- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Columbia Tribune, March 22

In the long view of University of Missouri-Columbia history, current Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin is a newbie. Yet, judging from the tenor of the packed house on campus Tuesday, the chancellor deserves blame for what students, faculty, staff and administrators believe is an unfriendly atmosphere for minority students.

It was a group of the most discontented: Ferguson protesters, Latino and Muslim student organizations and others harboring complaints. Many speakers accused Loftin and his administration of not doing enough to comply with a list of student concerns presented in December containing such evergreen issues as lack of faculty diversity and cultural training for students and employees.

It’s not a fair rap - not because the worriers should shut up, but because Loftin and his staff don’t deserve such criticism.

Having been around these parts for several semesters, I can remember clearly the showing of this movie before. Loftin and all chancellors before him want greater numbers of well-qualified minority students, faculty and staff. As noted here before, wanting and achieving are two different things. The pool of qualified black faculty and students is smaller than the nationwide demand. Places like Missouri are hard pressed to compete with places like Harvard and UCLA for the most coveted hires.

The same is true for students. Universities are regularly pressed to increase minority student populations without eroding admissions standards. Aggressive minority preference admissions policies were found unconstitutional in court. Within established legal limits, most universities, including MU, aggressively seek minority enrollments and are more than happy when a faculty opening can be filled successfully with a minority person.

The other side of the equation deserves attention. It is perfectly clear any well-qualified student of any race or color has more than an equal shot at admission to MU and once here receives equal or better institutional support.

Some of the criticism aimed at Loftin properly belongs to perpetrators beyond his immediate control, such as students who engage in reprehensible racist behavior. Anyone with a longish view of campus affairs will agree campus administrations are paying more attention to such errant behavior today than ever before.

Loftin did a good deed meeting with the unhappy. By all accounts he patiently accepted their comments. He said - honestly, I think - he is frustrated, too, and would like to see all gripes satisfied, but there is only so much officials at Jesse Hall can do. Until we see evidence that the Loftin administration doesn’t care, we should focus as much on accomplishments as on ground yet to be gained.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23

A group of Missouri legislators is continuing a determined effort to bar undocumented immigrant students from making Missouri a better place by limiting their access to higher education.

This is the second year in a row - and it probably won’t be the last - in which some Republican lawmakers have targeted students who graduate from high school in Missouri, but who aren’t here legally because they were brought here as small children, from being eligible for state aid or favorable tuition at state colleges or universities.

But that’s not all. These legislators want Missouri’s higher education institutions to charge these students the highest tuition rates possible, which would be as out-of-state students, even though most of them grew up here. Schools that don’t charge the maximum tuition are being threatened with loss of state funds.

These young people have done nothing wrong, and yet some Missouri lawmakers want to punish them. The students’ biggest crime is that they were born elsewhere and brought here as youngsters. Many of them are living legally in Missouri as so-called DREAMers, students whose deportation is deferred because they meet specific criteria, such as having lived in the United States since before they were 16.

Their deferral is temporary and does not provide them with a path to lawful permanent resident status or citizenship. It does not grant them some back-door access to being fully accepted as U.S. citizens. Some are here under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Initiative, an executive order enacted by President Barack Obama after the DREAM act failed to pass Congress.

For Missouri Republicans, the Obama angle settles the issue.

The teens have been instructed from an early age to strive for the American dream, and a central theme in that is education. Discriminating against them just doesn’t make sense, economically or in any other way.

Included in the legislative punishment effort are other immigrants who have a lawful presence, such as asylum seekers and refugees. For them, too, highest possible tuition and no state aid. The difference is expensive. Tuition at the University of Missouri for out-of-state students is $24,314, compared to $10,286 for in-state.

The scholarship program the lawmakers don’t want non-documented students participating in is the A+ program. It provides students with scholarships equal to two free years at a participating community college or vocational school, as long as they graduate high school with at least a 2.5 GPA, have a 95 percent attendance rate and complete at least 50 hours of unpaid tutoring or mentoring.

Those are high standards requiring serious dedication from the student. That high-caliber effort should be recognized by a state whose lawmakers repeatedly have asserted that they want a talented pool of workers to help attract business development.

Business start-ups and those looking to relocate list an educated and talented work force among the top qualities they are seeking. Those lists don’t mention immigrant status.

