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President - Chancellor Separation Bill

January 26, 2004
By: Jonathan Moxey
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The University president would be blocked from taking over as chancellor of the Columbia campus under a measure filed before Missouri's Senate.

The bill is sponsored by legislators from the three other campuses of the University System - St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla.

The bill was introduced in response to UM President Elson Floyd's proposal to serve as chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia campus following MU Chancellor Richard Wallace's retirement in August, said the bill's chief sponsor -- Sen. Sarah Steelman, R-Rolla.

In announcing the planned retirement of Columbia Chancellor Richard Wallace, Floyd had said the idea of merging the two positions was being explored.

Later, Floyd announced to the UM system Board of Curators in December that he would not seek the role as MU chancellor. Floyd said the position of UM system president and University of Missouri chancellor should be separate and distinct.

But Steelman said she remains concerned.

"The concern is that other campuses may not get equal treatment. I think that would vary by the individual who fills the position. I'm not saying Dr. Floyd necessarily would, but he might. I don't think we should set that precedent for the future," said Steelman.

While the merger of positions may cut administrative costs, opponents argue the consolidations should be made elsewhere.

"I think it's important that they have the head of the campus and the head of the university system as separate position," Steelman said.

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia said the state legislature should not interfere with the authority of the Board of Curators given to it by the state's constitution.

"I don't feel the legislature should micromanage the universities," said Jacob. "If we can preserve the status quo by allowing this consolidation, I don't see a problem with it."

But other legislators co-sponsoring the bill echoed Steelman's concern about consolidating the administrations.

It would be very difficult to discern what is in the best interest for the entire system while you are trying to decide what is best for your campus," said Sen. Rita Days, D-St. Louis.

Days said consolidating the administrations would cause a concentration of power that would place the other three UM system campuses at a disadvantage.

A university spokesperson said Floyd had no plan to change the relationship of the campuses.

"President Floyd has continuously worked to treat the UM system as a four campus university system and that will not change in the future," said UM spokesman Joe Moore.

Moore said Floyd will continue to examine the situation. Consolidation of the two positions is not on the agenda for the January meeting of UM system Board of Curators meeting to be held this Thursday.