The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

June 19, 2013

Our View: Finding the way forward

— Communication failures and the lack of a clear mission have given rise to turmoil and discord at Missouri Southern State University. The antidote to this is openness, frankness and the articulation of a well-defined purpose as the school moves forward.

Southern is too valuable an ally in Joplin’s success for everyone not to engage at this time.

Communication failure was manifest most recently with Bruce Speck’s abrupt and unexplained disappearance from the scene, leaving many people — including, apparently, other university administrators — in the dark.

It was manifest in the creation of a $125,000 position called special assistant to the president — which the Missouri Southern Foundation was expected to help fund, which in turn shocked the  foundation’s president when she read about it in this newspaper. The president of the board of governors was also unaware of that agreement and acknowledged that the university hasn’t the authority to spend foundation money. Just how is this new executive position that was filled by Alan Marble to be funded and what will his role be during this transition and in the future?

And it was manifest in the attempt to remove the university’s international mission designation from state statutes, a move that caught faculty, staff and students by surprise.

What is to be the fate of the international mission, which for two decades has been Southern’s brand?

Southern is a valued partner in Joplin’s educational, cultural and economic success. Our community and our children need it to continue thriving. We are proud of Southern and think it is an underappreciated and underrated school — one of the best deals in Missouri and nearby states, in fact.

Southern’s success is going to require that everyone — the board, administrators, faculty and students — become part of the conversation to define that mission and then buy into it. It’s also time that Southern’s anonymous critics either step out of the Internet shadows or slink away. Anonymity is another type of communication breakdown.

Transparency, candor and a clear sense of purpose ... this is the way forward now.

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