Effort to derail name change fails

Thursday, March 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Southeast Missouri State University officials won't have to worry about ordering new business cards after the House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a proposal to change the names of the state's four regional universities.

If it had passed, however, mass renamings still likely wouldn't have happened. Most supporters of the measure acknowledged the real goal was to kill name-change efforts by Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield.

Southwest administrators and their supporters in the General Assembly want to rename the school Missouri State University.

Officials at some of the state's other public universities are hostile to that idea, claiming Southwest is bucking for special status to seek a larger share of higher education funding.

However, Southwest's name change won initial approval on voice vote. The House is expected to give final approval to the bill as early as today.

State Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, sought an amendment that would have forced Southwest to share the MSU name with three other regional universities. Southeast would have become MSU-Cape Girardeau. Central and Northwest Missouri state universities in Warrensburg and Maryville, respectively, would have had similar names.

Seeking equality

Farnen said the same arguments Southwest supporters used in seeking the change also applied to the other three schools. Farnen said all four schools need to stay on an equal footing.

"Playing the name game, I think, is an attempt to get more money from the other institutions," Farnen said.

Several lawmakers who represent other universities spoke in favor of the amendment.

However, state Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said both the amendment and the underlying bill were bad ideas.

Crowell said people in Southeast Missouri are proud of the school's name and don't want to see the regional designation dropped. However, he too said letting Southwest become the lone MSU would be poor public policy, with it eventually seeking to duplicate programs offered by the University of Missouri system -- like a medical school and a law school -- at substantial cost to taxpayers.

In the end, Crowell joined six other members of Southeast Missouri's House delegation in voting against Farnen's amendment, which fell 79-46. State Rep. David Schwab, R-Jackson, was the only area lawmaker voting for it.

Because House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, quickly closed the voting board, 35 representatives didn't get a chance to vote on the amendment, including six from Southeast Missouri.

Kreider, a Southwest graduate, is a strong proponent of the name change.

Other supporters said that as the state's second-largest public university behind the University of Missouri-Columbia, Southwest has grown beyond its regional mission and deserves special status.

Mizzou receives blame

Hosmer and others also accused the University of Missouri system of trying to squash Southwest's efforts to protect its own turf and place at the front of the line for education funding.

The bill would also change the names of three state colleges -- Harris Stowe in St. Louis, Missouri Southern in Joplin and Missouri Western in St. Joseph. They would all become universities.

If the bill makes it to the Senate, state Sen. Steve Stoll, D-Festus, has said he will offer an amendment identical to Farnen's in hopes of killing the measure.

The bill is HB 1994.


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