Archive for April, 2010

By Paul Mossine

Brian Brooks stirred up controversy with journalism students today when he sent out a mass e-mail decrying students staying late in buildings at the Missouri School of Journalism and propping open locked doors in the evening. His e-mail to the students is here:


We’ve had some serious security problems in the Journalism buildings recently. Two things you need to know:

1. Propping open exterior doors to the Journalism complex is illegal and can lead to charges being filed against you for illegal entry. When the building is locked, that means all facilities are closed.

2. It has been called to my attention that the custodians have found people sleeping and/or working in the building when they arrive in the early morning. This is prohibited when the exterior doors are locked. If you propped open an external door or entered through one propped open, that does not excuse the fact that you are in the building illegally.

Effective immediately, MU Police will begin patrolling the complex to ensure compliance.

Thanks for your help in protecting our facilities and equipment.


The move resulted in a backlash from students on Twitter, Facebook and blogs, questioning Brooks’ move.

Some concerns students shared were:

  • That many students work long hours, especially during finals week, and a police presence would add to stress.
  • That students pay tuition to use facilities that would be closed off to them after-hours.
  • That many assignments are time sensitive, and regulating access to technology would interfere with deadlines.

I talked to Brooks today, who seemed annoyed by the accusations that his actions were not reasonable. He said that any journalism student can obtain access to the facilities, and was irritated that professors were not passing along the information to students that would ensure their access. He said that any student could get their name on a list through their professor and could get their student ID card activated easily to avoid problems with police. He said t his concerns are for the safety of students, as many homeless people have been entering RJI after hours through propped open doors. He also made clear that the rules to be enforced by police have been in effect for the past two years.

Brooks outlined three doors that can be opened with a card around the journalism complex:

  • Near the Neff Annex parking lot
  • On the “circle drive” side of Gannett
  • Between RJI and the old sociology building

UPDATE: Brooks sent out a follow-up e-mail close to 7 p.m. to clarify his earlier statements. He explained the process to obtain access to RJI, as we mentioned above and said that policing the buildings would probably not go into effect until summer session, although he can’t guarantee the retraction would make its way through MUPD before the weekend.

You can read his original e-mail to faculty and staff and the follow-up e-mail after the jump.

UPDATE #2: For those of you interested in participating in the “study-in,” it has been called off because its creator found Brooks’ second e-mail satisfactory.



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MU faculty members gather for updates


MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, Budget Director Tim Rooney and Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin addressed faculty members in a half-full Jesse Wrench Auditorium yesterday at the spring general faculty meeting, and those in attendance (including yours truly) were treated to a fast-paced, concise review of recent activity by several divisions at the university.

MU budget explanation

MU Budget Director Tim Rooney outlined the following costs MU will face in the following year:

  • The 5.2 percent budget cuts from the state total a decrease of $10 million.
  • MU will attempt to maintain the discount rate currently available for undergraduates, which adds $2 million to MU’s expenses.
  • The 2.7 percent increase in graduate tuition would mean tuition waivers from assistantships would cost the university $800,000.
  • Few expenditures, which include increasing instruction costs due to enrollment growth, faculty diversity recruitment, promotion funding and new scholarships, would add $9.6 million to the deficit.

However, to help offset the above costs (which total more than $20 million), there are a few avenues for income.

  • The tuition increase for out-of-state undergraduates, graduate students and those in professional programs, would bring in approximately $5.2 million.
  • The projected enrollment increase of 538 students would total $3.9 million.

In total, Rooney projected a deficit of about $12 million.

To see a more detailed report of the budget situation, read the Missourian’s article on the subject.

Enrollment projections

Also at the meeting, Deaton addressed potential enrollment numbers for fall 2010.

Based on price elasticity calculations, Deaton said, the increase in non-resident tuition could decrease out-of-state enrollment by 160 students. He also said that more freshmen are opting to attend community college, and that families are increasingly concerned about higher education costs.

Deaton said enrollment projections would be more accurate after the May 1 deadline for deposits, but he said the university has so far received 17,080 applications, which is a 6 percent increase from last year. The following increases were also found from last year:

  • an 8 percent increase in applications from “high-ability students,” or those who achieved a score of 28 or higher on the ACT (4,700 students);
  • a 7 percent increase in transfer student applications (1,865 students);
  • a 13 percent increase in non-resident applications (7,615 students);
  • a 14 percent increase in African-American applicants (1,911 students);
  • a 31 percent increase in Hispanic applicants (640 students); and
  • a total projected increase of 2.3 percent (500-600 students) for a total of about 31,800 students.

Faculty Council Update

Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin reviewed recent council activity:

  • A course evaluation committee, headed by Steve Osterlind and Robert Torres, is in the process of reviewing the entire course evaluation document.
  • A review of the general education requirements at MU is nearly finished and a report should be compiled by fall.
  • The council recommended that the Board of Curators approve a resolution guaranteeing benefits for employees’ domestic partners.
    • Specifically for MU, the council is looking into “soft benefits,” which could include access to a partner’s library card and a partner add-on to season passes at AL Gustin Golf Course.
  • The university began offering credit for military veterans for certain courses completed while in service.
  • A family friendly task force was formed to address the unique circumstances of student parents at MU.
  • Former Council Chair Tom Phillips reviewed changes to the Classroom Intellectual Property guidelines, which specify under which circumstances the university owns the copyright to works created by employees.

