You, too, can own a piece of Capitol art, or Who is that Masked Man/Woman?

(We have been asked to clarify a couple of things in our original version of this post. You’ll find the changes if you read through this post again. And you should.  Read through it again.

Your honorable scribe has not decided what mask he will wear although he is considering what a T-Red head would look like on top of a tuxedo)

Thousands of people each year are stunned when they walk into the House Lounge at the Capitol and find themselves surrounded by Thomas Hart Benton’s “Social History of Missouri” mural.  It’s hard to determine how much it’s worth because of its size and its location.  The state of Missouri paid Benton $16,000 to paint it in 1936. Some of the lithographs of some of the images sell for thousands of dollars today.  Through the years, this frequent visitor to that room has heard estimates of the value of the mural as being more than the cost of building the capitol (which was about $4 million) to multiples of that.

Do we ever have a deal for you!!!

You can own a copy of the Benton mural for a fraction of its value.  In fact, I know some folks who would be glad to sell you one for, oh, say, one-tenth of the value of the original.  And don’t worry. You won’t have to build a 25×50-foot addition to your house.

A panoramic five-foot long photo of the mural is one of several reproductions of Capitol art that will be auctioned at the Capitol Masquerade Ball on December 12.  It will be in the rotunda, starting at 7 p.m.  The proceeds will benefit three organizations: The Missouri State Capitol Commission, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Missouri Association for Community Action.

All you need is a mask and a ticket.


General ticket donations are $100.  If you want to be a Very Important Person—and you are, you know, admit it—you can get a VIP ticket for $250.  Those who buy the VIP tickets will have get a commemorative gift and you can hang out with other VIPs in the VIP lounge.

Just let the organizers know you’re going to be there and reserve your ticket at

You might get to rub elbows with a whole bunch of important folks.  The top state office-holders and both of our U. S. Senators are honorary co-hosts.  The organizers can’t promise all of them will be there, but it will be worth the price of your ticket to find out who is.  And besides, you’ll have a chance to rub elbows with a lot of other good folks and you’ll be supporting three fine organizations.

Mike Michelson will be there to tickle the ivories.  The Norm Ruebling Band will play music anybody can dance to.  There will be a Redlight Photobooth to commemorate your presence in any way you’d like.  There will be beverages and Hors d’oeuvres.

inca_masks 2

And organizers will sell things.  There will be a silent auction.   AND there will be what the sponsoring groups hope will be a really, really NOISY auction.

And this is where you can get some really great things for your home or your office.

Just imagine that five-foot long Benton Mural hanging in the lobby of your office or behind your desk or above your bed or—well, just imagine.

There are also a couple of other prints of parts of the mural.  They’ll also be auctioning off photos of the portraits of Mark Twain and Susan Elizabeth Blow that most people see only if they get into the Governor’s office.   Mark, of course, is Missouri’s most famous writer.  Susan is the founder of the kindergarten in America.

Are you a Civil War person?  How about reproductions of the N. C. Wyeth murals depicting the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and the Battle of Westport?  (This is one of the changes. The Wyeth prints won’t be sold at this event. They’re being saved for a later event so if you had your heart and your checkbook prepared to buy them, save both for a later event. We don’t know if masks will be involved).

And a print of another of the monumental murals in the Capitol also will be auctioned:  Charles Hoffbauer’s “The Glory of Missouri in War” mural from the House of Representatives.

All of these can be yours if you (a) buy a ticket and (b) outbid somebody else who also wants these unique decorations for home or office.  Folks, you won’t have a chance to buy these images anywhere else. Nowhere.

The pictures are photographs by Lloyd Grotjan, the Jefferson City photographer who did the outstanding photographs for The Art of the Missouri Capitol: History in Canvas, Bronze, and Stone took for the book.   The five-foot long Benton mural panoramic view originally was intended to be a fold-out in the book but we had to leave it out because, well, a five-foot long book wouldn’t fit on many coffee tables.

inca picture 3

There needs to be a noble purpose for this fund-raiser.  Support for MACA and MCADSV is vital in helping them fight domestic and sexual violence and helping the 930,000 Missourians living below the poverty line.   Support for the Capitol Commission will continue its efforts to assess and restore the art of the Capitol, most of which has gone years without care.

Last year the commission held a wine-tasting event that included a great discussion of how wine tastes differently in different glasses (and tasters got to take home a set of glasses).  The money raised from that event has financed assessments on 55 paintings.  The Office of Administration is moving forward with restoration/repair of the art that’s been assessed.  The commission wants to continue that important work.

Just a few days ago commission chairman Dana Miller hired ICA Art Conservation to assess the condition of the Benton mural.  ICA is a nonprofit group that specializes in conservation and repair of the works of Midwest artists.  It has been highly recommended to the commission by the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.

So get in the closet and dig out the kids’ Halloween masks, or get busy with some cloth and feathers and make something outrageous,

inca mask 4

or go out and buy something.   Most folks probably will be in business attire but the sponsors sure won’t mind if you want to show up fully-costumed.  (Actually, the sponsors hope you’ll NOT wear business attire because this is a high-class event.  Dana would like to see people in formal attire although she says business attire is acceptable.  But formal attire is preferable. Even if you wear a T-Rex head for your mask.)

