Students protests have repercussions

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Missouri's flagship university - the University of Missouri - is in a bit of a pickle.

Enrollment has tanked, revenues are down by millions of dollars, seven residential halls - once packed with eager freshmen - are closed and tuition costs are expected to climb to make up for the financial shortfall.

Projected enrollment for the upcoming fall semester is down nearly 15 percent.

Let's turn the clock back to the fall of 2015 when a group of minority students declared the university was a racist hotbed of bigotry and demanded changes.

The national media latched onto the unrest on the heels of the Ferguson riots and put the negative spotlight of attention on dear Ol' Mizzou.

The tepid, weak and cowardly response from the university leadership gave the students the upper hand and led to the resignations of the university president and chancellor.

Now that the media circus has folded its tents and moved to greener pastures, the university is paying the price for classically mishandling the entire situation.

We learned about safe spaces and micro aggressions. And the Mizzou student playbook of disruption was copied on other college campuses.

But more importantly, we learned that free speech ain't so free and there is a price to pay if your political correctness isn't correct enough.

The bullhorns are silent for now and the protest signs are put to the side for another day.

But what remains are higher tuitions for hard-working families trying to improve their students' lot in life.

What remains is an entire university trying to walk on eggshells in an attempt to not offend anyone.

To address the enrollment crisis, the university did the expected - they formed a committee.

In typical college-speak, the committee "will review student recruiting plans, tuition and financial models, student success planning and student yield, retention and degree persistence, with the goal being to create strategies and policies to aid MU enrollment efforts."

Let me save the committee some time.

When leaders fail to lead and when dissidents are allowed to call the shots, expect negative outcomes.

One calculation puts the lost revenue for the university since the student rebellion at a staggering $73 million.

But the blame for this massive mishandling falls on many shoulders. The Board of Curators stood silent as did most of the faculty.

Donors stopped sending checks, parents stopped sending their students and a once well-earned reputation has been tarnished.

The stepchild of this unrest is that universities across the nation are banning conservative speech as students parade lists of delusional demands.

If the murky goal of the student upheaval was to change the university, then change indeed has arrived.

Just now we are learning the price tag for this change. And we now know who will pay for that change as well.

Michael Jensen

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