Updated: November 17, 2015 at 7:31 am
Jefferson City News-Tribune, Nov. 12
Campus intolerance in the national spotlight:
Missouri again is vaulting into the national news for all the wrong reasons.
A recent episode involved an attempt by protesting students at the University of Missouri-Columbia — and some faculty members — to block the media from a public place on campus.
Although the protesters eventually relented and welcomed the media to share their message, a video of their assault on free speech went viral.
Our readers are aware of the resignations by two university administrators in response to a graduate student's hunger strike that escalated into a more widespread protest focused on the what protesters considered an insufficient response by the school to racial incidents on campus.
Following the resignations and end to the hunger strike, photographer Tim Tai, a student working freelance for ESPN, visited the protesters' encampment on campus to document their activities.
A video shot by another student shows Tai being blocked and told to "leave these students alone" in their "personal space." The video also captures Melissa Click, an assistant professor in the school's communication department, calling for "muscle" to remove the student from the site.
First, the protesters' behavior was nonsensical; a public protest is designed to gain attention, but a media member able to provide it was turned away.
In addition to being senseless, the behavior was entirely antithetical to concepts embraced by higher education and our nation.
An educational institution is designed to promote the free exchange of ideas. That concept is the foundation for tenure, designed to protect teachers from being punished by thought police. Click later resigned her "courtesy title" within the School of Journalism, although a more appropriate action would have been for her to resign from her communication department job, as well.
Beyond that, the behavior flies in the face of our First Amendment right to speak freely.
Among national reactions to the incident was a Washington Post editorial, which read: "The incident was especially troubling since a rising tide of student activism, admirable in many respects, seems increasingly infected by a strain of intolerance of dissenting views."
Although we appreciate that the protesters later reversed their stance, much damage has been done. And it continues, with reports of online threats against students resulting in an arrest and discredited rumors of a KKK presence on campus.
The University of Missouri has much work ahead to repair the damage, including evidence of intolerance — in a variety of forms.
Columbia Daily Tribune, Nov. 15
Assessing racism and finding blame on campus:
As we look at recent confrontations on the University of Missouri campus, most of us are somewhat puzzled.
We should respect the allegations of black students who say they and their peers experience too much racial bigotry. Who are any of us to say they are overstating their feelings of alienation?
But when they form an army to demand administrative redress, we wonder what leaders should or can do. The only thing one can readily grasp is the charge of indifference, a factor leaders can control. Beyond that, what is "systemic" racism, the charge often leveled?
"Systemic" racism sounds like some sort of conscious policy of racial bias crafted in University Hall or Jesse Hall. If an unfortunate racial atmosphere seems extant on campus, it surely reflects an accumulation of misdeeds by scurrilous individuals aiming slurs at other individuals. Campus chancellors and system presidents learn of these events after the fact. Inevitably they issue condemning statements. They form task forces and adopt policies calling for diversity training. If they can find a perpetrator, which is rare, they are willing to punish as much as possible.
Mostly they are hampered by the nature of the "crime." Laws generally do not forbid personal slurs unless accompanied by some sort of physical abuse or public disturbance. Even then, it is the physical misconduct, not the speech, that can be punished.
One of the recent incidents said to have sent students to the streets was the use of feces to paint a swastika on a public restroom wall. How can this be blamed on campus leaders? How can it even be related to oppression of blacks? If any group might have been particularly angry over the swastika, it would Jews, but no protest against anti-Semitism emerged.
Heads had to roll to quiet the campus protesters and allow a scheduled football game to proceed. Withal, the question remains: "What do they want us to do?"
Clearing out the mansion has certain vaguely related advantages. Everyone with a stake in a good and better university is focused. The UM Board of Curators is pondering big issues of university governance as never before. New chief executives will pay better attention to the racial atmosphere on campus, seeking ways to interact more effectively with so-called "marginal" students. Very good interim appointments have been made to keep the ship afloat.
But we will reiterate a comment made here the other day: The student protesters will have to do their part by adopting reasonable expectations. It won't be possible to suddenly enlarge the numbers of well-qualified faculty and students, for instance.
Working together, not at odds, students, faculty and administration can make progress. It won't be a slam dunk.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 15
Missouri should follow other states' lead on legalizing marijuana:
As Missouri faces the possibility of one or two medical marijuana ballot measures in 2016, voters would be wise to check out what has — and has not — worked in other states.
Twenty-three other states have legalized medical marijuana, and a few have gone whole hog and OK'd it for recreational use as well.
Two groups are floating ballot measures to go the medical route in Missouri. Since it isn't easy to get a measure on the ballot, one or both might not make it. Nevertheless, it's not too soon to start the conversation about whether Missourians want this and the best way to implement it.