You should be that Masked Man.  Or Masked Woman.

The terrorists are winning

Just a few years ago, we recall, President Bush was saying this country would not do various things because if we did, “The terrorists would win.”

They’re winning.

Some of Missouri’s politicians are demanding Governor Nixon, in effect, seal the state’s borders to protect us from Syrians.   The Paris attacks this year and particularly in the last few weeks are giving ample opportunity to some to fan the flame of fear.  Fanning the flame of fear is good for those who want to be seen as protectors from evil.  Or, evil-doers to borrow again from the Busch II years.  And with elections coming up, it never hurts to carry the image as a protector.

Terrorists want to scare governments and people into changing their behaviors.  Their ultimate goal is much larger, of course.  But first they have to create a climate that is ever more restrictive of thinking, of movement, of hope.  Sealing borders tells us they are winning.

And what is all of this fuss about?

President Obama has said he will allow four times as many Syrian refugees to come into this country as have been admitted in the last four years.   And Secretary of State John Kerry has announced this country will lift the lid on the number of refugees admitted to this country from the present 70,000 to 100,000 in 2017.  Many of those new slots will go to Syrians fleeting terrorists.

Are Obama and Kerry going to flood this country with terrorists?   Are we all in peril if we go to a play, to a restaurant, to a sports stadium if a flood of Syrians comes in?  The answer is a simple one: to maintain public safety, we have to keep Syrians from flooding into our state.

There is no flood in Missouri.  There won’t be a flood in Missouri.

The New York Times on November 16 reported that only 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States since 2012.  The nine volunteer agencies working with them have scattered them among 130 communities.   The newspaper says Boise, Idaho has more Syrian refugees than New York and Los Angeles combined.  Worcester, Massachuesetts has more than Boston.  Should the people of Boise quit going to restaurants?  Should the people of Worcester fear attending a concert or a movie?

Missouri has a few Syrians in the St. Louis area.  Overland Park, Kansas has a few.  The International Institute of St. Louis, which has been working with immigrants for 96 years, reports eight percent of the population of St. Louis City and St. Louis County is foreign-born.  7,500 people from 75 countries.

The Post-Dispatch reported in September that 28 Syrians had arrived in St. Louis this year and twenty more were expected by the end of the year.

When we close our borders to Syrian refugees, can we draw the border so it keeps St. Louis on the outside because that city already endangers the safety of our state because almost fifty more of those dreaded Syrians will be there at the end of the year?

The Times says Syrian refugees made up only two percent of the 70,000 refugees admitted to this country last year.   Germany in that same four-year period has admitted 92,991 Syrian refugees.  President Obama says this country will admit 10,000 this year.  The Census Bureau says we already have 150,000 Syrians living in this country of 300-million people.

Syria ranks seventh in the list of countries whose immigrants have been allowed into this country in the most recent federal fiscal year.  Myanmar has sent almost 20,000.  Iraq has sent about 12,000.  Somalia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bhutan have sent more than 5,000 each.  Iran has sent far more than Syria.

But it’s Syrians who have a bunch of Missouri politicians in a froth.  Well, how easy is it for those scary people to get here?  They have to apply to the United Nations first.  If the UN says they can come, they have to be examined by the FBI.  They have to be run through terrorism databases run by the Defense Department and by other government agencies.

The UN has recommended 18,000 Syrians for scrutiny by the United States.  The State Department says more than half of them are children.

Not all Syrians are suicide bombers, you know.  And when it comes to killing bunches of people, we are pretty good about doing that ourselves.  A check of a couple of websites that list mass shootings and finds that since March of 2005, this nation has had thirty-three incidents in which 270 people have been killed and 254 have been wounded. One of those incidents was in Kirkwood in February, 2008.  Six dead, one wounded.  Another incident began in Illinois and ended in Festus.  Eight dead.  Four of the incidents happened in Wisconsin. Four more were in California. We don’t think we say any Syrian names on those lists of killers.  But we did see people from Wisconsin and California.  Perhaps we should block people from those states from coming to Missouri.  Those people clearly are dangerous.


We checked a list of German mass killings since March, 2005 and came across one incident where a German student killed 12 other students and three other people before killing himself in 2009.  We checked Germany because it has been a landing place for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East for more than a decade.

But let’s be afraid anyway.  Because some of our leaders find it advantageous to tell us we should be afraid. Of Syrians.

Cultivating a climate of fear among the electorate is convenient.  It keeps the electorate from raising embarrassing questions about things like school funding, mental health services, crumbling roads and creaking bridges, lack of funding for cigarette-related health issues,  services to veterans—-add your own priority here.  Then forget about it because you are supposed to be living in fear of a Syrian.

Edward R. Murrow, the great CBS newsman, observed on his See it Now broadcast of March 7, 1954, when he said, “No one can terrorize a whole nation unless we are his accomplices.”

When Murrow began a series of programs called This I Believe in 1951, he noted:

“We hardly need to be reminded that we are living in an age of confusion. A lot of us have traded in our beliefs for bitterness and cynicism, or for a heavy package of despair, or even a quivering portion of hysteria. Opinions can be picked up cheap in the marketplace, while such commodities as courage and fortitude and faith are in alarmingly short supply. Around us all—now high like a distant thunderhead, now close upon us with the wet choking intimacy of a London fog—there is an enveloping cloud of fear.

