Kennedy on Columbia

Missouri School of Journalism

  The destructive effects of the Concerned Student 1950 protest at our university two years ago are obvious and quantifiable. Enrollment is down. State support has diminished. Public perception is negative.

The positive effects are only now emerging. Whether they will, in the end, outweigh the negatives is the important question that only time can answer. Well, time and lots of hard work.

 

Read the complete column online at the Missourian.

Missouri School of Journalism

If you know Gary Smith and Mary Anne McCollum at all, you know their commitment to our university.

That’s why I paid attention last week when they made an impassioned plea to several hundred of us MU retirees to get involved with something called the Flagship Council. I’d heard the name, I suppose, but I didn’t really know much about it or why I should care as much as they seemed to care.

Now I know why.

Read the complete column online at the Missourian.


GEORGE KENNEDY: How Safe is Columbia from Threats of Gunfire?

Oct 16, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

A 20-year-old man was shot and killed Saturday in a student-housing complex in south Columbia. The same night, four young people were shot and injured outside the appropriately named Ruckus bar on Business Loop 70.

Those are just the most recent reports of gunplay that have some of us longtime residents wondering whether our town is becoming dangerous. We’re not St. Louis or Chicago, but we’re not exactly peaceful Collegetown USA any more.

Or are we?

GEORGE KENNEDY: Is MU Facing a Challenge or an Opportunity?

Oct 10, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

William Wiebold, the incoming chair of our university’s Faculty Council, began his first address to the fall general faculty meeting Wednesday with a little joke.

An agronomist, he said he would have preferred to be discussing methods of increasing soybean yields rather than the range of issues facing the campus.

It isn’t hard to see why. While soybean yield per acre is predicted to be down slightly this year, total production in Missouri and across the country is expected to set new records. So the productivity challenge would appear to be something short of critical.

Not so with the challenges facing the university.

Read the complete column online at the Columbia Missourian.

GEORGE KENNEDY: MU's Climate is Challenged, But Changing

Sep 19, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

You’ve read, I hope, the Missourian’s excellent coverage this week of the “climate survey” that was conducted a year ago to assess attitudes and behaviors of students, faculty and staff throughout the University system.

If you have, you know that the findings revealed fairly high levels of discomfort among students and discontent among faculty and staff at MU.

Only two-thirds of the nearly 5,000 MU students who responded to the survey said they felt comfortable on campus. Forty percent of freshmen and 44 percent of sophomores were seriously considering leaving. Sixty percent of faculty respondents and about half the staff said they were serious about seeking other jobs. Minority, female and gay respondents were especially unhappy.

Read the complete column online at the Missourian.


GEORGE KENNEDY: Mizzou vs. MSU: Not as Lopsided as it Looks

Sep 4, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

Metaphor: “A figure of speech in which one thing is likened to another.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the English Language)

Example: The Tigers of Mizzou take on the Bears of Missouri State University.

You may well wonder what I’m suggesting. After all, Saturday’s football game has been called many things, but not a metaphor.

It has been called a homecoming, because Missouri State’s coaching staff is made up mainly of former Tiger players or coaches.

It has been called a sure win for the Tigers. Certainly, the Bears’ head coach seems to think so, as he expressed, in earthier terms, the hope that the home team doesn’t beat his boys too badly.

It has even been called a payday, because MU is paying MSU a tidy $400,000 to come take a licking.

Read the complete column online at the Missourian.

GEORGE KENNEDY: Unless Districts are Redrawn, Missouri Will Stay Red

Aug 14, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

It was certainly no surprise that Republican Sara Walsh won Tuesday’s special election in the legislative district that covers southern Boone County and parts of Cole, Cooper and Moniteau counties. The surprise was that Michela Skelton came within 300 votes of taking the seat for the Democrats.

After all, Ms. Skelton was the first Democrat to even run for that office since the redistricting of 2011. If more than 25 percent of the Boone County electorate had turned out, she might have won, since she got 58 percent of this county’s vote.

The outcome leaves Boone County represented by three Republicans and two Democrats in the state House of Representatives and a Republican in the state Senate.

It seems reasonable to ask how that can be, given that Boone is, in national and statewide elections, a Democratic island of blue in the sea of Republican red that covers the state between Kansas City and St. Louis.

 

Read the complete column online at the Missourian. 

GEORGE KENNEDY: New ID Law Seems to be a Benefit to Voters

Jul 14, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

 I voted against the constitutional amendment that passed last year requiring a valid photo ID for voting in Missouri elections, beginning with the local election Aug. 8.

Like many of you, I suspect, I thought the requirement, heavily promoted by Republicans, was really intended more to discourage voting by minorities, poor people and new citizens — groups more likely to be Democrats — than it was to prevent the rare cases of voter fraud.

So when I saw the notice of a forum on the topic to be held at the public library last Monday night, and when I read that the forum was sponsored by two Democratic state representatives and co-sponsored by three African-American organizations, I expected to hear a full-throated attack on yet another voter-suppression tactic.

