2.23.2005

More rambling about the name change...

Perhaps more interesting than the actual debate in the House Committee on the name change bill is the way the various Missouri press outlets report the story.

To the quote from Rep. Tim Flook from the AP story that I excerpted in the previous post, the Springfield News-Leader includes his additional comment: "... But what we've witnessed here is a lot of strong-arming on the part of Mizzou people." The SNL also includes more on MU Professor James Sterling's accusations of blackmailing from the the Blunt administration:

"The issue before us today is one of extreme importance to all Missourians," Jim Sterling, an MU journalism professor and name-change opponent, told the committee.

"It does not deserve the rough treatment it received in a system of political spoils and back-room maneuvering."

Sterling said he had heard from a third-party source that a Blunt aide threatened University of Missouri President Elson Floyd last week with the loss of $50 million to $100 million in state appropriations if he didn't agree to the pre-dawn compromise that ended the Senate's all-night debate.

"Get on board or risk millions," said Sterling, paraphrasing what his unnamed source had said.

Spokesmen for both Floyd and Blunt called the accusation untrue.

"That's a complete lie," Blunt spokesman Paul Sloca said. "And it's disturbing that a professor of journalism would testify before a committee on rumor rather than determining exactly what the facts are in this situation."

MU spokesman Joe Moore said, "That conversation did not occur."


It's ironic that Professor Sterling complains about "back-room maneuvering." I have heard, from a very reliable source (whose anonymity I will protect), firsthand accounts of the MU Alumni Association secretly pressuring Representatives when the bill came to a vote last year in the House, resulting in the surprise of the bill recieving fewer votes of support than it had co-sponsors.

The Kansas City Star reveals a bit more about Professor Sterling:

"Jim Sterling, an MU journalism professor, former member of the Board of Curators and a Republican, testified that one of Blunt's representatives threatened to cut MU's funding by $50 million to $100 million if University of Missouri system President Elson Floyd did not support the name-change bill.

Questioned later, Sterling said he did not hear such a threat but was told about it by a university supporter who had talked with Floyd."


I'm not certain why only the Star mentioned that Sterling is a Republican, but it demonstrates that this has been more of a "school spirit" debate than one which splits along party lines. (Although it does seem that Republicans have been more supportive of the name change-- probably because it makes sense. Republicans are more likely to see that the name change would benefit the entire state, rather than be controlled by blind dedication to an alma mater.)

The SNL story also didn't mention the testimony of MU student Greg Chase. The AP reports:

"...the mood among lawmakers soured after Greg Chase, a student who said he was representing the University of Missouri Alumni Association, raised questions about whether the state can afford to fund another university with a statewide designation.

He asked committee members if they knew how Missouri ranked nationally for higher education funding and how it compares with other states.

"If you don't know the answer to those questions, you have no business in voting this bill out of committee," Chase said.

That comment angered Rep. Scott Rupp, a University of Missouri-Columbia alum.

"If you're going to make a point, fine, but don't (upset) the people on the committee you're trying to convince," said Rupp, R-Wentzville."


The St. Joseph News-Press more accurately reports Rep. Rupp's response, "...don't piss off the people on the committee you're trying to convince."

While I think all the versions of this story in different publications do a good job of relating the basic events, I think the St. Joe paper best captured the mood of the hearing by including the not-quite-a-bad-word-but-not-good-either phrase "piss off." I wish I could see a video of that hearing. Why isn't there a C-SPAN for the Missouri legislature? (Probably because crazy people like me would never get any work done at all. We'd just sit and watch the government work all day long.)

On that note, I need to get to class. If you want to read the actual name change bill, it's at http://house.state.mo.us/bills051/bills/SB098.HTM.