“There is a physical fear, the kind that drives some of us to flee our homes and burrow into the ground in the bottom of a Montana valley like prairie dogs to try to escape, if only for a little while, the sound and the fury of the A-bombs or the hell bombs or whatever may be coming. There is a mental fear which provokes others of us to see the images of witches in a neighbor’s yard and stampedes us to burn down his house. And there is a creeping fear of doubt—doubt of what we have been taught, of the validity of so many things we have long since taken for granted to be durable and unchanging.

“It has become more difficult than ever to distinguish black from white, good from evil, right from wrong.”

If you want to hear the entire broadcast or read the entire script, go to

And finally, from another See it Now broadcast, this one from 1954:

“We will not walk in fear, one of another.  We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”

The problem with sealing the borders is not necessarily the people we seal out.  It’s the kind of people we seal inside with us who made us fearful to begin with. And the action does nothing to end the terror that drives people to our borders.  In terms of our national character, could it be that those who tell us we should live in fear are more dangerous than children from Syria?


The Capitol time capsule thing this year has led to a lot of thinking about time and reflections on those who discover messages from the past.   Perhaps historians are more conscious of things like that than other people—I don’t really know.  But this one, who has spent more than forty years writing the first draft of history, as the role of journalists has sometimes been described, has been intrigued by the whole thing.

One of the things in the new time capsule being put in the Capitol cornerstone is the book co-authored with Jeff Ball about the art of the capitol.  Tucked into the back cover is a letter from us to those who we hope will open the capsule in 2115.  Part of the letter is an excerpt from President Kennedy’s speech at Amherst, Massachusetts less than a month before his death in which he expressed a dream for America.

The nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.” I look forward to a great future for America, a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future. I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

A few days later, as I was discussing the time capsule with a friend, it occurred to me that many of us remember John Kennedy, who died 52 years ago this month.  If that message is discovered in 2115, those who read that quote will be reading it from the perspective of people who are 152 years removed from the time when Kennedy gave that speech.

And I wonder if they will see those words with the same kind of perspective that we see some cherished words that were spoken by another president 152 years in our past, this month, about his dream of a nation “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

One-hundred-fifty-two years ago, Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863.  One-hundred-fifty-two years after John Kennedy’s Amherst Address on October 26, 1963, Americans we cannot imagine will read his of his dream for his country.

Abraham Lincoln was still vivid as a living person in the memories of many who were alive when the original capitol cornerstone was sealed in 1915 just as John F. Kennedy is still vivid as a living person in the memories of many in 2015.

Time.  It plays with your mind.

One of the most intriguing pieces your correspondent ever read about the encapsulation of time was written by Herbert Winlock, the director of the New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1930s.  He wrote in a museum publication about the model boats, statuettes and other things depicting life in his time found in the Egyptian tomb of a man named Meketra who died about 1950 BCE.

The beam of light shot in to a little world of four thousand years ago, and I was gazing down into the midst of brightly painted little men going this way and that.  A tall, slender girl gazed across at me perfectly composed; a gang of little men with sticks in their upraised hands drove spotted oxen; rowers tugged at their oars on a fleet of boats, while one ship seemed floundering right in front of me with its bow balanced precariously in the air. And all of this busy going and coming was in uncanny silence, as though the distance back over forty centuries I looked across was too great for even an echo to reach my ears.

Four thousand years is an eternity.  Just saying it over and over again gives no conception of the ages that have gone by since this funeral.  Stop and think of how far off William the Conqueror seems. That takes you only a quarter of the way back.  Julius Caesar takes you halfway back.  With Saul and David you are three-fourths of the way.  But there remains yet another thousand years to bridge with your imagination.  Yet in that dry, still, dark little chamber those boats and statues had stood indifferent to all that went on in the outer world, as ancient in the days of Caesar as Caesar is to us, but so little changed that even the fingerprints of the men who put them there were still fresh upon them.  Not only fingerprints, but even flyspecks, cobwebs, and dead spiders remained from the time when those models were stored in some empty room in the noble’s house waiting for his day of death and burial.  I even suspect that some of his grandchildren had sneaked in and played with them while they were at that house in ancient Thebes. 

One century.  Forty centuries.  The past often waits quietly to speak in the future and then touches those who find it and gives them a personal perspective on what was.  And is.

(Winlock’s story of Meketra’s tomb was related by Thomas Hoving, then the head of the MMA, in his book Tutankhamun: The untold Story, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1978.)

What in the world ?

Two people are standing at the railing of an ocean liner gazing at the miles of Pacific Ocean all around them.  Nothing is out there but water.  All the way to the horizon.  All the way around them.

“Sure is a lot of water,” one observes.

“Yeah,” says the other.  “And that’s just the top of it.”

This observer has been getting emails from friends as far away as Vancouver and Los Angeles who have been watching, hearing, and reading about things happening at the University of Missouri for the last several days.  In various ways they have asked, “What in the world is going on at the University of Missouri?”  What follows will be long and does not pretend to be an analysis that will preclude other thoughts or actions that disagree or contribute to consensus.