Requiring these highly motivated and top-performing students to pay even more than their counterparts just because they are foreign-born is a mistake. Academic and economic development studies have shown that a healthy immigrant community helps an area prosper.

At least 18 states around the country, including four bordering Missouri - Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma - recognize this. They offer in-state tuition benefits to undocumented students, and many also make scholarships and other forms of financial aid available. This is a smart investment in the economic futures of these states, as well as in the young people who will benefit from higher education.

The federal government guarantees all children regardless of their immigration status a K-12 education. The U.S. Supreme Court has weighed in, saying that denying such educational access would create a permanent underclass of citizens.

Missouri needs all the ambitious, striving, dream-believing young people it can get. Offering modest financial benefits to students who have earned them, regardless of their immigration status, would be the right thing to do morally and economically.

It’s been a boon to other states that have tried it. Missouri ought to be next. The bills seeking to limit educational access are SB 224, sponsored by Gary Romine, R-Farmington; HB 186, sponsored by Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob; and HB 3, sponsored by Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage.


(Cape Girardeau) Southeast Missourian, March 20

On March 15, a new venue officially opened in Jackson that celebrates local history as it aspires to become a regional tourist destination.

The 2,000-square-foot Cape Girardeau History Center at 102 High St. began its new life in the former Andrew Jackson Bridal Co. building with an exhibit titled “Spring Into History.” The installation features quilts by crafters including Lynn Taylor, whose award-winning work will be displayed until the beginning of June.

Then, from June 5 to Aug. 15, a new exhibit will rotate into the space, featuring the history of hardware and tools in the county.

But these and other amenities didn’t come without months of planning and preparation, mainly by preservationist Carla Jordan and members of the Cape Girardeau County Historical Society, which is renting the space from McQuade Enterprises LLC. The center is funded by a trust from Jackson residents W. Shelby and Mildred Brown, said James Baughn, vice president of the historical society. (Baughn also is the webmaster for semissourian.com, and a popular blogger on the site.)

“I want this (center) to be the gem of Jackson,” Jordan was quoted as saying in a recent Southeast Missourian article. Jordan is best known for her work at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg, Missouri, and has worked on other history centers in Kansas and Oklahoma. “I want this to be a place where everybody can come and see what’s going on in the region, as far as cultural tourism goes.”

That certainly was the case on opening day, when visitors Ann Crites and her husband, Bud, stopped by to admire the scenery — and even recognized some faces on a quilt made by Idell Brown Dockins, called “The Brown Family Quilt.” The quilt incorporates images of family members over time.

“They were actually friends of my parents, and I told Bud, ‘I didn’t think anyone probably remembered them; they’ve been gone such a long time,’” Crites told Missourian reporter Savanna Maue.

Indeed, nothing captures the spirit of the new center as much Crites’ words. It not only is a place of remembering, but also of connecting with community members past and present. We hope you’ll be able to check it out soon. The center is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free.


Joplin Globe, March 22

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, in announcing his selection of retired Joplin police Chief Lane Roberts to head up the Department of Public Safety, said that in making Cabinet choices, he needed the “right people in the right places.”

Keeping that in mind, Nixon, in our view, looked in the right direction. And that’s refreshing considering it’s been decades since a governor has selected someone from the Joplin area to serve in a Cabinet position.

Nixon got a close look at Joplin in the aftermath of the 2011 tornado, and that’s where he recognized Roberts’ leadership qualities.

“There were 450 separate law enforcement agencies in Joplin after the tornado,” Nixon said Thursday when announcing Roberts as his choice. “At no time did anyone question Chief Roberts’ authority. His focused determination and his steadfast leadership in this community are skills needed now at the state level.”

The job of leading the Department of Public Safety is no small role. The department’s operations includes the National Guard, Capitol Police, the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, the Division of Fire Safety, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri State Water Division, State Emergency Management Agency, the Office of the Adjutant General and the Veterans Commission, and the Gaming Commission.

Roberts, who has served in government at all levels, said he looked at the job as an opportunity to serve the public, something he admits to missing since his retirement as police chief a year ago.

Nixon’s appointment was not political patronage. Roberts isn’t a Democrat. Rather, he was chosen for his specific skills. And that’s how it should be if government really is to serve the people rather than serving a political party.

Roberts’ appointment is subject to Senate confirmation and Sen. Ron Richard, a Joplin Republican and Senate majority leader will carry Roberts’ nomination through the Senate.

Richard called Roberts a “great choice.”

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