Cokie Roberts to speak at Western Convocation

Roberts_Cokie With the start of an important election year, Missouri Western is pleased to announce ABC political commentator Cokie Roberts as the keynote speaker for the Dan R. Boulware Convocation on Critical Issues, Tuesday September 13 at 10 a.m. in the Looney Complex. Roberts is best known for her work on the interview program “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002. Currently, Roberts acts as the political commentator for both ABC News and National Public Radio. Western President Robert Vartabedian is pleased to bring in a political speaker, seven weeks before the national Presidential election, and is eager to hear Roberts thoughts on the upcoming race. “With a very important presidential election coming up November 1, we are fortunate to have one of the country’s leading political commentators to reflect on it,” Vartabedian said. “I am particularly looking forward to her insights on what is shaping up to be the most unusual presidential race of my lifetime.” Roberts has worked over 40 years in broadcast journalism and has been the recipient of countless awards, including three Emmy's and an induction into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. Holding more than 20 honorary degrees, from distinguished institutions including Marquette University and Montgomery College, Roberts also serves on the boards of several non-profit institutions and on the President’s Commission on Service and Civic Participation. In addition to her work in broadcast, Roberts and her husband, Steve Roberts, write a weekly column syndicated in newspapers around the country by United Media, and are contributing editors to the USA Weekend magazine. In 2008, the Library of Congress named her a “Living Legend,” only 103 individuals in American history have attained that honor. In addition to the Convocation, Roberts will also be the guest of honor at the annual luncheon proceeding the Convocation at noon in the Fulkerson Center. Tickets and sponsorship information will be announced at a later date.  

Questioning Congress: Rep. Bill Sarpalius, D-Texas, Rep. Steven Kuykendall, R-California

Former Congressmen Bill Sarpalius, D-Texas, and Steven Kuykendall, R-California, were invited to campus Thursday as part of Western’s celebration of Constitution Day. While on campus, the Griffon News sat down with the two politicians to interview them about their time as representatives and their opinions about politics today.

[audio mp3="http://www.thegriffonnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Interview-with-former-congressmen.mp3"][/audio]   What would you consider your most influential bill or legislation? Sarpalius: My mother had a drinking problem… and for a whole summer, we searched throughout Texas to find a treatment facility. We never found one. My mother was eventually placed in a mental institution for a drinking problem. She later committed suicide. So I ran for public office on a platform to increase the number of treatment facilities in Texas. It took me eight years, but eventually we created an agency to put in drug and alcohol treatment facilities throughout the state. Kuykendall: I was a state assemblyman and there was this young woman… and she was literally walking the halls of the state legislature, wanting someone to introduce her piece of legislation. We invited her in. She had had a son who had been beat to death by her live-in boyfriend. He wasn’t charged with murder; he was charged with fatal child abuse. That reduced the number of years he could serve in prison. The only thing I changed in the law was to make the punishment for fatal child abuse the same as murder, from fifteen to life to 25 to life.   What is your opinion on the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United? Sarpalius: At the time when I took office, anyone who gave money to my campaign was reported and they’re funding was capped. Where it changed is that businesses now can give as much as they want; it’s an open checkbook. The concern is that companies are buying members. But the constitution begins with ‘We the people…’ It’s the peoples’ government. Kuykendall: What I find odd about Citizens United is that young people don’t seem to care as much as old guys like us. I have maybe 20, 30 years at best. I’ve already gotten my pension. But it’s the young people of this nation that need to worry about their vote being heard; but, it’s also the young people that don’t vote as much as the older population. I would just encourage young Americans to make that change, take the responsibility to vote and influence politics. Don’t leave it to big businesses.   Do you think the Civil Rights movement is over? Has it accomplished what it set out to in America? Sarpalius: That’s a good question. That’s a tough issue because on the other side of that coin we’re paying law enforcement officers to protect people. There’s always a rotten apple. There are people out there who are still doing profiling and whatnot. I don’t know how we can stop that. That’s what we did when we passed the Civil Rights Act. The color of your skin means nothing. There are places where that isn’t occurring. It’s not perfect, and it may never be perfect. I don’t know what the solution is. Kuykendall: It’s been happening more and more these days, younger generations of races interacting. It’s no longer black and white; it’s more of a tan color. Blacks are marrying browns and browns are marrying whites. I’m in an area where there is no majority. Minority white; minority black; minority Hispanic; everyone is minority where I live. What makes me sick is that we demonize law enforcement because of the acts of a few. I go on a lot of ride alongs, and it’s just crazy to see these people screaming ‘bloody murder’ in the faces of officers. I don’t know what the answer is. I thought we whipped this dog pretty bad already.

