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Texts from the Trail: Too smart for their own good

No media outlet has been more critical of the University of Missouri system over the last nine months than this one. Obviously, today those criticisms look particularly wise, but those criticisms arose from taking an in-depth look at a public institution that seemed to go out of its way to make enemies and assume the rest of the state lived in the dream world of academia that Missouri’s taxpayers, parents, and students work so hard to afford for them.

Sen. Eric Schmitt was first to sound the alarms last year, clashing with Tim Wolfe over Missourians keeping more of their own money, but they also had a tax increase that was going nowhere fast, trying to pay professors to run for office, a ridiculous scheme to build a third hospital in Columbia, and several professors who seemed to be immune to reality who were in a force field of tenure intent making enemies while administrators and bureaucrats were too weak to stand up to them.

In short, they were too smart for their own good.

Many felt last fall was an opportunity for a restart for the university. New interim leader Mike Middleton seemed to have a mandate for reform, and was is a man of integrity who deserved a real chance to save the college.

However, he has been on the job several months now and many are still waiting for signs of reform. It still appears an institution more focused on providing jobs and safe spaces for its pampered professors than providing its intended service to the state.

Melissa Click is really a living embodiment of the problem. She is what every Republican thinks of when they close their eyes and imagine a college professor, and anyone with an ounce of common sense knows she should be gone.

A communication professor who screams for violent suppression of the First Amendment can’t be tolerated for a school that touts its journalism program. However, the faculty of Mizzou stands behind her, and again, administration isn’t up to dealing with the problem. It wouldn’t hurt the school to at least make an attempt at complying with the Sunshine law.

The situation was perfectly teed up for Middleton to side with common sense and make a statement that he could stand up to the faculty and lead them in this key moment for Mizzou, but nothing. Several legislators said he told them, “If I have to pick between the faculty and the legislature, I’ll pick the faculty every time.”

How about not picking between your employees and the public’s elected representatives? Try picking common sense. You didn’t need her to be charged with assault – it was on camera. Your lobbyist can only do so much to avoid your next meetings being about layoffs.

Be an ambassador from the de facto to those who live their lives in the demure thanks to the taxpayers of Missouri.

Community colleges are consistently showing superior results in state investment, Missouri State University is surging, and the man who is your best known booster, Gov. Jay Nixon, is set to leave office. Blaming the governor is cliché these days, but he does deserve some of the blame for appointing a board of curators consisting of a majority of sycophants. The safe money today is on him replacing Ann Covington with Truman the Tiger.

There is still time to turn things around. Certainly Middleton has to recognize that he would be doing the faculty a favor by forcing some real structural reforms now before the budget axe falls. Also keep in mind some of the metrics where Mizzou is falling behind are metrics formulated by other academics like the AAU rankings.

Middleton needs to be decisive. There are people in top positions who simply aren’t part of the solution. Firing Melissa Click is an obvious choice, and if he can’t see it, he needs better counsel. Look at each professor and ask if they are part of the problem or solution. It is a sure thing that if he does, then Click won’t be the only counter productive employee he cans. Lastly, it’s clear that the interim president works in an extremely liberal place, and the legislature is extremely conservative. However or whatever you think of them, they are the duly elected representatives of the people whose tax dollars you covet.

The state needs Middleton to succeed, and it would be great to herald him as the man who came in and saved the university from peril. However, that can’t happen until he actually starts saving it. Let’s hope he isn’t too smart for his own good.

The Governor’s final State of the State speech was solid, but the consensus on KMOX’s Reardon Roundtable was that he likely got the show stolen from him by the response given by Speaker Todd Richardson. It was enjoyable to watch the shot at the NFL via Draft Kings. The real winner may end up being Danny Pfeifer, who is the only lobbyist possibly referred to by a Governor during a State of the State address.

Dustin Allison is leaving the Office of Public Counsel, and it will be a loss for the PSC. He took the job after a long time occupant in some of the most turbulent rate cases in recent memory and hands the office to his successor in better shape than he inherited it.


This Week in Missouri Politics had Lt. Governor Peter Kinder as the guest and he was his typical candid self. Missourians could look for a tax cut under his administration, and he was actually very kind when discussing his opponents. Kinder knows the 25-355 of the Republican primary electorate he needs to win better than anyone in the race.

Today, it seems fashionable for every editorial writer and candidate with no electoral experience to do their damnedest to make Jefferson City out to be a hell hole. That makes it all the more special to see a former Capitol fixture, Jeff Roe, as the Power Player of the week on Fox News Sunday. It is a reminder of the stories several Missourians have from “88 and “04, when Congressman Dick Gephardt ran for president and Missourians got to show their skills on the national stage.


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