The reporting of the way events have spiraled and spread has been most comparable to that first observer on the ocean liner: “Sure is a lot of water.”   That is not a criticism of the reporting.  Those who have been on the ground as journalists in situations such as this and—more prominently, in Ferguson last year—know that when you are being swept along by the tide there isn’t much time to think about how the coral was formed ten feet below you.  The same often is true for those who are drawn into participation in those events.  Thinking about the deeper issues that are involved or the deeper consequences that might result becomes secondary.   Passing judgment on participants, whether demonstrators, administrators, reporters, observers—the list could be longer if we try to think of more categories—is easily done from a distance and the situation becomes more complicated when others with other agendas try to capitalize on it.

So, to answer the friends and neighbors who have asked, “What in the world is going on…?” we offer some observations.  They are made from a short geographical distance and they are made by someone who is no longer in the business of being in the middle of the events or in a newsroom.


This is an important thing to remember.  No buildings were set on fire.  No roving gangs of demonstrators were going up and down Ninth Street throwing bricks through windows and looting businesses.  As far as we know, guns were not part of the demonstration(s) and nobody was hurt.  Some headlines were generated when a reporter and a cameraman were pushed around in a regrettable incident but the students who advocated a non-violent protest achieved that goal.  While some of their actions might be properly questioned, let us not lose sight of the fact that this is one incident that did not turn violent.

But their activities have created image problems or feared image problems for the university, for some of its schools, and the athletic department.  Andrew Kloster, a legal fellow with the Heritage Foundation, has written of what he calls “mob rule…in higher education.”  He writes about recent disturbances at Yale and the disturbances in Columbia, “Both situations involve student activists disrupting education, allegedly on behalf of education…At Mizzou, activists claimed that failing to deal with ‘structural racism’ was harming their education.  Both groups listed not specific harms, but rather vague interest in feeling good at their university.”

That kind of reaction, nationally circulated, is not what the protestors want to hear or want to hear said about them.   What can it teach them?  What can be learned from these experiences?  Is the result as simple as Kloster suggests?

Nobody was hurt in these protests.  At least not physically.  That’s important to remember.


University of Missouri President Tim Wolfe is gone.  Columbia Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin is gone.  This observer met both of them during a meeting a few months ago and found both of them personally likable.  Wolfe was candid in our discussions and represented the university well.  Perhaps ironically, one of the products of our meeting was a resolution of some communications problems between the group I was with and the university.  Loftin, I thought, was approachable and willing to discuss the issues we brought to the table.  That’s a personal impression drawn from a single hour-long meeting.  I was not left with any perspective on relations between the people in University Hall and the people who were on the campus.  But clearly, those who saw things on a daily basis had distinctly different impressions.

Who’s still there?  A guy in the pickup truck.  A drunk white guy who went where he wasn’t wanted at the Legion of Black Collegians meeting.  The person who scrawled the feces swastika in a bathroom.  A spirit of intolerance that bubbles under all of society, occasionally seeping to the surface.  And intolerance knows no sides.  They’re still there.


Critics on the campus felt the school administration was detached and unresponsive.  On Monday, the day Wolfe resigned and Loftin announced he would be stepping down, the deans of nine of the university’s colleges asked that the Board of Curators to fire Loftin.  They cited a “multitude of crises” on the Columbia campus.  They said they had met with Wolfe and Loftin as well as Provost Garnett Stokes twice in October but had seen the issues they talked about continue to deteriorate.

A day earlier the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures notified curators that 28 of the department’s thirty faculty members had expressed no confidence in Loftin. The other two faculty members abstained.  A few days earlier, the English Department faculty had voted 26-0 for a no-confidence motion targeting Loftin.  Two faculty members abstained.

Loftin also was the center of other controversies including the elimination of health insurance for graduate assistants who teach many of the school’s classes.  The insurance was later reinstated. He also was unpopular because of the dismissal of the Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences.

He also was in the middle of a partisan political criticism about a doctor with some privileges at University Hospital doing abortions at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Columbia.  As usual lately, anything to do with Planned Parenthood became an issue of political capital that transcended rational discussion. The situation has reached the absurd stage that one state senator wanting to firm up pro-life support in a statewide candidacy has demanded the university tell a graduate student to stop studying whether a 72-hour waiting period for an abortion really accomplishes anything.

One side claims it was absolutely right and the university is absolutely wrong. And when the absolutely right side is the one that controls the university’s budget, academic freedom can become expendable—or at least a perception can arise that it is.  The university revoked the doctor’s privileges at the hospital.  Planned Parenthood and its supporters charged the university over-reacted.  As far as we know, the graduate student is still researching.

Student demonstrators aimed their biggest complaints at Wolfe.  An incident early in the school year in which someone in a pickup truck shouted “Nigger” at the student body president Payton Head appears to have begun the unrest. Several days later, a white man, described as drunk, interrupted a meeting of the Legion of Black Collegians and complained, “These niggers are getting aggressive with me” when the group showed him he was not welcome.

An incident during the homecoming parade last month, though, is what seems to have really gotten things rolling.   A group of black students stopped in front of the car carrying Wolfe and started talking about the school’s history of racial incidents since its founding in 1839.  Wolfe did not react and the driver of the car tried to move around the group and bumped a couple of the students.

