From the UMKC Chapter of the AAUP

Help Us Keep UMKC Public and the UM System Intact

Since April a so-called "Blue Ribbon Task Force" has been at work
"evaluating" the University of Missouri at Kansas City, a public institution
belonging to the four-campus University of Missouri system.  Commissioned by
business interests outside the university, the Task Force is chaired by
Benno Schmidt, who has made a career and a personal fortune privatizing
public education.  The Task Force has strongly suggested in public
statements its intention to recommend removing UMKC from the University of
Missouri system.  Given Schmidt's track record, there is a high likelihood
that the Task Force will also recommend partial or full privatization.
Other Task Force members are on record in support of an autocratic model of
university governance.  The Task Force is an instrument of certain local
businesses hoping to take control of UMKC and profit by reorganization of
the university.

Faculty and student organizations as well as administrators have already
expressed public opposition to the possibility of a corporate takeover.
Please join them by raising your voice against the dismemberment of the
University of Missouri System, the isolation of UMKC, its downgrading to an
underfunded, third rank institution, and the erection of financial barriers
shutting out low income people and communities of color from higher
education.

The future of UMKC and of public higher education in Missouri is squarely on
the line, and the direction it takes will impact everyone: faculty,
students, staff, administrators, alumni, retirees, and the public at large.

We need as many voices as possible to counteract the powerful backers of the
Task Force and the extensive public relations apparatus it has mobilized to
sell its agenda to the public.  The plans for a corporate takeover of UMKC
are on fast track, and we must start to build a large response now.  The
first wave of letters must be sent before the Task Force delivers its
"preliminary report" on June 24.

Please do the following:

 1) contact officials (see list below)
 2) if you live in the KC region, attend the Friday June 24 hearing in
Kansas City of the Missouri State Government Review Commission.  Be there to
support testimony against the Blue Ribbon Task Force by UMKC administration,
faculty, staff, students, and alumni.  Time: 2PM.  Place: Auditorium of
Missouri Department of Conservation, Discovery Center, 4750 Troost (west
side of Troost, driveway just south of fast food restaurant on corner).

Below you will find a sample letter and a list of people to write to.  If
you can, send an e-mail message to everyone on the list, but even one
message to a single person is a valuable contribution.  The voice of the
public defending public higher education needs to be be heard.

Please forward this appeal to everyone you know who supports public higher
education.  If you are on the faculty of UMKC or of other institutions,
please contact your colleagues, professional organizations, students and
former students, administrators, staff, and individuals and organizations in
the community you work with.  If you are in the community, please contact
individuals and organizations in your networks.

So that the AAUP chapter can tabulate public responses to this appeal,
please send a message to the web manager of the AAUP site
(brodskyd@earthlink.net) stating the number of people you have contacted.
If it is everyone on the list, just write "ALL."

For more information please see the BACKGROUND STATEMENT below, which
includes links to more extensive sources with docmentation.

Thank you very much for your support.

Sincerely,

Patricia Brodsky
Professor of Foreign Languages
President, AAUP chapter at UMKC
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SAMPLE MESSAGE

In subject line of e-mail you send write: "Keep UMKC public, oppose Blue
Ribbon Task Force"

Dear,

I am writing to express my strong support for the tradition of public higher
education in Missouri, which insures that college and post-graduate
education is accessible and affordable for the citizens of the state.

UMKC must remain a fully public institution and full member of the
four-campus University of Missouri system.  I oppose suggestions made by the
Blue Ribbon Task Force that UMKC should be removed from the UM system or
that it should be privatized, in whole or in part.

The University of Missouri as currently governed sustains high academic
standards throughout the system, coordinates efficient sharing of scarce
resources among campuses, and promotes public accountability.  The
governance structure of the UM system, with its oversight by the President
and Governor-appointed Board of Curators, should be retained.

