How Not to Recover from a Crisis, Mizzou Edition

The University of Missouri, where I teach and which I dearly love, is in crisis. Freshman enrollment at the university’s Columbia campus (Mizzou) is down by a whopping 35% from two years ago. Missouri’s governor and legislature slashed Mizzou’s state appropriation by $22 million this year.

Administrators have responded by cutting Mizzou’s operating budget by 12% and laying off 307 employees (474 across the entire University of Missouri system). They’ve also closed seven dormitories to students, instead renting out the rooms for football games and special events like the recent solar eclipse.

Suffice it to say, morale on campus is low.

The primary culprit, of course, is Mizzou’s reaction to the student protests of 2015. In November of that year, a group of students, justifiably angered by three racist incidents on the 35,000-student Columbia campus, presented administrators with a number of unreasonable demands. Among other things, they insisted that the president of the 77,000-student University of Missouri system publicly acknowledge his “white male privilege” and resign his post and that the university adopt patently unconstitutional racial quotas for faculty and staff.

Instead of leading like compassionate, wise adults—joining the protestors’ rightful condemnation of racist conduct but working to convince them that their demands were unreasonable—many Mizzou officials either succumbed to or actively perpetuated the frenzy.

Mizzou’s football coach publicly supported a player boycott by the members of his team. The chancellor encouraged the protestors by allowing them to erect a tent city on a university quad and providing them with electricity generators. One administrator bullied a student reporter and attempted to prevent him from documenting the protests. A professor actually battered a reporter and famously called for “some muscle” to remove him from the protestors’ camp.

Watching Mizzou’s leadership abdicate to the loudest voices from the radical left, most Missourians were aghast. Many decided that their children, donations, and tax dollars should go elsewhere. Hence, Mizzou’s current situation.

One might think, then, that the university’s administration would be doing all it can to get back in the good graces of the people of Missouri. Unfortunately, the administration’s recent tactics in a pending lawsuit involving one of academia’s chief bogeymen—firearms—threaten to undermine efforts to restore the goodwill Mizzou lost in 2015.

In 2014, Missourians voted 61% to 39% to amend the state constitution to provide for “strict scrutiny” of firearms restrictions. The upshot is that any state restriction on firearm possession must be “narrowly tailored” to secure a “compelling state interest.”

In light of this constitutional amendment, a law professor at Mizzou, Royce Barondes, has challenged the University of Missouri’s absolute firearms ban. Professor Barondes observes that the ban forbids his bringing a gun onto campus, even if he leaves it locked in the glove compartment or trunk of his car. He is thus precluded from possessing a handgun while he’s on his way to and from work. So broad a restriction, he maintains, is not narrowly tailored to secure a compelling state interest.

The issue presented in Professor Barondes’ complaint is straightforward: The university administration believes its gun ban is consistent with the Missouri Constitution; Professor Barondes believes it isn’t. The appropriate strategy for the cash-strapped university would be to address the merits of Barondes’ non-frivolous claim, allow the court to determine who’s right, and, if unsuccessful, appeal.

That is not the tack the university administration has taken. Instead, it has asserted three meritless counterclaims against Professor Barondes and has sought attorney fees that could drive him into bankruptcy.

First, the administration counters that the university’s gun ban complies with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, Professor Barondes’ lawsuit doesn’t contend otherwise; it’s based on the Missouri Constitution alone.

The university says its counterclaim is appropriate because Professor Barondes has stated outside his pending lawsuit that the university’s gun ban violates the Second Amendment. But it’s absurd—and chilling—to think that a university could force a professor to defend a declaratory judgment lawsuit just because he has somewhere endorsed a legal position with which the university disagrees.

Next, the university countersued for a judicial declaration that its gun ban complies with the Missouri Constitution. That claim is improper because it’s entirely unnecessary: In resolving Professor Barondes’ claim that the rule violates the Missouri Constitution, the court will obviously have to decide whether the rule instead complies with the Missouri Constitution. Counterclaims seeking no more than the declaration, “Plaintiff loses!” are just harassment and aren’t allowed.

Third, the university sought injunctive relief—a judicial order that Professor Barondes comply with the gun ban. But Professor Barondes has never expressed an intention to violate the ban; indeed, he has insisted that he will comply with it unless it is repealed or invalidated.