About then, graduate student Jonathan Butler said he wouldn’t eat until Wolfe quit. Four days later, November 6, Wolfe issued a statement and an apology that seemed weak to the students in the homecoming parade event, and to the students whose resentment about administration detachment from campus concerns continued to simmer.  Wolfe admitted that the situation might not have deteriorated if he had gotten out of his car during the parade and talked with the students.

Or would such an action only have compounded the disturbance that day?  It’s easy to second-guess on that issue.  Many will argue the students were out of line by stopping Wolfe’s car at all, let alone for several minutes before the blockade was ended.

This writer recalls an incident in the Missouri Senate a couple of years ago when a group led by a number of ministers entered the gallery of the senate and stopped floor action with songs, prayers, and statements urging expansion of the Medicaid program.  Several were arrested and charged.  Their cases have yet to come to trial.  One of their arguments would be familiar to the students: they were frustrated by inaction on the part of those who could do something to deal with the problems they perceived.

And so a fair question has to be asked.  What is left when you think the powers-that-be are not responsive to perceived serous issues you have raised?

The organizers of the demonstrations, Concerned Student 1-9-5-0, (1950 was the year the university admitted its first black student) issued eight demands including an apology from Wolfe in which he would “acknowledge his white male privilege, recognize that systems of oppression exist, and provide a verbal commitment to fulfill (the organization’s) demands”.  The group demanded Wolfe’s removal and a presidential selection process involving faculty, staff, and students of diverse backgrounds.  The group wants a  mandatory “comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum in all departments,” increased percentages of black faculty and staff, more money for the university counseling center that will allow hiring of mental health professionals as well as increases in funding for social justice centers.

The demands and the rhetoric that appeared to some people as overcooked took the situation beyond discussion. By now, too, various political figures were weighing in with veiled suggestions that time was running out for Wolfe.

Then several members of the football team announced they supported the student group.


The announced “strike” by several football players pushed the issue into national headlines.  International headlines in fact.  Suddenly the confrontation was on the BBC.  Suddenly it was on the national networks.   And it put the coaching staff in a difficult position in what already has been a difficult year.  They’ve already dealt with some unfortunate situations within the team this year apart from the win-loss record.  It was important that the team understand that it IS a team and this episode threatened to pit involved members against those who didn’t feel touched by the controversy.  Coach Gary Pinkel knew that however this event turned out, this incident had the potential to turn the locker room into at least two camps.  So the word went out that the whole team supported Jonathan Butler and was concerned about his health.  Pinkel has admitted, however, that some players were not enthusiastic about the “team” support of Butler.  And in a press conference after the resignations, he didn’t take a position on the departures of Wolfe and Loftin.

The upcoming game with Brigham Young was endangered.  The university could lose a million dollars and that was only a beginning.

There were doubtless some who immediately started thinking the football program was trying to run the university.  Some undoubtedly felt cancellation of the game, the season, the players’ scholarships would be appropriate because the players were getting outside their roles.   After all, the university is about education, not sports and—they might argue—the sports program was getting out of line.

Others could argue that athletes are also people and they do not give up being people just because they play sports.  In fact, some might argue on their behalf that the players’ actions were a recognition that some things are far more important than collegiate sports.   After all, these young men sit in classrooms with many of those who had pitched their tents on Carnahan Quadrangle.  They are not apart from them just because they play football.

The university basketball players also were talking about taking action, which coach Kim Anderson says he would have supported, when Wolfe resigned.

It is easy to dismiss the action of the football players and the backing they got from their coach and the school’s athletic director as the athletic department throwing its weight around.  But was it, really?  Or was it people who were students first creating by their actions a situation the athletic department had to deal with at a time when it had been only an observer that was focused on fulfilling its special role in the university?

Regardless, SEC coaches in their weekly teleconference praised Pinkel’s integrity in supporting his team.

The entrance of the football team into the picture made the news story, for whatever reason, one that could not be contained in Columbia. It went global. And nobody knew how much worse it could become if something didn’t happen at University Hall.


We don’t know and maybe will never know what kind of conversations were going on between the university administration and the curators.  We don’t know when or if somebody finally said, “Tim, the only way to end this situation is for you to leave.”   Or maybe he’s the one who told the curators that he realized there was no way the situation could be resolved as long as he stayed.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has reported the curators continued to support Wolfe, who left without any kind of a severance package.  The newspaper says that’s an indication he was not forced out.  But Loftin was a different case. The curators voted to assign him to a new job.  The newspaper says Loftin “made enemies out of deans, faculty and graduate students” and “frequently blindsided the curators with his decision making, stirring up controversies, then having to backtrack.”

The student group wasted no time issuing new demands for an “immediate” meeting with the university system faculty council, curators, and with Governor Nixon “to discuss shared governance and create a system of holistic inclusion for all constituents,” as one of the group members, Marshall Allen, put it, saying the demands have to me met “in totality.”

The resignations create some breathing space.  There comes a time when heated rhetoric (“in totality,” for example) needs to be tempered so productive steps can be taken to produce change.   Shared governance?  That term as well as “a system of holistic inclusion” is good for pumping up a crowd.  Creating realistic definitions is harder.  The students are not going to run the University of Missouri.  Or the faculty.  But the point has to be acknowledged that the administration cannot be apart from the campus and the issues that personally touch those on it.