To maintain its tradition of accessibility, affordability, and
accountability, I strongly urge that the state of Missouri provide an
adequate level of public funding to higher education, as mandated by the
state Constitution.  This is an investment in the future of our children.

Signed,

[Your name]
[Your address]
[If you are a resident of Missouri, state your MO House and Senate
districts; see below for contact info]
[UMKC is represented by MO House district 39, MO Senate district 10; see
below for contact info]
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CONTACT INFORMATION


 

1. ELSON FLOYD, PRESIDENT
University of Missouri System
email: floyde@umsystem.edu


 

US MAIL
ELSON FLOYD
321 University Hall
Columbia, MO  65211
Phone: 573-882-2011
FAX: 573-882-2721



 

2. BOARD OF CURATORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI SYSTEM
e-mail [for all 9 Curators]: boardofcurators@umsystem.edu



 

3. ANGELA BENNETT, Vice President of UM Board of Curators and Kansas City
representative; UMKC Trustee
e-mail: bennettan@umsystem.edu
Phone: 816-268-0478



 

4. POTENTIALLY SYMPATHETIC UMKC TRUSTEES


 

a) TOM STEWART
e-mail: tstewart@LathropGage.com


 

US MAIL
TOM STEWART
Lathrop and Gage L.C.
2345 Grand Blvd
Suite 2800
Kansas City, MO  64108
Phone: 816-460-5707



 

b) EMANUEL CLEAVER II, US House of Representatives, 5th District
webform e-mail: http://www.house.gov/cleaver/IMA/issue.htm


 

US MAIL
EMANUEL CLEAVER II
1641 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515
Phone: 202-225-4535
FAX: 202-225-4403


 

400 E. 9th St.
Suite 9350
Kansas City, MO  64106
District Phone: 816-842-4545
FAX: 816-471-5215



 

c) THE HONORABLE ANN MESLE
16th Judicial Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri
e-mail: Ann.Mesle@courts.mo.gov


 

US MAIL
THE HONORABLE ANN MESLE
16th Judicial Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri
Jackson County Courthouse
415 E. 12 St., 6th Floor
Kansas City, MO  64106-2706



 

d) NEWTON CAMPBELL
e-mail: campbelln@umkc.edu



 

e) BETH SMITH
e-mail:


 

US MAIL
BETH SMITH
Bloch School, Room 401
UMKC
5110 Cherry
Kansas City, MO  64110
Phone: 816-235-2343



 

5. MISSOURI STATE GOVERNMENT REVIEW COMMISSION, EDUCATION TASK FORCE  [NB:
**not the same as the Blue Ribbon Task Force**]


 

 [Address all three members in single e-mail or letter]


 

a) CHARLES MCCLAIN, Past Commissioner for Higher Education and member of GRC
Task Force E


 

b) KATHLEEN OSBORN, member of GRC Task Force E


 

c) CICI ROJAS, member of GRC Task Force E


 

e-mail: ryan.burson@oa.mo.gov


 

US MAIL
MISSOURI STATE GOVERNMENT REVIEW COMMISSION OFFICE
Office of Administration
Division of Budget and Planning
Room 124 Capitol Building
PO Box 809
Jefferson City, MO  65102-0809
Phone: 573-751-2345
FAX: 573-526-4811



 

6. PLEASE WRITE TO REPRESENTATIVES FROM UMKC'S DI«LA1»STRICTS IN THE
MISSOURI HOUSE AND SENATE (particularly if you are an employee of UMKC)
 [you don't have to be a resident of Missouri to write them]


 

a) BETH LOW
Representative 39th District
Missouri House of Representatives
e-mail: beth.low@house.mo.gov


 

US MAIL
BETH LOW
State Capitol, Room 101G
201 W. Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City, MO  65101-6806
Phone: 573-751-4485
Fax: 573-526-0571
District Phone: 816-531-5497



 

b) CHARLES WHEELER
Senator 10th District
e-mail: charles_wheeler@senate.mo.gov


 

