JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Three prospective University of Missouri System Curators answered questions from the Senate Gubernatorial Appointments Committee, who continued to express their concerns with the state’s public higher education institution.
Gov. Eric Greitens named Darryl Chatman, Jamie Farmer, and Jeff Layman to the board last month, and did so with the desire to improve a system that has fallen under harsh criticism in the last two years. Controversy has surrounded the aftermath of the ConcernedStudent1950 protests of Nov. 2015 and the university’s association with Planned Parenthood that same year.
Most recently, a damning report from State Auditor Nicole Galloway released Monday, which found millions of dollars in bonuses and other incentives were given to university executives without being disclosed to the public.
The questions directed at Chatman, Farmer, and Layman mostly covered that last concern. While all three expressed their love and appreciation for the University of Missouri system – all three graduated from Mizzou or Missouri State University – they all stated the situation had to change.
Chatman said Galloway’s audit revealed some “disturbing things” about the practices of the UM System’s administration.
“From the outside looking in, I can’t say that I can sit here right now and tell you what that repair looks like, but we do know it’s broken,” Chatman, an attorney and former Mizzou football player, said.
All three candidates pledged for more fiscal responsibility to avoid the possibility of raising tuition, an idea floated by some higher education officials as universities expect cuts from the state budget in a tough fiscal year. Farmer, a Jefferson City business owner, said she wanted to use her own skills as President of Capital Sands to ensure funds went to appropriate places, but also to market the school better in the wake of lower enrollment numbers for the last school year.
“We’re having a pride issue at the university, so part of my goal is to make those current students and alumni feel more pride in putting on a Missouri hat and feel pride in the institution,” Farmer said.
Chatman also responded to a question from Sen. Brian Munzlinger about the mission of land-grant universities, pledging to make agriculture a focus. Chatman served as the Deputy Director of the Department of Agriculture during the Nixon administration.
“Agriculture is our largest industry in this state, it’s something that’s been important in my life for the last 10 years,” Chatman added. “Every board of curator meeting we need to be talking about how are we as a university meeting that land grant mission.”
Sen. Doug Libla questioned Layman on concerns from his constituents that professors tried to teach their own “personal agendas” in university classrooms. Former MU Professor Melissa Click, a key figure in the aftermath of the ConcernedStudent1950 protests, was widely criticized by the legislature for participating in the protests.
Layman said education came first.
“Obviously we need to focus on providing quality education and I don’t think a personal agenda should fit into that role at all,” he said.
Layman also served as Greitens’ campaign finance chair during the election.
In an executive session before the hearing, Sandy Karsten and Randall Williams were confirmed as the new chief of the Missouri Highway Patrol and the new director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, respectively.
Featured Image: Darryl Chatman speaks with Sen. Brian Munzlinger after his confirmation hearing March 8, 2017.