The Dean of the School of Journalism, David Kurpius, quickly put out a statement when a video went viral showing Professor Melissa Click helped block reporters from covering the post-resignation reactions of students in their encampment on the Carnahan Quadrangle.  The video showed Click calling for some “muscle” to help remove student Mark Schierbecker who was shooting video of a confrontation between freelance photographer Tim Tai and Janna Basler, the assistant director of Greek Life and Leadership.  Tai was shooting for ESPN News.

The video shows Basler telling Tai, “You need to back off.  Back off, go!”  When he asks her if she is with the Office of Greek Life, she responds, “No, my name is Concerned Student 1-9-5-0.”

Tai is heard saying that his First Amendment rights to be there are equal with the First Amendment rights of the students who have been demonstrating.

And a third person, identified as Professor Richard Callahan, the Chairman of Religious Studies, is shown with the protestors throwing up his hands to block the view Tai could get with his camera.

The J-School dean wanted to make it clear that Click is a member of the Department of Communications, which is part of the School of Arts and Sciences, not a member of the School of Journalism faculty.  The J-School also released a statement discussing how it had used the events of the last several days as teaching opportunities for future journalists.

The national reaction on social media and in mainline media to the actions of those faculty members has been generally severe.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Click locked herself in the office all day Tuesday and at times could be heard sobbing.  At the end of the day she issued written apology for her actions, and said she had personally apologized to the journalists involved.  She resigned her tenuous tie to the Journalism School.  She had a “courtesy title” that let her serve on a graduate committee.  Although Tai says he has accepted Click’s apology, Schierbecker has told the Washington Post he has not.  “She made no acknowledgement that what she did was assault,” he told the newspaper.

Callahan is Click’s husband.  Thai has told the Post that he also has apologized “for getting in my face and yelling about it.” We’ve heard no word about whether his behavior also is being scrutinized.

Basler has been put on administrative leave and relieved of her duties as the Director of Greek Life while the investigation of her activities continues.  Tai says he’s had a personal meeting with Basler and has accepted her apologies.

There have been calls for the three to be fired.  Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple, for example, has written “These three university employees had a chance to stick up for free expression on Monday. Instead they stood up for coercion and darkness.”

Who’s right and who’s wrong in all of this?  From this reporter’s perspective (once a journalist, always a journalist), the students and the teachers were wrong.  The young journalists were legitimately trying to cover a story, to help listeners, viewers, and readers gain some kind of insight into the situation.  But this incident, as is the case with the larger activities, is not so black and white.   KBIA, the University’s public radio station that relies heavily on journalism students in its newsroom—and has done outstanding work in covering these events—published this story on its webpage:

And KBIA News Director Ryan Famuliner, a former Missourinet reporter, added some context to help people see “below the surface of it.”

Tuesday, the day after the confrontations, protestors decided reporters were welcome at their encampment.  They took down signs telling the media to stay out and they passed out pages urging protestors to cooperate with the media.  The headline on the flyers said “Teachable Moment.”


We talked to a distressed former member of the Board of Curators the other day who fears these events have set a “horrible precedent.”   Some of those we have talked to who also have watched things from a distance suggest the university is in for an extremely difficult time finding someone to step into the president’s job.  “Who in his right mind would want it?” one person asked.

What has been accomplished by all of this shouting and pushing and demanding is that impediments the protesting students, graduate students, and faculty members saw to communications between the folks on campus and the folks in University Hall have been removed.  They’ve gotten the university’s attention.

Now, it appears, talking instead of shouting, discussing instead of demanding can start.


No, the athletic department does not run the university.  It is, however, the most publicly prominent entity that represents it.  It would be nice if the public found the teaching of English, Journalism, Agriculture, Physics, Chemistry, Economics, and so forth to be something it would buy tickets to watch.  But the fact is the public is more likely to cheer for an All-American football or basketball player than it is to cheer for a Nobel Prize winner.  Another fact is that the university would continue to do its work educating students even if another fan never walks into Memorial Stadium.

However, the virtues of “the team” or as some of the players said, “the family,” should not dissipate as time passes and, in fact, might be good to keep in mind as the university re-shapes its administration.   Teams work when they share a common goal.  They fail when they break into factions.  Factionalism breeds resentment.  Resentment brings conflict.  And conflict destroys the family, the team.

Take a look at this effort to help us see below “the top of it.”

One of the jobs of a coach is to hold the team together.  It would be fair to include questions to presidential candidates about how good a coach a new president and chancellor might need to be.


One reason Click, Callahan, and Basler are in trouble is because they forgot that teachers remain teachers outside as well as inside the classroom. Whether the teachable moments represented by their apologies reverse the negative teachable moments of the confrontation with Tai and with Schierbecker is hard to determine.  Perhaps the changed attitude of the protestors the next day, when they removed the signs and welcomed reporters, indicates some learning has taken place.

Did the change of attitude represent a learning moment resulting from the teachable moment?  One would hope so, for students and teachers alike.

The events have created numerous teachable moments and they have provided learning moments as well.  And those moments go beyond the teaching and learning that might happen in the new diversity and social respect programs the university is moving toward.


