April 30, 2001

Reports about budget dominate meeting

Assembly hears Chancellor's new 'workforce' strategy

by Josh Renaud
senior editor

Discussion of UMSL's share of the UM System budget dominated the University Assembly meeting last Tuesday.

Assembly Chair Lawrence Barton detailed his most recent efforts on the issue and Chancellor Blanche Touhill gave a formal presentation on her new strategy to get more funding for UMSL.

Touhill's new approach to securing more funds for the campus centers around UMSL's role in "workforce development." Touhill gave the Assembly members the same PowerPoint presentation she is using to sell the idea to area business leaders.

In the presentation, Touhill talked about the importance of maintaing a solid, well-educated workforce in order to create growth in the St. Louis economy. She then explained how, of the major universities in St. Louis, UMSL is best able to meet employers' labor needs, as the largest producer of college-educated workers in the region. Touhill described the University's quality programs in the fields of business and information technology, health and biotechnology, and education. She finished the presentation by discussing UMSL's financial situation and calling on business leaders to help the University obtain more support.

Taking this message to area business leaders is a new tactic, Touhill said. In the past, she has tried using the "equity argument" with System officials and state leaders.

"For years we have pleaded '30 percent of the students, [but only] 12 percent of the budget,'" she said. "[Now] I'm trying to go around to the business community in St. Louis and say, 'I can help you, you can help us.'"

Touhill said she is meeting with one or two business people every day to discuss "workforce development." She said she is also trying to work on the newest University of Missouri curators and is preparing to speak about underfunding with a three-person committee from the state legislature which will visit here this summer.

Asked how UM System President Manuel Pacheco has responded to her efforts, Touhill said he didn't want to move money from one campus to another.

"He has said he will work with me in adding new programs and getting money for these programs," she said. "In essence, he's saying old money is hard to move from campus to campus. But new money, he'll try to help us with as we develop."

Touhill said the business community has responded well to her efforts so far and that area employers tell her they like UMSL graduates.

"I was with a gentleman this morning. He said he needed 1,000 technology people 'right now,'" she said. "Keep in mind we had 1,100 people on a waiting list in September to get into 3 different programs: computer science, MIS, and graphic arts and web design. We were able to find places for 92 of them."

In his report, Lawrence Barton, chair of the University Assembly, described his own recent efforts to try and bolster support for the University.

At the March Assembly meeting, Barton shared statistics he had gathered that compared UMSL's state financial support with other Missouri institutions. He told the Assembly at last week's meeting that he had mailed the information to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch twice, but hadn't heard much back. He said he also shared the materials with Pacheco and curator and UMSL alumna Connie Silverstein.

Barton said the administration in Columbia had recently told him that their numbers differed from his.

"Our numbers were taken from the CBHE website and the UM System website," he said. "Our numbers are correct if the numbers on the website are correct."

Other Assembly business:

  • The Assembly voted unanimously to pass a revised "Acceptable Use Policy" developed by the Computing and Instructional Technology Committee. Fred Willman, professor of music, presented the policy, which would apply to campus computers and networks.
  • Ryan Connor, president of the Student Government Association, talked about the SGA's successes this year and predicted that next year would be better, since the incoming SGA officers would have a full year and could begin planning during the summer.
  • Pat Dolan, director of athletics, gave a detailed overview of the Athletics department. She said her goals were to have all UMSL teams finish in the top half of their conference and to increase UMSL's visibility in the St. Louis sports market.
  • Touhill gave a report for the Budget and Planning Committee and urged the campus community to come to an open meeting on the University's strategic plan, to be held May 1.

This article was reprinted with permission from The Current.


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