I was wrong.

GEORGE KENNEDY: You, Too, Can Help Feed the Hungry in Boone County

Jun 19, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

It’s one of the best things we do as a community, feeding our hungry neighbors.

I hope you read the Missourian report Thursday in which Jiwon Choi described the summer programs that provide lunch for kids of all ages. The most troubling fact in that article, I thought, was that even with 19 locations in Columbia, the programs still leave children without enough to eat.

You can consider this a follow-up.

As penance for a career in journalism, I’ve been a volunteer at the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri for more than a dozen years. This week I had the opportunity to spend a couple of mornings at the Central Pantry, which is our main retail outlet. Located for about eight years on Big Bear Boulevard, the pantry is really a grocery store — with one important difference. Nobody pays...

 

Read the complete column online at the Missourian. 

GEORGE KENNEDY: 'Mostly Wonderful News' from Columbia's City Manager

Jun 16, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

 Mike Matthes began his sixth State of the City address Wednesday by telling a packed City Council chamber that he was bringing “mostly wonderful news.” Both the adjective and the adverb proved accurate.

He reported that Columbia is making progress on a number of important fronts. Poverty and unemployment are down and high school graduation is up, especially for black Columbians. New employers are coming to town. The airport is adding capacity and flights.

He was clearly pleased with improvements he could report in the three sections of town targeted for attention in the “strategic plan” he proposed and the City Council adopted a couple of years ago. In those areas, where the minority population is concentrated, crime is down from the previous year in seven of eight categories...

  Read the complete column at the Missourian. 

GEORGE KENNEDY: Here's the Tax Mess That's Crippling Missouri

Jun 6, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

When UM System President Mun Choi revealed Friday afternoon his plan for cutting the system budget by $90 million and reconfiguring the institution for the years ahead, the pep band didn't play as it did the last time he invited us in. 

After all, the band doesn’t do dirges.

We can also expect that there won’t be much, if any, talk about just who dug the budget hole Dr. Choi and his planners are trying to fill. It wasn’t an accident.

In fact, the hole was dug quite deliberately by the Republican legislative majority to benefit the state’s wealthiest and most influential taxpayers, individual and corporate.

The digging tool was a series of top-heavy tax cuts that have reduced state revenue to the point that vital services such as higher education, assistance to the needy and even maintenance of basic infrastructure have been crippled...

 

Read the complete column at the Missourian. 

Missouri School of Journalism

  When I told my long-suffering wife I intended to write about Wednesday’s announcement of our university’s new chancellor, she replied with some asperity that she could predict what I would say.

“You’re always optimistic about the new people,” she said, noting that I’ve sometimes had cause to regret those first impressions.

Well, here we go again.

How could I not be optimistic? President Mun Choi, about whom I remain optimistic, was close to giddy as he introduced Alexander Cartwright. The standing-room-only welcoming crowd in the Alumni Center was buoyant. The sun was shining.

In the press conference that followed the opening ceremony, Rudi Keller of the Columbia Daily Tribune seriously asked the question I had posed half-jokingly to Mike Alden earlier as we walked into the building: Why would Dr. Cartwright, or anybody, want the job?..

 

Read the complete column at the Missourian.

GEORGE KENNEDY: Local Democrats Knuckle Down to Rebuild the Party

May 24, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

Top to bottom, the 2016 election was a disaster for Missouri Democrats.

Republicans came out of that campaign holding six of our eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, five of the six statewide offices based in Jefferson City and overwhelming margins of 117 to 46 state representatives and 26 to eight state senators.

Only U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and State Auditor Nicole Galloway, neither of whom was on the ballot last November, kept statewide offices in Democratic hands.

 

Even Boone County, an island of blue in a state turned red, elected a Republican state senator and put a Republican on the County Commission...

 

Read the complete column at the Missourian. 

GEORGE KENNEDY: Lots of Noise, Little Action From the General Assembly

May 22, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

 Let’s take a couple of minutes to celebrate the accomplishments of the 99th Missouri General Assembly, which finished its 2017 session a week ago.

We won’t need much more time than that.

Our elected representatives passed a record-low number of bills. That is almost certainly a good thing, considering the import of most of those that were sent to Gov. Greitens. 

Still, there is cause for celebration. That cause begins with the legislators’ agreement to defy the governor and fully fund the K-12 public school Foundation Formula for the first time. Even there, we have to note that they trimmed down the formula from its original scale. But this action stands out as by far the most significant victory for their constituents... 

Read the complete column at the Missourian.

 

GEORGE KENNEDY: The NRA's Influence is a Danger to us All

Apr 25, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

Editor's Note: George Kennedy is a retired professor and writes an unpaid column for the Missourian. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Missourian or the University of Missouri.

- Mike Jenner, executive editor, Columbia Missourian

Our Missourian carried two articles about guns on the same day last week.

One, from the Associated Press, reported that a man carried a pistol into a special education classroom in San Bernardino, California, and shot to death his estranged wife, an 8-year-old student who happened to be standing beside her and then himself.