Events such as these are potential minefields for politicians—witness the no-win situations Governor Nixon found himself in, or put himself in, last year in Ferguson.  These events also can be opportunities to say and advocate things that appeal to the public gut and gain some points for candidates and office-holders.  Before Wolfe’s resignation, various office-holders put out fence-riding statements that tried to sound, well for lack of a better word, leaderly without running the risk of antagonizing potential voters, protestors, and those who thought Wolfe and Loftin were just fine. “This is serious stuff,” the statements generally said, “and I am sure the right things will be done.”   Afterwards the same people who had not publicly come out specifically in favor of Wolfe’s departure courageously said he had done the right thing and they were glad he did.

But there’s another political matter that is hinted at in a part of the scenario that has been overshadowed by the events on the Carnahan Quadrangle.  One of the graduate students who sent a letter “For my dear friends outside of Missouri campus” alluded to it when she wrote, “for many of us, it was clear we were just expected to pay ever-increasing fees (mine are currently about $1000 per semester above and beyond tuition), ½ tuition waivers for some grad students (where prior had been full waivers, which drastically impacts recruiting and retention efforts), an insurance debacle…and ongoing racial discrimination.”

Students are going deeper in debt.  Some graduate students are paying increased fees.  Insurance coverage for them was dropped, then restored when they made enough noise.   And state support for higher education in Missouri is a fraction of what it was a decade ago.  Data compiled earlier this year by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association says funding per full-time student has dropped almost 28 percent in the last five years while college enrollment has increased by twenty percent.

Your reporter was in a meeting yesterday with a former legislator who recalled that when he started in the General Assembly a few decades ago, state funding for higher education paid about half the costs of educating a student. Now, he said, it’s only about ten percent.  There might be more accurate figures but the trend is accurate.

A seminar at Truman State University last March was called “Crisis in Missouri: The decline of state funding for higher education.”   The announcement of the meeting that listed discussion points said, “For decades, public support for higher education in the state of Missouri has declined precipitously.  The impact of this underfunding has been widespread and deeply felt: An increased financial burden on Missouri’s student population; An inability to recruit top teachers and scholars; a deterioration of the quality of education at our state institutions; A weakening of morale for the vast majority of those who work at those institutions; A culture on our campuses of frustration with the present and fear for the future instead of a culture of innovation.”

Fear.  Frustration.  It’s top to bottom in Missouri’s higher education system.  The definitions of those words differ according to position within that system but all strata have them.  Not to give the university administration a pass, but funding issues are a huge issue and at the highest levels are one of the primary ones.  The President of the University of Missouri is seen by many as a manager and a fund-raiser.  The chancellors are the on-campus managers.

But the buck has to stop somewhere.  And ultimately, Wolfe felt the whole package of bucks rose to his level and the best alternative was to leave so that healing could begin on a campus he loved.

But don’t expect the people in Jefferson City to do anything financially that would ease the concerns that dog all of our campuses.  Advocates of smaller government are more concerned with shrinking the state’s capability to pay its bills and obligations than they are in easing financial pressures on higher education and those it serves.   Or other services to the general public.

“You can’t cure a problem by throwing money at it,” some like to say.  That might be true.  But you certainly can’t solve many problems by financially starving them.  In 2013, then-auditor Tom Schweich released a study showing Missouri tax collections are about four-BILLION dollars below the amount allowed by the Hancock Amendment adopted in 1980 as a way to control over-taxation and over-spending.   But the legislature only wants to widen that gap.  So the concerns and frustrations of some of those who called for the departures of Wolfe and Loftin will go unanswered.


It’s easy to pronounce winners and losers in these situations.  But that’s a mistake because many participants are both. Victory has a cost.  Loss has an opportunity.

Well, Wolfe is gone and so is Loftin.  An African-American temporary president who was the first black graduate of the law school has been installed.  An African-American law professor and associate dean has become an interim vice-chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equality. Curators have promised to restore “a culture of respect,” to hire more minorities, step up recruitment, and offer support to students who feel aggrieved.

Beyond that——-

Three people have been arrested for turning social media into anti-social media by making threats on the internet.  The threats, especially in a time when mass shootings are not so uncommon anymore, honestly frightened some people on the campus.

Someone painted out the word “Black” on the sign in front of the University’s Black Cultural Center; the paint has since been removed.  (Someday, maybe, there will be some discussions about whether cultural centers for various ethnic groups are long-term counter-productive to advancement toward a color-blind multicultural society many of these groups seek.  Someday. Perhaps not this day, though, when emotions that would detract from the kind of discussion that needs to be held are likely to rise.)

The person or persons so consumed by—whatever—that he or she put a piece of human excrement into their hand and drew a swastika on the wall of a co-ed dormitory bathroom and left feces on the floor is still unknown.  The student protests about racism overshadowed concerns by those to whom a swastika has a special significance.

Hate, ignorance, and downright idiocy are inescapable parts of our existence, whether on our campuses or elsewhere in our world.  The events in Columbia have a double edge—protests against wrongs perceived by one segment of society while a hate message that hurts another segment of society stays in the background.

