revenue for the University of Missouri and cuts of 6 percent in spending.


The meeting will again be held via the online video conferencing platform Zoom.


rmckinney@columbiatribune.com


573-815-1719