Western Cracks Down on Sexual Harassment

In compliance with upcoming federal changes to Title IX, the university has implemented new policies regarding discrimination. Title IX discrimination refers to sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, gender identity, and failure to conform to stereotypical notions of femininity and masculinity. Legislation Today Title IX refers to a section of the federal Educations Amendments of 1972, which states (in part) that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Except for a renaming of the bill to Equal Opportunity in Education Act in 2002, the wording of Title IX has not changed since its creation. Title IX currently has normally been used in cases of gender equality in sports and other state-sanctioned activities. However, activity in Congress has begun to question whether Title IX can be expanded to regulate any cases of sexual misconduct are handled on college campuses. Upcoming Federal Mandates A bill co-sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri would strengthen existing Title IX language to include all cases of sexual misconduct on campuses. Known as S.590 and H.R.1310, informally known as Campus Accountability and Safety Act, the legislation would: - Require schools to survey students about sexual misconduct, and publish those results - Mandate minimum levels of training for school staff - Prevent athletic departments from handling complaints about athletes - Create financial penalties for school non-compliance Though the legislation is gaining traction in Congress, the bill is not yet federal law. Despite this, the university has implemented multiple policy changes in response to McCaskill’s efforts. Specific Policy Changes First, the university has begun the hiring process for a Title IX Dean of Students Coordinator. “We are searching for a new Title IX Dean of Students Coordinator,” said Shana Meyer, vice president of student affairs. “It’s a nation-wide search and we’re really looking for someone to fill that spot and concentrate on our Title IX efforts.” Three candidates for the position will be on campus within the following two weeks. Second, Western employees are now mandatory reporters. If a student approaches a faculty or staff member regarding a case of sexual misconduct, the employee must report it to the Title IX coordinator. “With the exception of the counseling center, there is no confidentiality [in cases of Title IX discrimination],” said Edwin Taylor, assistant professor of political science. “So, if someone comes to us and says, “Hey, I need to talk to you about something that happened at this party off campus, but you’ve got to keep it private,” we have to start off with, “I have to report it.” Though the university must launch an investigation into reports of sexual misconduct, for the time being, students still maintain the final say as to whether charges are to be pressed. “The university has to investigate any cases, but if a student doesn’t want an investigation to continue, they maintain autonomy over that decision,” Executive Vice President of SGA Brad Stanton said. Third, students and staff are required to complete online Title IX training. Though Western staff and student employees have already received the information to complete the online course, students have not been given access to the course. However, once students receive the email information regarding the online training, it must be completed within 30 days.

Higher education performance funding to increase?

Missouri Western is potentially in line to receive an additional $600,000 in funding next year. The Missouri Legislature is currently in the process of debating on an approximate 3 percent increase for higher education funding across the state. At this point, the outcome of House Bill 3 is in the hands of lawmakers in Jefferson City; however Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration Dr. Cale Fessler is optimistic that the bill will be signed as it currently reads. "I think there is some level of consensus between the governor and the Republicans and Democrats that state revenues are going to go up a little over 3 percent next year, so higher education has pushed for that 3 percent increase." Fessler said. What is performance funding? Missouri Western must currently meet five criterion in order to receive the maximum amount of funding from the state budget. The current criteria includes freshman to sophomore retention rate; a six-year graduation rate; the quality of education that focuses on improvements in assessment of educational outcomes; financial responsibility, or the percentage of expenditures toward core mission and applied learning outcomes which deals with outside projects; and accomplishments of students. While the administration believes that an increase in performance funding is the right move, Missouri Western President Dr. Robert Vartabedian pointed out a drawback to this proposal. "I wish I could turn back the clock and I wish last year was this year because we had five percent to work with, and this year we have 2.7 percent at best. And, since we hit all five out of five, it would have been great to be dealt with a decent chunk of money and so this year this chunk of money isn't as consequential to our unfunded mandatories, but that repair and renovation money that's huge," he said. Another proposal that Vartabedian is looking forward to is currently being deliberated in the Missouri Senate. "The other thing that is perhaps more important to us would be the repair and renovation bill that is going through that looked like a sure thing, and then as of late it has hit some rocky road and that translates to a significant amount of money for us – about $4.8 million – whereas the increases are a little over $600,000, greatly offset by the $400,000 of unfunded mandatories," Vartabedian said. What's next? If and when House Bill 3 is passed, it will be for the fiscal year of 2016. However, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanne Daffron stated that there is a change coming to the performance funding evaluations. "They are adding one for next year, and it's something we're really thinking about to give the most accurate measure," Daffron said. "It's a measure of our graduates in any given year and their placement, so are they in position that requires the level of education that they got at our institution." Whatever happens, the administration has been pleased with the way in which Missouri Western has performed and been evaluated for the performance funding standards. "It's certainly positive news for us but at this point in time, we're kind of like every other school out there: we're just following the process and providing our input and support for as much dollars for higher education as the state can afford," Fessler said. "When you look at hitting five out of five performance standards, when you look at the uniformly successful accreditation outcomes and you look at the limited resources in which we do all that, I think it's something to be very proud of," Vartabedian said. The Legislature is currently planning on having the performance funding bill sent to the governor by the end of April.