To get around that inconvenient fact, the university resorted to subterfuge. In his complaint, Professor Barondes had stated that he “intends to possess a concealed firearm in his vehicle and on his person, in both cases in a lawful manner while on [University of Missouri] property, but only, in both cases, to the extent the Court grants his requested relief.” In its countersuit, the university quoted selectively from that paragraph of the complaint, accusing Professor Barondes of asserting “that he ‘intends to possess a concealed firearm in his vehicle and on his person . . . while on [University of Missouri] property.’” Cutting off the last part of the quoted sentence drastically changes the meaning of Professor Barondes’ words.

In addition to forcing Professor Barondes to defend against three spurious counterclaims, the university sued him for its attorney fees. Those fees will be tremendous, given that the university injected unnecessary complexity with its countersuit and outsourced the litigation to one of the state’s most expensive law firms (where the judge assigned to the case previously practiced law).

The message from University of Missouri officials seems clear: Do not challenge us, or we will bankrupt you. We will not allow constitutional niceties to disrupt our agenda. We cannot be expected to comply with silly rules put in place by the unwashed masses of Missouri voters.

Mizzou’s primary in-state competitor, Missouri State University (MSU), has taken a different approach to the Missouri Constitution. MSU’s general counsel recently reviewed the campus gun policy and clarified that university employees would be permitted to conceal otherwise legal firearms in their locked vehicles while on campus.

It seems Mizzou could learn something from its in-state rival (which has just broken its enrollment record for the seventh straight year). That is not to say that Mizzou’s administration should immediately alter its gun policy or refrain from defending it in court. But is it too much to ask that the administration not bully and threaten to bankrupt a professor who demands that it comply with a constitutional provision approved by 61% of Missourians?

Such an approach is morally wrong, terrible P.R. for my beloved Mizzou, and certain to further widen the gap between the university and the people of the state.

  • Deserttrek

    the university is taxpayer funded therefore must be 100% accountable to the taxpayers
    not sure of the alleged racist incidents, it is NOT the responsibility of the university to respond to or comment on everything that happens in life

    sad to see that mizzou is run by bad human beings

  • HA

    White people are forbidden to tell black people that their demands are unreasonable.

  • Tex Taylor

    Missouri is Exhibit 1A of what is coming down the pike for most of higher education. From their idiocy of multiculturalism, to the misandry in action, to the militant Leftists, to letting the Marxists run loose on campus while the Administration sucks its collective thumbs, to their liberal arts professors of unclear purpose browbeating the students while mugging for the camera, Mizzou is getting everything it deserves.

    I wouldn’t let either one my kids step foot on a campus run by a ship of fools like Mizzou, and I certainly wouldn’t pay for the ‘privilege.’

    There are millions of parents starting to question the validity and worth of a college degree in all but a few disciplines. Wise observations – colleges have become for the most part little but Leftist dogma and the stuff of barista.

  • SolonGone

    Resumes from Mizzou applicants now go directly to the special circular file. Why would anyone be stupid enough to hire or promote a graduate from this leftist shithole?

    • Dude1394

      I support this position. The antifa-democrats have taught me the lesson to only do business with my own tribe. It is liberating.

    • MarkM

      Somehow, I doubt the folks leading the protests were studying business, engineering, etc. There are also a LOT of Republicans in Missouri (in the last 10 Presidential elections, they went for D exactly twice), some of whom may have decided to take advantage of cheaper in-state tuition for residents of that state. Now, for folks who started at Mizzou after 2015, I have no excuses left…. 😉

      • rabidfox2

        No matter, the Mizzou name has been so smirched that the stink permeates all their graduates.

    • 48574

      I think that needs to be done ore often.

      Why would any one want to hire a Univ of MI lawyer after last year? They apparently need coloring books to deal with Trump being elected. Doesn’t that pretty much prove they aren’t qualified to take the pressure of a legal career?

      If I was the hiring manager in a legal firm they all would go in the circular file.

  • ytzpzvgk

    Sorry to hear about your plight. I gave up on the place a few years ago. I’m sure the campus can be put to more productive uses than churning out degrees in naval gazing and cloud dreaming.

