Proposal to turn SEMO into EMU axed

Sunday, February 1, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Although they didn't know it, senators last week had an opportunity to provide a logical solution to the flap over Southeast Missouri State University's Indian and Otahkian nicknames.

During debate on a bill to drop the regional designation from the name of Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield, an amendment was offered to also rename Southeast, changing it to Eastern Missouri University.

With the initials of EMU, it follows that an appropriate mascot for the school's sports teams would be the Emus. The large, flightless Australian birds presumably wouldn't offend anybody's notions of political correctness.

The amendment wasn't offered with sports mascots in mind, but nonetheless Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, the sponsor of the underlying bill, was not amused, noting that no one associated with Southeast has requested an institutional name change.

"They do not want to be known as 'E-Moo,'" said Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.

The amendment, which was rejected on a 26-5 vote, was part of the one-man filibuster being waged by Senate Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob to block renaming Southwest to Missouri State University. Jacob, D-Columbia, so far has spent eight hours over two days trying to talk the bill to death, and the discussion is likely to continue this week.

From a constitutional and historical standpoint, Jacob contends there is already a Missouri State University -- what is now known as the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The provision of the state constitution that establishes the University of Missouri Board of Curators and dates to the 19th century refers to the school as "the state university."

Well into the 20th century the school was called Missouri State University and issued diplomas under that name. Missouri State University -- meaning the Columbia institution -- is even carved in stone in the first floor of the Missouri Capitol.

It doesn't appear that the school's name was ever officially changed but rather evolved into the University of Missouri.

Another college name change, sponsored by state Sen. Harold Caskey, D-Butler, did make it on to the bill. It would rechristen Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg as the University of Central Missouri.

Guns change

While a Missouri Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the state's new concealed weapons law is pending, one senator who helped bring the challenge has already filed a bill to tweak the law should it be upheld.

As currently written, most Missourians age 23 and older could obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapons on their person. However, anyone at least 21 years old can conceal a weapon in a vehicle without a permit.

State Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis and a Sikeston native, wants the law changed so only permit holders can possess concealed weapons in all instances, with the minimum age set at 23.

State Rep. Larry Crawford, who sponsored the existing law, said some minor changes could be in order, though he is not sure if the uniformity suggested by Coleman is one of them.

"My preference would be to let the law work for a year or two and then make changes," said Crawford, R-California.

The law has been on hold while undergoing judicial review.

Oakley for rep?

Two decades after leaving the legislature, Carter County Presiding Commissioner Gene Oakley is mulling a return.

Oakley met in the Capitol last week with Democratic leaders concerning a potential run this year for state representative in the 153rd District. State Rep. Mike Dethrow, a freshman Republican from Alton, currently holds the seat, which represents Carter, Ripley and Oregon counties plus parts of Butler and Wayne counties.

Oakley was elected to the House in 1982 and served one term. He passed on re-election in 1984 to pursue an unsuccessful bid for the state Senate.

A retired superintendent who worked at several Southeast Missouri school districts, Oakley was a key player in the lawsuit that led to the state's overhaul of its education funding system in 1993.

He is serving as an unofficial adviser to a group of schools that is pursuing a similar challenge this year.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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