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Senate Hears SMSU Name Change Proposal

April 17, 2002
By: Brian Connolly
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1994

JEFFERSON CITY - A bill that would change the name of Southwest Missouri State University to Missouri State University met opposition from a familiar source Wednesday: a Boone county legislator.

The proposal, which would also substitute "college" with "university" in the name of three other public institutions, received approval from the House last month. At that time members of the Boone county delegation offered a series of amendments to block the SMSU change.

The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on the bill Wednesday, and Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, used the opportunity to grill Paul Redfearn, president of SMSU's Board of Governors. Jacob pointed out that unlike the UM Board of Curators, the Board of Governors isn't required to have statewide representation. Jacob also expressed concern that the SMSU board has never had a minority member.

Redfearn countered that decisions about who serves on the board must be approved by the Senate.

Jacob also asked if SMSU has a program to help black athletes graduate and whether the school has claims filed against it for providing inadequate funding to womens' sports. Redfearn said SMSU had "very good" graduation rates for athletes and defended the school's support for womens' athletics. Sen. Roseann Bentley, R-Springfield and chair of the committee, said if Jacob came to see the SMSU Lady Bears basketball team play sometime they could get him a T-shirt.

"As long as it said Southwest Missouri State (on it)," Jacob said.

In an interview after the hearing, Redfearn was asked whether he thought Jacob's line of questioning was relevant to the name change issue.

"No, of course not," Redfearn answered.

Representatives from the UM Alumni Association and Associated Students of the University of Missouri reiterated concerns that the SMSU change would increase competition for scarce financial resources. Redfearn said those concerns were "without merit" and after the hearing said he believed the name change would benefit UM. He said that after SMSU and other regional institutions were given statewide missions funding and attendance at UM increased.

"If they perceive us as competition, there's one thing about America; competition is good," Redfearn said.

Bentley said the committee will vote on the bill this morning.