    • NoDonkey

      I enjoy naval gazing. A battleship is a beautiful sight.

      • Lev Bronstein

        Navels can be nice to gaze at, as long as they belong to someone else (preferably female).

  • Dantheman

    I hope they have to close…it’s really the only thing that has any chance of getting the attention of other universities. I have relatives in Missouri, and
    2 kids of alumni are going elsewhere. Both of those alumni have stated they will never give another penny, and have left the alumni association. This attitude needs to spread.

  • Vizzini

    The primary culprit, of course, is Mizzou’s reaction to the student protests of 2015. In November of that year, a group of students, justifiably angered by three racist incidents on the 35,000-student Columbia campus

    Nope. You don’t get it. The anger was not “justified” and the “incidents” were a bunch of hoaxes.

    • rabidfox2

      And probably ginned up to give a reason to begin protesting.

    • Cromwell Devlin

      Do not bother leftist with facts, it is a form of child abuse. Hands up, don’t shoot was a total fraud, but the left lives on fraud.

  • HAPPY

    Liberals (and yes, most U’s `administrators’ are just that) are masters of using OPM….almost always, that is taxpayers’ money.

    Instead of allowing this to continue, it’s high time that such `administrators’ have ACTUAL SKIN in the game and should their OPM-funded lawsuits LOSE, they be personally liable for the attorneys’ fees, for BOTH SIDES. This is what happens in Realville whereas if I sue you frivelously and lose, I will have to pay for both sides’ legal fees!!

  • Jimpithecus

    This nonsense needs to be made public to all U Missouri donors. They need to see clearly how many idiots run their university.

  • Dude1394

    It appears that this university has exceeded its sell by date. Time to throw it out.
    P

  • timmaguire

    Almost there. Lose the dishonest garbage about “justifiable anger” and you will be able to join those who are part of the solution.

  • NoDonkey

    There must be a way to force trailer park, jesus loving racist hicks to pay $30K a year to attend Mizzou.

  • jr565

    The reason Missouri enrollment is down is not becaise the university ignored the plight of the oppressed black liberals on campus. The reason enrollment is down is becaise people saw the degree to which the faculty tries to bend over backward to accommodate extremists. (Those same oppressed black liberals).
    We saw an issue thst was a non racial issue be turned into the worst racial issue in the country. And we then saw racist fears enflamed by those same radicals who then tried to get the head of the university fired for bs reasons.

    And it culminated in hysteria so profound that the same hysterics became hysterical about non existent klansmen who were supposedly running around campus.
    We never assumed Missouri was this hot bed of racism. The black lives matter crowd painted it thst way. It was a stunt pushed by radical babies. And if there now a drop off in enrollment it’s becaise you didn’t immediately suspend the students involved. Instead you gave voice to their hysterical leftism. And you let them dictate the terms. And you made white students feel like they were participants in segregation. And you went along with getting your present fired. What the hell is the matter with you?

    If your attitude is the norm on campus you learned the exact wrong lesson. But enjoy the dissolution of your university.

    • Mark Tillman

      Honey! If you wanta pretend to be a student, learn to spell BECAUSE!!!!!!!!!!

      • msisbs

        Spot on jr565!

      • hornspe

        Why? Are you intimating that students actually learn something at these ridiculous places that actually offer degrees like “women’s studies” that have negative economic value? Yup, go to Mizzou and pay $200K for a degree that tells employers not to hire you under any circumstances because you have spent four years nursing grievance.

        Perhaps you are just a sad pathetic little troll who thinks is clever to find spelling errors and pretend that this is an accurate indicator of erudition or intelligence? Indeed, no one reading your snarky little reply has any experience typing on an iPad or has experienced the “aid” provided by autocorrect.

        It isn’t surprising I suppose. There is no actual argument to be made against the writers actual points, an ad hominem attack is all a second or third-rate intellect has to fall back on.

        • Lev Bronstein

          Mizzou actually has a dorm for Social Justice Warriors. They need to shut it down and make the students study, not gripe.

      • 48574

        This best you have in terms of reply to this person is a pedantic spelling lesson?

        That is admitting you don’t have any actual facts or logic on your side.