Some states have loose rules and enforcement. Anecdotes abound about how easy it is to get a medical marijuana card in California. Find the right doctor, say your back hurts, and a few minutes later walk away with permission to buy pot.
In other states, the rules are strict. In Minnesota, only a handful of medical conditions qualify for treatment with marijuana, and home growing is forbidden. In fact, smoking it is still outlawed even with a medical condition. Instead, patients must use extracts.
Illinois is one of the stricter states, too, but, like much of what is going on in our economically beleaguered neighbor to the east, the marijuana program is a work in progress. Across the river, there are allegations that the licensing process is politicized. Something being politicized in Illinois? What are they smoking over there?
The first dispensaries opened last week as that state's medical marijuana program went into effect. The closest one to St. Louis is more than 100 miles away, but it is only a matter of time until some open in Metro East.
Who received licenses to grow was an issue in Ohio, too. This month, voters there rejected a legalization measure despite the fact that it had polled well. The problem was in the measure itself, which limited the state to 10 producers who happened to be the financial backers of the measure. That monopoly — or decopoly, if you will — would have enjoyed a financial windfall while the state constitution kept competitors out of the market.
As the old saw goes, the devil is in the details. From licenses to tax rates to how much or whether someone can grow at home, these are complex issues that should be thought through carefully. The trick isn't necessarily getting everything right up front, but in maintaining the flexibility to adjust as needed.
Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana use a year ago, and it went on sale to everyone in just the last couple of months. Their ballot measure left many of the technicalities to lawmakers, who were not shy about adjusting the rules and setting tax rates. In effect, Oregonians told lawmakers, who had refused to pass a law legalizing marijuana for years, "Fine, we'll legalize by ballot, but make some sensible rules for us."
There is wisdom in that approach. Lawmakers and their legislative staffs should have the knowledge and skills to make sure that a legalization law meets the needs of the state. Ballot measure specificity is a virtue, but it can go too far.
In the coming months, Missourians will hear a lot of rhetoric from both sides on the issue. Maybe the Show-Me State does not want to go down this road at all, but it's an issue that will not be ignored. Passionate supporters of legalization keep fanning the flames. Better to meet them with facts and evidence from other states, not with just moralizing and empty talking points.
Stay tuned to these pages as the debate unfolds, and share your thoughts in letters to the editor, online comments and social media. If it happens here, Missouri would be the first largely conservative state in the heartland to approve medical marijuana. We can all help make sure we get it right.
Kansas City Star, Nov. 15
Renovated Gateway Arch will benefit St. Louis and Missouri
With recent renovations, the 630-foot Gateway Arch dominating the St. Louis skyline will look the same, and the trams that take visitors to the top will run just as they always have. But nearly everything else about the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial will change.
No longer will the Arch resemble an island separated by Interstate 44 from the city's downtown. A new Missouri Department of Transportation-provided park over the freeway eliminates that obstacle. It's part of the $380 million public-private makeover for the 50-year-old monument on a National Park Service site.
"It's St. Louis' calling card to the world," said Ryan McClure, director of communications for the CityArchRiver Foundation.
The St. Louis area investment is huge. Residents voted to tax themselves to put the Arch on better footing. The project also stands out as possibly the largest private investment in a national park since the renovation of Ellis Island.
In 2013, St. Louis city and county voters approved a three-sixteenth-cent sales tax of which $90 million will go to the project. McClure said $221 million in private donations were raised combined with $69 million in additional state, federal and local funds. The work includes an expansion of the park grounds to about 100 acres, or 40 city blocks.
The original construction of the Arch began Feb. 12, 1963, was completed in 1965 and fully opened to visitors in 1968. The total building cost back then was $13 million for the Arch. The monument symbolizes St. Louis' role as an old Mississippi River town in the westward expansion of the United States.
About 2.3 million people annually visited the Arch in recent years. The improvements, which will include an additional five to seven miles of biking and hiking trails, are expected to boost that number past 3.2 million.
Some of the new attractions have already opened, and ceremonies took place in October. "It's something the community can really be proud of," said Tom Bradley, parks superintendent with the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
Other parts of the project will be completed in 2016. By 2017 all of the work is expected to be done, which will include raising the ground by the river 3 feet so it floods less often.
The Arch will remain open through most of the work, which will include a bigger, better and more true-to-life Museum of Westward Expansion. "Part of it is how the West was won, but part of it is how the West was stolen," McClure said. Visitors will find themselves more engaged and having to consider what they would take West and how they might react under a certain set of circumstances.
The sizable investment is not only good for St. Louis, it will benefit the state and the region.
"The Arch is our symbol," said Susan Trautman, executive director of the Great Rivers Greenway District. "It defines who we are. It defines the state. It is the front door."
Indeed. It also represents how many groups can put aside their agendas and work together for what is one of the best attractions in the Show-Me State.