US MAIL
CHARLES WHEELER
State Capitol Building, Room 425
201 W. Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City, MO  65101
Phone: 573-751-2788
FAX: 573-751-9776
District Phone: 816-914-8110



 

7. IF YOU ARE ALSO A RESIDENT OF MISSOURI, WRITE YOUR OWN REPRESENTATIVES IN
THE MISSOURI HOUSE AND SENATE.«LA1»


 

Missouri House: http://www.house.state.mo.us/
 go to "Legislator Lookup" on home page


 

Missouri Senate: http://www.senate.state.mo.us/
 go to "Legislator Lookup" on home page


 

US MAIL
State Capitol Building
201 W. Capitol Ave.
Jefferson City, MO  65101



 

8. DAVID ATKINSON, Chair
UMKC Chancellor Search Committee
e-mail: atkinsond@umkc.edu


 

US MAIL
DAVID ATKINSON
Department of Political Science
UMKC
5100 Rockhill Rd.
Kansas City, MO  64110



 

9. DR. GREGORY G. FITCH, COMMISSIONER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION
Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education
e-mail: info@dhe.mo.gov


 

US MAIL
DR. GREGORY G. FITCH
Missouri Department of Higher Education
3515 Amazonas Drive
Jefferson City, MO  65109
Phone: 573-751-2361
FAX: 573-751-6635


 

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BACKGROUND STATEMENT

See THE FACULTY ADVOCATE (May 2005) for in-depth reports on these issues
(http://cas.umkc.edu/aaup/facadv18.htm).

In April the UMKC Trustees, a non-profit support group for the university
without any legal role in running the institution, announced its endorsement
of a Blue Ribbon Task Force.  The Task Force was commissioned by the Greater
Kansas City Community Foundation, a local non-profit that manages and
distributes private donations to civic projects.

The Task Force held some meetings with local groups, including faculty at
UMKC.  Its stated purpose is "to conduct a ... study of UMKC as an urban
university."  But a number of facts indicate that it is not what it claims
to be, a helpful and well-intentioned effort to improve the university.

No one at UMKC or in the University of Missouri system asked for a study of
the institution.  All members of the Task Force are outsiders with no
significant local knowledge and experience.  And the Task Force bypasses
UMKC and the UM system by addressing its report principally to outsiders.

Benno Schmidt, the chair of the Task Force and its main spokesperson, has a
dubious track record.  Schmidt is Chairman of the Board for the Edison
Schools corporation, which privatizes public schools and school systems.
Edison has consistently lost money, and parents' groups at Edison schools
around the country are demanding a return to public education for their
children.  In Kansas City, a school board official of the Westport Charter
School called Edison an "'out-of-state, out-of-touch' management company."
As of 2005 at least ten class action suits had been filed against Edison,
including for civil rights violations and failure to provide a free and
adequate education.  Edison was fined by the US Department of Education's
Office of Civil Rights for "failing to provide legally required classroom
help for a disabled child."

Schmidt and Edison founder Christopher Whittle received salaries of close to
$300,000 in 1999, while operating costs were one and a half times as high as
income.  Edison used "'aggressive bookkeeping' ... to inflate stock prices
while hiding huge losses ...  Edison officers have enjoyed windfalls in the
tens of millions of dollars."  By 2002 Edison shares had dropped 98%, and
Edison had been accused by the SEC of misleading investors.  For these and
other reasons, Edison has been called "Education's Enron."

Schmidt plays a similar role in higher education.  In New York City he was
head of an Advisory Task Force on the City University of New York and
principal author of its controversial "study" of CUNY.  As Chair of the CUNY
Board of Trustees, his job has been to privatize parts of the CUNY system
and end the school's traditional commitment to accessible education for
lower income New Yorkers.

Schmidt is not a figure to be taken lightly.  He has powerful connections
with Governor Pataki of New York and former Mayor Giuliani of New York City,
who appointed him to his positions.  They are both potential presidential
candidates.