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Well, you usually see me in school district boardrooms rather than courtrooms, but today was a different story.

Zachary Tucker, 21, and Sean Fitzgerald, 19, appeared in court today to plead guilty to a littering misdemeanor and I was there to cover the sentencing. Back in February, the students covered the front of the MU’s Black Culture Center with cotton balls, causing some to take racial offense.

Over the past couple months, meetings and sessions have been held to discuss the incident and what should be done about it. Both students have taken hits financially, educationally and personally and now face two years of unsupervised probation, eighty hours of community service and driver’s license suspension.

If the probation is violated, they could face up to a year in jail.

The courtroom was fairly calm and quiet until Linda Tucker, Zachary’s mom, took the stand. She held back tears from realization that her son had lost his Navy scholarship and may be kept from other career opportunities.

Although Fitzgerald did not make a statement, Tucker did. His voice was practically inaudible from my seat as he pushed through his apology.

I treat this entire thing as a learning opportunity…What hurts is seeing how this hurts other people.

As Tucker’s emotions carried his voice away, his lawyer reached up to touch his arm, letting him know it was okay to stop.

The students will appear in court again August 16. For more information on the incident and the sentencing, visit columbiamissourian.com

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Intriguing set built for MU play

The set of Eurydice, a play currently showing at Rhynsburger Theater on MU’s campus, has more to offer than immediately meets the eye.

Initially, the grey and white-checkered set may be visually striking due to a multitude of pipes, an elevator and walls that divide sections of the stage; viewers of the play, however, know that this set has more to offer.

What makes this set unique are its water elements, of which it has three. A water pump that is on wheels is the only movable portion of the stage. Along the majority of the front of the stage lies the “River of Forgetfulness.” And if the presence of an elevator was not cool enough, the roof of the elevator is rained upon. According to Dan Springer, supervisor of stage service in Rhynsburger Theater, there is between 100 and 200 feet of hose backstage during the show.

With all this water being incorporated into a live theater event, special materials were required to make certain structures in the set.

Springer emphasized the importance of preparation in set building.

“It’s all about planning and materials,” Springer said.

He explained that when more time and effort is put into planning out the construction of the set based on the design drawings, the set-builders usually encounter fewer bumps along the road.

Undergraduate students taking one of the five offered sections of Theater 1320: “beginning set construction” do the actual building of the set.

“It is always fascinating to take 35 undergraduates, all but about five of whom are non-theater majors, and build a set of this production value in six weeks,” Springer said.

With the help of Shawna Kelty, an adjunct theater professor at the university, Springer gives students big projects broken down into little projects that will eventually come back together according to Springer’s vision. All of this comes from the preliminary drawings and computer renderings of the set done by Jon Drtina, an assistant teaching professor in the theater department.

Eurydice, which debuted at Rhynsburger Theater on April 22, will run until Sunday.

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This is a common phrase for MU students walking through campus.

Well the mystery has been solved.  The “smells like a rotting fish” smell comes from the white flower blossoms on the pyrus calleryana, or capital callery pear tree, as it is commonly known as.

It was first discovered in China in 1858 by French missionary, Joseph Callery, and is native to Asia countries. In 1962 it was introduced into the states by the USDA and is found in the southern part of the United States.

The tree is in the pear tree family and produces small inedible greenish-yellow fruit.  Callery tree species can grow up 25-35 ft. in height, which is why it is typically used for landscaping in suburban areas.

So how did it end up on Mizzou’s campus? The capital tree, along with several other plant and tree species, is part of Mizzou Botanic Garden. Chancellor Richard Wallace established the Botanic Garden in 1999.

Unlike typical gardens, the Mizzou Botanic Garden is seen throughout campus. For self-guided tours through the gardens, maps are provided.

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Spring general faculty meeting tomorrow

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin will oversee the university’s spring general faculty meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Jesse Wrench Auditorium.

I’ll be covering the meeting tomorrow and blogging about it afterward, so check back here to see what went on!

The agenda is as follows:

Faculty will discuss the following items:

  • Rubin will update faculty on faculty council business.
  • Faculty will see a draft of a strategic plan for MU created by the Strategic Planning and Resource Advisory Council.
  • Tom Phillips, former faculty council chair, will discuss proposed changes to the university’s intellectual property guidelines.
  • Deaton will update faculty on MU’s budget, enrollment projections and the Mizzou Advantage program.

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The MU College of Engineering‘s concrete canoe team placed third out of nine teams at the American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-Continent Student Conference last weekend in Norman, Okla.

When I first heard about MU’s concrete canoe team, I laughed out loud. I envisioned this hollowed out slab of concrete sinking to the bottom of the Missouri River and decided concrete was the last thing I’d want my canoe to be made of. That, however, shows how little I know about physics and engineering. Concrete canoes really do float.

“It’s not like your standard concrete that you use on a road,” MU junior and concrete canoe team member Sawyer Breslow said.

He said the canoe is made of a mixture of materials including concrete, glass beads and latex. This creates air space within the canoe and allows it to float because the concrete is less dense than the water around it, Breslow said.

Canoes at the competition are judged in four categories, including a paper on the canoe, a presentation to the judges, canoe races against other teams and aesthetics of canoe design.

A team of about 20 students has been working on the canoe since last fall, Breslow said. The canoe is 20 feet long and weighs about 230 pounds.

Other competitive engineering teams at MU include the steel bridge team and the hydrogen car team.

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