The other, from a Missourian reporter in Jefferson City, reported that a House of Representatives committee was discussing a Republican-sponsored bill to allow guns to be carried by nearly anyone into child care centers, public universities and churches.

A Democratic member of the committee had the temerity to ask its sponsor, “Is this for show, or is it for real?”

Read the complete column at the Missourian.

 

GEORGE KENNEDY: Urban Agriculture on the Rise in Columbia

Apr 17, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

I make it a practice never to turn down free food and drink, so when Jeff Chinn invited me to a program this week at the new Barred Owl restaurant, I accepted instantly.

It turned out that, along with the exotic nourishment, the 100 or so of us in attendance got a useful reminder that “urban agriculture” is not the oxymoron it might appear to be.

Instead, what that term means for Columbia is, at the moment, a 1.3-acre mid-city cooperative garden and, just over the horizon, an ambitious Agriculture Park on the old fairgrounds next to the Activity and Recreation Center and the Columbia Farmers Market.

Monday night’s gathering was the quiet launch of what will be a three-stage, $5 million fund drive with the goal of creating a 5-acre garden and outdoor classroom...

Read the complete column at the Missourian.

Missouri School of Journalism

It’s probably just as well that our university’s new president isn’t an historian.

If he were, Mun Choi might take a discouraging lesson from the past of the institution he now heads.

That lesson would be that it is a great deal easier to talk about making serious changes and major cutbacks, especially at the flagship campus, than it is to actually make those changes.

 

GEORGE KENNEDY: Tuesday's Election - How This Columnist is Voting

Apr 3, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

Like most of you, I suspect, I’ve been reading with interest the Missourian’s extensive coverage of the campaigns leading up to Tuesday’s local election.

Unlike nearly all of you, I sat in on the candidate forum Tuesday evening sponsored by the NAACP downtown at the Second Missionary Baptist Church.

This was the third forum I’ve attended. It helped me make some choices.

 

GEORGE KENNEDY: Determination To Turn Trends Around Shines Through

Mar 28, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

Two big meetings at our university this week made the news.

One was celebratory, the other cautionary. They could hardly have been more different in setting or tone, but I took away from both an important common theme. I haven’t seen that theme reflected in the news reports, so I’ll explain.

On Monday, several hundred fans gathered in Mizzou Arena to welcome our new men’s basketball coach. It was a happier crowd than I’ve seen at actual games this season.

The huge scoreboard repeatedly flashed a set of impressive numbers: Playing in 6 of the last 9 postseasons, 23 conference championships, 26 all-time NCAA tournaments, four Elite 8’s. The last three seasons, for obvious reasons, weren’t mentioned.

 

GEORGE KENNEDY: Dark Money Flows in Jefferson City

Mar 22, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

I didn’t vote for Eric Greitens, but once he was elected our governor, I thought and wrote that there was considerable ground for hope. 

Now I’m afraid there’s even more cause for worry. And I’m not talking about his assaults on the university, on our public schools and on a woman’s right to choose.

Gov. Greitens brought to the job an impressive resume (doctorate from Oxford, distinguished military career, foundation to help veterans), a picture-perfect family (wife a scholar, kids adorable) and political potential (Internet domain “EricGreitensforPresident.com” reserved by him eight years ago).

His inaugural speech was eloquent and broadly appealing. His first appointments included our first female head of the Highway Patrol and another woman from out of state to clean up the Department of Corrections. His budget withholdings seemed necessary if painful.

But it appears that Gov. Greitens has somehow overlooked — or worse yet, chosen to ignore — the obligation of every elected official to be accountable to the people who are governed...

Read the complete Column at the Missourian.


GEORGE KENNEDY: MU Journalism Grads Make Us Proud

Mar 15, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

 You’ll agree, I suspect, that there has been almost too much bad news this week.

In addition to the usual kerfuffle emanating from Washington, we learned that our university has fired its loyal and decent basketball coach. He wasn’t surprised, I’m sure. He didn’t win. Attendance dropped. In the major leagues of college athletics, the bottom line is the bottom line.

Then came the state auditor’s report criticizing the university for employing some classic capitalistic incentives to reward executives in what is, in many ways, a socialistic institution. Those folks didn’t have a won-loss record on which they could be judged. Nor, the auditor found, were there other reliable standards for determining their bonuses...

Read the complete column at the Missourian.


GEORGE KENNEDY: What's Ahead? More Talk Between Police and Community

Mar 6, 2017
Missouri School of Journalism

Our community conversation about the best relationship between the police and the people they are sworn to serve and protect — a conversation that has already begun — seems likely to broaden and deepen over the next year.

That’s the outlook after last week’s unanimous endorsement by the Columbia City Council of Ian Thomas' resolution calling for a “community engagement process” on the subject of community-oriented policing.

After that vote, Ian told me he sees this process as the logical follow-up to recommendations made in 2014 by then-Mayor Bob McDavid’s Task Force on Community Violence...

Read the complete column at the Missourian.