    • Lev Bronstein

      As I recall, the student who did the hunger strike against racism wasn’t a victim of racism, either. He was a pampered princeling. His dad was a Vice President of the Union Pacific Railroad, making $6 mil a year. Hard to claim you’re discriminated against with that pedigree.

  • m a

    Not use the threat of bankruptcy?
    But that’s practically a foundation of our legal system! Forcing folks to plea to lesser charges instead of going bankrupt to defend themselves. Forcing business to pay off marginal claims to avoid the possibility of going bankrupt fighting them…
    Extortion based on the cost of justice is an essential element of our legal system.

  • Kebas

    Didn’t you get the memo that the 35% enrollment decline et. al. is all just part of long-anticipated, long-term trends, due to demographics, increased competition from neighboring states, etc. — and has NOTHING AT ALL to do with the events of 2015?

    Of course, that makes it hard to explain the combined enrollment exploding at other Missouri state universities . . . oddly by about the same cumulative amount as the decline at Columbia.

  • Terry

    The article said justifiable anger over three racist incidents. I even question that because as I recall there was an article written that complained about a group out practicing a play and white folks on cars driving by yelling racial slurs. In this age of cell phones not one of the students had a cell phone to record the drive by incidents after the initial one?

    Then someone put a swastika on a dorm in feces. Didn’t say dorm of predominantly any race of students!!! No one knew who did it.

    How is anger justifiable???

    Essentially, the system was saying white folks are not welcome.

    In Universities across the country blacks are asking to be segregated. Which I find disappointing. But what I find shocking is Universities agreeing to it.

    • MAGA Knight Leo

      That line may have simply been boilerplate – it allows him to get past questions about the validity of provocation and address how ridiculous the response was.

      • Tom_in_SFCA

        A lie is a lie. The “racial incidents” were a hoax. The whole theme of the article is that the University mishandled legitimate concerns. That’s not what happened.

      • hornspe

        Boilerplate doesn’t cut it any more. We elected Trump. Half the country is furious about these attacks on free speech. He has cover. It’s time to pick a f^cking side.

  • LouAnnWatson

    stepped on a banana peel

  • David Parmly

    The “justifiable anger” is the author virtue-signalling…”Hey, don’t come after me on race/hoax grounds, bro! I’m with you on that.” Goodness knows, the only kind of anger we ever see on campus and in the streets these days is “justified”.

  • mishong

    Screw Mizzou. Shut it down

  • Cromwell Devlin

    In the end, the left destroys everything it touches, from Venezuela to a College campus. It is what they do.

    • radicalrepublican

      You got it brother. I am sick to death of Liberalism. Puke.

  • ericr2

    Mr. Lambert,

    Maybe it’s virtue signalling, but as far as I recall, none of these so-called “hate crimes” were verified to be hate crimes – and typically the case on college campuses is that these are created by one of the so-called “victims” in order to extract more far-left, race-baiting concessions from university administrators, who almost always are also far to the left and already in sympathy with the grievance mongers.

    However, I imagine without calling these incidents “justifiable”, the Martin Center would not have printed you.

  • hornspe

    As a Mizzou graduate (1991) I am appalled by what is happening, but I’ve taken action. I still have an old high school friend who is in the Missouri legislature and during our last class reunion in 2016 I strongly encouraged him to cut your funding as much as is allowed by the law. 307 lay-offs, that would be several thousand short.

    The only acceptable “reform” at this point would be the mass firing of every single member of the faculty that signed that execrable letter supporting the campus thugs, a lawsuit against every member of the football team who refused to play, demanding the return of their scholarships, the immediate firing of anyone working in anything with “diversity” in its name and the termination of every single administrator in every office that shuffled even one piece of paper rolling over for the Left. Then we need to expel every single student who participated in the ridiculous protest against free speech. Most are probably gone now, but we can get a few as well as the permenant students that are always behind these things.

    This political correctness must be treated like cancer and cut out with large margins.

    Secondly, when this is done, it’s high time for some “goals and timetables” to address the absurd monoculture at the University. We need a University that looks like America. Let’s get at least half the faculty to be people who would vote for a Republican. After all diversity is important.

    Mizzou is now only useful as a cautionary tale. That tale can be that the PC professors and students went too far and got kicked out, or that the University imploded under the weight of its own insanity. You guys can pick.