The Task Force report will be delivered to the Missouri Government Review
Commission (MGRC), a process rife with conflict of interest.  Warren K.
Erdman, a Kansas City power broker who serves on many corporate boards, is
both a member of the UMKC Board of Trustees and Co-Chair of MGRC.

In Kansas City the main support for the Blue Ribbon Task Force comes from
certain local business interests who sit on the UMKC Board of Trustees.  The
Kansas City business press, which speaks for these interests, recommended
eliminating the office of President of the UM system and the Board of
Curators, who legally govern the four campuses according to the Constitution
of the State of Missouri.

The Task Force has publicly recommended removing UMKC from the University of
Missouri system.  Its rationale is "local control," which it further claims
will promote "excellence."  But it carefully avoids the question of who
would have decisive influence on university policy.  In fact, control of
UMKC would pass into the hands of local business interests who back the Task
Force and plan to benefit from the "localization" (read "privatization") of
the institution.

The Task Force also carefully avoids the question of funding, that is, what
sources would replace state support of the university.  This major omission
indicates how irresponsible its forecasts of "excellence" are.  Its vague
promises of increased investment by local businesses are pure fantasy.  No
consortium of local businesses could afford, or would agree, to provide the
same level of support as the state of Missouri currently does.

Most of the funding, then, would have to come from two sources: increases in
Kansas City regional taxes and higher tuition.

Since the Task Force is proposing a plan for the greater Kansas City region,
tax increases would affect not only western Missouri taxpayers but possibly
those in eastern Kansas as well.  But because the UM system saves money by
sharing resources among its four campuses, UMKC would cost more to run as a
stand-alone institution than as part of the UM system.  Thus regional tax
increases would very likely be considerable.

Since taxes could not make up the shortfall by themselves, tuition would
also rise dramatically.  But further increases on top of recent tuition
hikes would make a college education unaffordable for a large proportion of
the students UMKC is mandated to serve, lower income people and communities
of color.  If they are shut out of higher education, their futures will be
less than promising.

But even with higher taxes and tuition, UMKC would remain underfunded, and
underfunded institutions are the opposite of "excellent."  Salaries would
stagnate, good faculty and administrators would be driven away or not even
apply for jobs, workloads would increase and working conditions deteriorate
for all employees, teaching and other positions as well as academic programs
would be eliminated (including tenured faculty), particularly those in
non-lucrative disciplines that teach critical thinking, professionally
trained faculty would be replaced, if at all, with underpaid part-timers,
and the quality of education would sink, thus harming the students.

Add to underfunding the autocratic management model recommended in a book by
two Task Force members--thus ending shared governance, academic freedom, due
process, and probably tenure also--and we have a recipe for downgrading UMKC
to a diploma mill.  Even retirees would suffer.  Removal of UMKC from the UM
system might involve removal of the pension plan from the four campus
retirement system as well.  Employee retirement benefits would be reduced
(smaller pool) and, if privatized, very likely endangered a la Enron.  The
Florida retirement system is already endangered as principal owner of Edison
Schools corporation.

In the first half of May the FACULTY ADVOCATE, newsletter of the AAUP
chapter at UMKC, published exposes of the Task Force and its agenda and
urged widespread opposition.  UM system President Floyd stated that he
rejected the idea of removing UMKC from the UM system.  And the UM System
Intercampus Student Council issued a press release opposing privatization
and dismemberment of the UM system.

UMKC as a public institution serves all of the people of Missouri and
specifically those in the Kansas City region.  As part of the UM system, it
benefits from uniformly high academic standards, accessibility for all
qualified applicants, affordability, the prestige of a University of
Missouri degree, a wide choice of academic programs distributed among four
campuses, and easier student transfers between campuses and programs.  These
are some of the reasons why it is in everyone's interest to keep UMKC public.