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Citing a Desire to Work More With Students, MSU President Steps Down After One Year

James E. Cofer, Sr. to take position as tenured full professor in College of Business Administration next year
James Cofer
(Photo credit: Marrie Ochieng, KSMU)

Dr. James Cofer, president of Missouri State University, has announced that he is stepping down after securing the position barely a year ago.  As KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports, Cofer has accepted a tenured position as a full professor in MSU’s College of Business Administration.

Elizabeth Bradbury, chair of the MSU Board of Governors, made the announcement  Monday morning to a crowded auditorium at a campus press conference.

 “Yesterday, the Board of Governors accepted Dr. Cofer’s plan to return to the faculty as a tenured full professor in our Collge of Business Administration. He will use the coming year to sharpen skills and prepare for his classroom assignments.  And those classroom assignments will begin in the fall of 2012,” Bradbury said.

Cofer was selected to be the institution's 10th president in May of last year.

He told the audience that he made the decision because he wanted to serve students in a more meaningful way than the office of the president allowed.  He cited the rigors of his schedule as one of the main reasons for the change.

Before coming to MSU, Cofer was president at the University of Louisiana at Monroe for eight years;  he said that was a very different experience than being the president of MSU.

“I just think that the schedule here and the demands here and the need to do different things [were different from ULM].  I also think it was the different circumstances of the year. I mean, it was almost from the minute I got here. You know, we joke about ‘honeymoons,’ it lasted about an hour and a half.  I think there were a lot of things that happened that took me away from the academic environment and students,” Cofer said.

Cofer told the journalists, faculty and staff members in the audience that it had been a difficult year.

He said the state audit that hit the university when he first arrived was “a little bit startling,” and that he’s had to address agendas other than his own since arriving. 

Cofer’s agreement with the Board of Governors calls for a one time payment of $50,000, and he will continue to receive a housing allowance of $45,000 for one year.  His faculty salary will be $165,000 a year, which is 60 percent of his salary as president, according to a release from the university. 

Bradbury said Cofer will spend the next year sharpening his skills before beginning as a professor over a year from now.  When asked by KSMU why the Board of Governors decided to include the housing allowance for a year, Bradbury said the agreement represented what both sides thought was fair.

Clifton Smart, general counsel at Missouri State University, has been named interim president and will begin immediately in that role.

Cofer’s announcement comes less than a week after the news that MSU’s provost, Dr. Belinda McCarthy, would be stepping down to become a faculty member.  The interim provost is Dr. Frank Einhellig. 

Cofer succeeded Dr. Mike Neitzel, who recently announced he was leaving the university after staying on as a psychology professor following his term as president.

 For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.