  • John Jaeger

    There is nothing to “love” about any state school any longer, Mr. Lambert. Universities across the land daily challenge Mizzou in the Dumbing Down Race.
    Universities up and down my home state of California can give Mizzou lessons.
    Read more about the Crisis of Competence in higher education here:
    https://www.nas.org/images/documents/A_Crisis_of_Competence.pdf

    • radicalrepublican

      I have lost faith in our universities. They have become nothing but left-wing insane asylums where the inmates are in charge and brainwashing the students.

  • radicalrepublican

    All kinds of phony hate crimes have been hoaxes perpetrated by minority groups seeking sympathy. Those folks should be prosecuted.

  • Lev Bronstein

    Even if there were witnesses to the truckload of rednecks, is the campus closed to non-students? How does anyone know if they were even associated with the University (if it did happen)?
    Also, it wouldn’t be the first time some SJW fool claimed to be a victim of racism after doing it themselves.

  • Tom_in_SFCA

    Conservatism is advanced by saying true things and not saying false things.

    • MAGA Knight Leo

      I’m not convinced the author is a conservative – he is a Mizzou prof, after all.

  • BillyOblivion

    > , justifiably angered by three racist incidents on the 35,000-student Columbia campus

    To quote one of my favorite bands: “Spoiled children in a row, no one dares to tell them no…”

    It is not “justifiable” to get the sort of angry those idiot little children exhibited over trivial actions or comments by lone individuals. It was not systemic racism by the University. I attended there in the early 90s and most of the racial animus was on the part of the African American community towards non-blacks. Most of the people I knew were liberal to progressive, and about the only group they hated, like most socialists, communists, Marxists and progressives were Da Jews.

    As to the the right to keep and bear arms, both the US and the Missouri constitution are pretty clear. They both use the term “bear arms”.

    The good little apparatchiks running MU are just parroting the crap the Democrats and the rest of their fellow travelers have been spouting since the 1960s. There’s at least 3 SCOTUS cases in the last 15 years that say their wrong.

  • bdavi52

    “Suffice it to say, morale on campus is low.”

    It should be low. The University should be ashamed (clearly many of the lost students (and their paying parents) are).

    And given the amount of ‘academic cholesterol’ still clogging the arteries of the state’s premier institution of higher education — the $22M cuts are not yet enough. (At least not enough to wake anyone up…to change any fundamental behaviors….to ruffle any significant scholastic feathers in all those well-feathered administrative nests chock-full of Identity Politics.)

    What Mizzou conclusively demonstrated two years ago was that they were no longer interested in being a University…that they were no longer interested in the pursuit of Truth…that they were no longer invested in distinguishing right from wrong, or good from bad. What they demonstrated was a commitment only to cosmetics and the need to avoid bad TV ratings. And even in that they failed utterly.

    Even now the continued confusion is evident in Prof. Lambert’s assertion that “a group of students (were) justifiably angered by three racist incidents”. No, they weren’t. They absolutely were not “justifiably angry”. The 3 alleged incidents (spread across 2 academic years) consisted of 2 spoken insults (one unverified (shouted supposedly from a passing truck, the other verified and the perpetrator expelled) and 1 ‘poop-swastika’ scrawled on a bathroom wall by a moron. That is a student-day ‘racist’ incident rate of .00001%. And THAT is nothing or less than nothing. Most of us encounter more petty ‘insults’ on a typical drive to work, through rush-hour traffic. (Though most of us are not the hunger-striking sons of millionaires objecting to changes to the insurance coverage provided to graduate students…as was the case at Missouri).

    So no, the anger & intolerance displayed by the idiots in the Quad at Mizzou was absolutely unjustified. As were the racist demands assembled by the idiots and presented (and essentially ‘agreed to’) by the Administration. As was the abject surrender displayed by so-called University leadership.

    And as we sow the wind, we reap the whirlwind.
    Or said more simply: When you give a Moose a Muffin…at Missouri…. you end up exactly in the in the fiscal/enrollment/credibility swamp they currently inhabit. That they evidently fail completely to recognize this, let alone expend any real efforts to change that indulgent (and anti-academic) culture tells us only that Gov. Greitens probably should cut some more.