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MU Curators back Choi as “agent of change” after mixed survey of employees

University of Missouri Curators are in staunch support of system President Mun Choi, as an “agent of change”, after the University of Missouri Faculty Council released a survey listing complaints about their jobs and specifically that they aren’t listened to enough about those complaints. 

MU Curator Keith Holloway’s response to the survey was supportive of Choi, “I view Dr. Choi as a dynamic leader who is an agent of change, and oftentimes when there is change you have people who are very comfortable with the status quo, and that change agent disrupts their comfort zone and they get angry.”

Faculty Council Chairman Graham McCaulley told a fellow faculty member who also wrote a story about the survey for The Missouri Independent that, “Our goal here is to move our institution forward,” said McCaulley, an associate extension professor, and state specialist for nutrition, health, and family.”

There have been complaints among faculty that Choi was demanding in pressuring them to be more productive. Curator Greg Hoberock was part of a meeting with four curators and the Faculty Council via zoom, and commented, “Some parts of this survey may be legitimate criticisms, but the demands for the review of productivity, and demands that that productivity be maintained come from the board, not Dr. Choi.”

Hoberock continued, “If anyone in the faculty is angry that demands are being placed on them to bring up their productivity, the buck stops here with the curators. Don’t be mad at Choi, be mad at us.”

The survey had a response rate of approximately 20% and listed several complaints submitted anonymously along with the surveys. One was critical of Choi’s positive relationship with the legislature. 

“I read one complaint was that Dr. Choi was too cozy with the legislature, I think that is an absurd statement,” said Board of Curator member Todd Graves, “It’s vital to the success of this university to have a good and cooperative relationship with the General Assembly.”

“I think that Dr. Choi has been very good for the university. In order for the university to succeed it needs a clear channel of back and forth between representatives of the taxpayers,” said Senator Cindy O’Laughlin Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee.“Sometimes those professors feel entitled and don’t understand the relationship between funding for the university and their job.”

In a statement exclusively to The Missouri Times Dr. Choi stated, 

“We’re making important changes to achieve excellence and accountability. Change can be difficult for some, but we must move the university forward and raise expectations. I will continue to engage in dialogue and seek input from all stakeholders to achieve our goals.”

There were some complaints raised about the reduction of pay for some doctors at the medical school who were not meeting their required research and teaching obligations. 

Some of the faculty felt that the increasing job responsibilities were aimed at keeping the University of Missouri in the American Association of Universities, or AAU, an association comprised of the top research institutions in the country. 

When asked if he was comfortable in reducing the demands on faculty and dropping out of the AAU Hoberock commented, “I’m willing to sit and listen to anyone, but if you’re going to tell me that we don’t need to remain in the AAU then you have a tall hill to climb.”

One curator who was encouraged by how Choi dealt with the underperforming doctors at the medical school commented to The Missouri Times on background, “The University of Missouri belongs to the entire state, and should in part reflect the state’s values. It’s the University of Missouri not the University of college professors in Columbia.”

The overall reaction to the survey seemed muted from most curators, “Frankly with these kinds of surveys it’s often the negative people who express themselves the loudest.  ”, said Holloway. “If there is an issue with the timing or the pace of change that Dr. Choi is asking then they should know that it is at the curator’s request.”

One tenured professor speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Missouri Times, “Look I think the survey is probably an accurate look at our view, but let’s be honest we are professors, does anyone ever expect us to be happy with the administration, ever?”