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Colleges move with General Assembly to adjust intern policies

  

Updated: Comments from Professor Robynn Kuhlmann of the University of Central Missouri were added to the story.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – When Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, released his recommendations to revise the Capitol’s intern policies Friday, Robynn Kuhlmann, an assistant professor of political science from the University of Central Missouri noted that the Speaker’s recommendations were a good faith effort.

“Obviously, this is a step in the right direction,” Kuhlmann said. “I do like the fact that it’s a fairly detailed policy. Perhaps they may not have had a formal meeting, but they’ve obviously been discussing what parameters there should be.”

However, colleges around the state that send interns to the Capitol have also made a few changes of their own.

Missouri State University in Springfield will only allow juniors and seniors with at least 60 credit hours to participate in their Legislative Intern Program (prior to the change, sophomores could participate in special circumstances), and students will now need three letters of recommendation to get accepted into the program, instead of just one.

The university will also establish a mentoring program where interns are matched with MSU alumni in Jefferson City.

The University of Missouri is also in the process of making some changes. However, instead of increasing restrictions into the program, Cooper Drury, the chair of the political science department at Mizzou, says the school wants to create network to assist students in case more allegations of scandals come up.

“It’s very important for the students to be able to do internships, but what we want to do is ensure they have a good understanding of what their rights and responsibilities are and who to contact on campus if they have a problem with someone in the Capitol,” Drury said.

He added his department was working with Ellen Eardley, the university’s Title IX administrator, on precisely what that network would entail.

Drury noted the political science department already had requirements in place that determined who was eligible to take part in the program but that nothing further would be added to those requirements.

“We don’t have any plans to make restrictions on who can go as an intern, but we are working on policies to ensure better safety and recourse for our students,” he said.

At UCM, the only changes came because of the time it took for the policy change recommendations to come out of the Speaker’s office. Kuhlmann said she had to push the final deadline for applications back two or three weeks from when she usually accepts them.

“I decided to wait for something to come out of the legislature,” she said. “It got to the point I could not wait any longer.”

Kuhlmann also added that part of their orientation process would put an enhanced focus on sexual harassment and how to deal with those issues should they arise, something she noted the Speaker also valued.

“[The policy] makes all staff and members of the House partake in sexual harassment training, and that’s an excellent step in the right direction.” she said. “I applaud the House for creating this policy and finally getting it out there.”