Kinder backs SMSU name change

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After years of unsuccessful efforts by Springfield-area lawmakers to drop the regional designation from Southwest Missouri State University's name, a legislative leader from Cape Girardeau is assuming a prominent role in the fight for approval.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder on Monday prefiled a bill that would rename the Springfield institution Missouri State University, a moniker school officials maintain would better describe its status as the state's second largest public campus.

Some higher education officials, including those with Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg and the University of Missouri system, have openly opposed the idea in recent years. Opponents are concerned a rechristened MSU would eventually demand a special funding status to the detriment of the three remaining compass-point schools.

Southeast Missouri State University officials have remained on the sidelines during the debate. Board of regents president Don Dickerson expressed ambivalence to the proposal. He said he doesn't believe a Southwest name change would impact Southeast's share of state funding.

House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girar-deau, said he might support the bill, so long as it is limited to a name change and doesn't lead to a duplication of programs exclusively offered by the UM system, such as law and medical schools.

"It has probably gained enough support to get passage in the House," Crowell said. "When it gets to Ken Jacob, that is a different story."

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, has successfully blocked the MSU bill in the past and is expected to again lead the opposition.

Kinder and Jacob are both running for lieutenant governor.

While Southwest officials have said the school has evolved from a regional institution into one with a statewide mission, they have been cool to suggestions that a restructuring of the school's governing board accompany a name change.

Under Kinder's bill, the school's board of governors would have nine voting members, one from each of Missouri's congressional districts. The university's current board has five members from southwest Missouri plus one each from St. Louis and Kansas City.

Kinder said he didn't believe Southwest officials would oppose a restructuring.

"A statewide board to me seems to follow naturally from a change in designation," Kinder said.

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