Those of us who were in college in the days when one of the popular songs was “All we are saying is give peace a chance,” a time when demonstrators thought they could help stop wars by putting flowers down the barrels of the guns held by National Guardsmen trying to control demonstrations, still hope for peace and love and harmony.

Each generation has to confront that issue and each generation learns that there are those who think the flower children and their idealistic descendants (and forebears) are fools and troublemakers.  But a generation without ideals offers little to the future.

Comedian Pat Paulsen, whose satiric presidential candidacy in the days of the flower generation, put together a campaign book in 1968.  He wrote, “This book is dedicated to the time when all of us spicks, niggers, white trash, hunkies, wops, kikes, mackerel snappers, micks, gooks, chinks, red necks, beans and hippies get together as Americans.”

Columbia in the past week reminded us we still have a ways to go.

Perhaps this long, long reflection helps answer the questions from friends in Vancouver and in Los Angeles and gives some insight into the coral beneath the surface.

Three things

On this third day after the saddest day of the year, the end of the baseball season, it is time to consider three days that always bring a special light to our existence.

On this third day of pondering the rapidly-approaching time when NASCAR quits racing and the football season ends (unless a favored team is in a bowl or the NFL playoffs) and Sunday afternoons truly become nap times because all that’s left on the telly is the NBA, hockey, poker tournaments, and ultimate fighting, it is comforting to know that there will be time to ponder the beauty, inspiration, and self-reflection that comes from those three days.

They don’t seem to have gotten the publicity in 2015 that they have gotten in previous years although it’s possible it was missed. But in a world where the news is normally all about this candidate, that politico, or another faction or nation shouting with all seriousness, “It’s all about me,’ these three events remind us that life need not be so self-serious, not so demanding, and not so somber.

The three days each year are these:

  1.  The day Beloit College in Wisconsin tells us what the year’s incoming freshman class knows and doesn’t know.
  2. The day Lake Superior State College in Michigan tells us what buzz words from the previous twelve months deserve to be stricken from the English language.
  3. The day San Jose State University announces the winners of its Bulwer-Lytton fiction writing contest.

Beloit College’s list is good because it reminds us that our world changes so quickly that our children (and grandchildren) have no idea what we’re talking about.  More seriously, it seems to this recorder of the passing scene, it is a reminder that the teaching of history cannot be allowed to be pushed aside by the rush to make sure our children and grandchildren emerge from high school knowing about the STEM subjects.  STEM without social context  plants the seeds of an ignorant and therefore shallow society that will be short on humanity.

Let’s step off that soapbox, though, and consider some of the things Beloit College says about this year’s new college students (the class of 2019, their parents hope).  The study says the students born in 1997 never knew Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G, Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa as living people but Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione have always been part of their lives. Hybrid cars have always been in mass production; Google has always existed; postage stamps have always been peel-and-stick (no licking), “four foul-mouthed kids have always been playing in South Park; it is not important to them (but it might still be to their parents) that someone is the “first woman” to do something; television has always been hi-def; and “Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.”

The entire list is at

Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan releases its List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness in January each year.  One of the top words (phrases also are allowed) this year came from this observer of the verbal scene—Polar Vortex.  The list cited two of us:

Kenneth Ross of Glastonbury, Conn., and Bob Priddy of Jefferson City, Mo., were among many who saw this storming in last January. “Less than a week into the new year and it’s the most overused, meaningless word in the media,” said Ross. Priddy noted that it quickly jumped from the weather forecast to other areas, as he said he knew it would:  “Today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorializes about a ‘political vortex.'”

Others that the school says must be banished from popular speech include BAE (for “before anyone else” or “before anything else”) whether referring to a favorite friend or a favorite food for example; “hack” (instead of saying “tip” or “advice”) such as, as one commentator noted, “life hacks, home improvement hacks, car hacks, furniture hacks, painting hacks, work hacks and pretty much any other hack you can think of;” skill set (a phrase that was just a word—skills—until some bureaucrat got hold of it); foodie (one observer called it a ridiculous word. “Do we call people who like wine ‘winies’ or beer lovers ‘beeries’?”

There are several other words on the 2015 list. It’s always fun to check the list each year at  And a review of the lists from previous years is an interesting exploration of how slang sometimes becomes common language although it irritates the devil out of people when it is first used.  It’s also an interesting commentary on the times.

The Bulwer-Lytton fiction writing contest is named in honor of English author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose nineteenth-century novels gave us such commonly-used phrases as “the mighty dollar,” and “the pen is mightier than the sword,” and “the great unwashed.”  What made EGB-W special in literary history, however, is the opening sentence of his 1830 novel, Paul Clifford:

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Should you wish to read the rest of the volume, you can go to

This winner of this year’s 33rd Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Award, chosen by English professor Scott Rice and a panel of “distinguished judges” that sometimes includes past winners is Joel Phillips, a New Jersey music teacher.  We missed the news coverage in August that Phillips was recognized for writing something 180 degrees from anything that won a Pulitzer Prize this year:

Seeing how the victim’s body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer ‘Dirk’ Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase ‘sandwiched’ to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt.

 If you’d like to see the runners-up, dishonorable mentions, and other examples of the best of bad writing in this contest, check  And in these dark and stormy days ahead before baseball season resumes, perhaps you will find a creative spark that could propel you to national notoriety as a Bulwer-Lytton winner.