SSA Committee to meet on new proposal

The Student Government Association has several big decisions on their plate for this semester, but none of those have the potential repercussions or the benefits as the decision of what to do with the $672,000 raised through the Student Success Act. The Student Success Act, or SSA, states that it is "student approved fees" and use "should only be considered for programs or services directly for students." The SGA has approved this fee, which is $75 per full-time student per semester, $50 per semester for part-time students, and $25 per student enrolled in summer classes. This fee is called Student Support Services Fee in your bill. When SGA initially passed this fee, the plan was to save $224,000 per year for three consecutive years and then have enough saved capital to use $672,000 to renovate the second floor of the Blum Student Union and provide a more open and inviting place for students to come to, especially for international students. “We recently hired a new international recruiter, and created a new office space for her,” Vice President for Student Affairs Shana Meyer said. “Currently, International Student Services is comprised of two offices, and there really isn't any dedicated space for the international students - they share space with the Center for Multicultural Education and the Center for Student Involvement.” The university has had a group of outside advisors come to campus to develop a master plan of how to improve the campus and help us to stay on par with or rise above other similar state universities. One of the things that the master-planners wanted the university to accomplish was to make significant upgrades to Spratt Stadium. MWSU President Robert Vartabedian asked the SSA advisory committee to change the plan for that money generated through SSA to help kick start the multi-million dollar project. The SSA committee is comprised of three student members assigned by SGA President Daniel Hager and three administrators chosen by Vartabedian. A student member of the committee proposed a plan that would divert two years worth of the money, or $448,000, towards Spratt Stadium and the funds from this year would be saved for Blum. Two years will be added to the end of the plan so, in two years, the money will be saved to do the project thus delaying the project two years and making it five years since the project was proposed for it to be executed. “I don't feel like the student interest was taken well into consideration," Hager said. “The overwhelming majority (of students I talk to) seem like the mentality of 'well, that's like if your parents give you $100 of allowance for a bike but, right before you buy the bike, they say 'well, we need the money back for the phone bill,' which you don't even care about cause you are a kid.'” That proposal was shot down by the committee with a 5-1 vote according to Hager. After that proposal was killed, Vice President of Financial Planning and Administration Dr. Cale Fessler introduced a proposal on behalf of the committee, in conjunction with Vartabedian. Fessler is not a voting member of the committee, however. “Obviously, we have a very large-scale master plan process going on, and they pointed out very clearly that we are lacking in recreational space,” Fessler said. This proposal calls for the first $448,000 of the SSA money to be committed to 'recreational space on campus.' The final $224,000 will be re-evaluated when they have it secured based on the needs of MWSU in conjunction with the master plan. “What we've put before the students - before the SSA committee - is a proposal to use a couple of years worth of those funds, which is $448,000, for the creation of some recreational space.” Fessler said. “What we've talked about that entailing would be a multi-purpose floor and court in the Looney space where the pool is now where we could have up to three basketball courts there, as well as various other indoor recreational programs that could take place.” The planners found our recreational services on campus severely lacking, so this proposal would qualify as both serving the needs of the students while allowing the university to use the SSA money for a cause that they need to get accomplished anyway to fit the master plan. “The master plan does recommend that we upgrade our recreational space and that we highlight our focus with that,” Hager said. “I think they threw in recreation for the fact that we are still contributing back to students but in accordance to the master plan.” However, that leaves no plan on the table to renovate Blum, which was needing looked at enough in 2012 that the SGA voted to approve this extra student fee to get it fixed. Now, three years later, their plan is set to be abandoned with no future plan to fix Blum. “At this point, if a different route is taken with that (SSA) money, there is not currently a proposal for the union, then the union (project) will not occur,” Meyer said. There is also the question of how much the planners examined Blum when they came, because they had been told that renovations were on the way. “When the master planners came through the union, we told them that changes would be happening, because we thought that changes would be happening.” Meyer said. “So I'm not certain if they did a complete assessment of Blum, because they thought that changes would be happening.” The SSA advisory committee has not met about this new proposal yet but a meeting will likely occur next week according to Hager.