By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
University of Missouri–St. Louis students, faculty, staff, and supporters met with legislators and lobbyists in downtown Jefferson City to discuss support for higher education in the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate during a reception on February 27 at Revel Catering and Events.
The purpose of the UMSL Reception, which is now in its third year, was to kick off the University of Missouri System Lobby Day in Jefferson City scheduled for the next day. Seven UMSL students were asked to attend and speak with legislators about their UMSL experiences: Sean Burkett, junior, psychology; Joe Rund, senior, biology; Evan Garrad, senior, biochemistry; Emma Kneifl, junior, studio art; Kyle Lackey, junior, business; Jordan Lucas, senior, economics; and Kat Riddler, graduate, business administration.
Burkett, a first time attendee of the reception, said, “I thought it was an absolutely amazing experience. Not only did I get to meet our representatives, but I had the opportunity to talk with them and help lobby for the UM System. When Governor Greitens made the cut to high education’s budget in Missouri, it was devastating. Luckily, UMSL was not impacted at the level as some other schools were, but we were still hit hard. Not even two months after he rolled out his budget alterations and UMSL administrators were scrambling to recover that lost portion of the budget. There have been ideas bounced around of different ways to counteract this disappointing action by the governor and students will definitely see an impact.”
Dean of the College of Business Administration Charles Hoffman has attended such events for several years and has attended the UMSL Reception since its beginning. Hoffman said, “Our state legislators need to understand the impact of their decisions, and that can only happen by seeing and hearing from the people on the front lines—students and faculty. Students are changing their lives while improving the state economy by getting a quality education at public university rates. … [W]e must continue to tell the story of UMSL’s impact on the region and the state. The long-term return to the state is far greater than the support we receive.”
State Rep. Bob Burns of St. Louis County and his wife Dianne Burns both attended and expressed their appreciation for being able to meet directly with students, faculty, and staff of UMSL. Burns said, “Whenever UMSL is in Jefferson City, I always make it a point to support them. I always support UMSL because my first two years I was on the higher education committee. They do a wonderful job educating our young people. … The main reason I support higher education is because they are educating our future students and preparing them to take their place in the world. It was heartbreaking … to see Governor Greitens at the first opportunity to make cuts to higher education … As much as he talks about how he is for education and students, his actions have spoken much louder than what he says.”
Several other events that same evening caused scheduling problems that prevented some representatives from attending. State Rep. Tom Hannegan of St. Charles had a committee meeting that night and could not attend the reception, but he wanted to voice his support for higher education. Hannegan said, “Higher education is an important asset to help Missouri attract and retain business and industry. I welcome future opportunities to meet and talk with students and alumni of UMSL.”
Burkett said, “I would be more than happy and willing to go again next year to experience this again and publicly support the UM System and would highly encourage other students to attend.”