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Cofer Encourages Unity in First State of the University Address

New president of Missouri State University James Cofer emphasized collaboration with his colleagues in his first State of the University Address Tuesday. KSMU’s Ryan Welch was there and has this report.

President Cofer discussed the budget challenges MSU will face for fiscal year 2012 and beyond. He said the process is one that will be inclusive and transparent, and that it will be a friendly, bottom-up process.

“We will likely deal with the budget reduction using some combination of permanent cuts in expenses, plus revenue from reasonable student tuition increases, plus some university reserves. Thanks to [your] hard work, along with President Nietzel and the board, Missouri State has a strong financial base from which to operate. Be thankful for that; not every university is in the same position,” said Cofer.

Some of these cuts could lead to doing away with so-called “low-completer programs.” Cofer said that “low-completer programs” are undergraduate programs that average fewer than 10 graduates or graduate programs that average fewer than five graduates over the course of three years.

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has recommended universities look at cutting such programs to save money.

Cofer said MSU will do its best to reevaluate and adjust these programs instead of simply cutting them.

“The review of our programs will be led by faculty, department heads, and deans. The Provost and her office will work to support our programs throughout this process. No program should be disadvantaged acting in the best interests of students. It’s much better to do the right thing than the political thing,” said Cofer.

Cofer said that, in order to make progress, the university must continue to make investments even as cuts are being made in other areas.The president also talked about diversity on Missouri State’s campus. He pledged that he will only encourage searches for faculty and staff that include qualified candidates from under-represented populations.

“We do a disservice to our students by not having a more diverse student body and workforce. Our students are bright and perceptive; they are the ones who tell us this. We must do better. The Board of Governors insists on it, and it is the right thing to do,” said Cofer.

He said that diversity should show up in the university’s environment, and in its thoughts and ideas.

He said he and his colleagues must agree to disagree on certain issues—both for the improvement of the university and the education of its students. He reiterated that the faculty and staff are in the decision-making process together.

“There is much to be done during the next few years and we will run into a few problems along the way. Theodore Rubin once said, ‘The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking having a problem is a problem,’” said Cofer.

Cofer’s speech will be replayed at 7 p.m. on KSMU and televised on Ozarks Public Television at 9 p.m.

For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Welch.