The University of Missouri is paying a high price for the protests that erupted on the campus two years ago.
Last year, freshman applications fell by nearly 1,000 and enrollment was down 5 percent to 6,191 from 5,515 the previous year. Similarly, declines in donations were felt in both the athletic department (down 24.3 percent compared to the previous year) and academics (new pledges fell $6 million in December, the biggest fundraising month). And this school year the problem is looking worse. Much worse. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
This fall the University of Missouri at Columbia will welcome its smallest freshman class in nearly two decades. As of this month, just 4,009 first-time freshmen had made enrollment deposits, a decline of 35 percent from the 2015 class of 6,191 students.
The precipitous drop is striking for a public flagship with a prominent national brand, one that has seen enrollment grow almost every year since the turn of the century.
In 2015 the student population reached a record high of 35,448. Come August, Mizzou plans to enroll about 30,700 students over all. Seven of its residence halls will be closed temporarily.
The primary reason is simple: Applicants and their families no longer trust campus administrators to stand up for their best interests.
Some were enraged at administrators’ feeble response to the eruption of campus protest that rocked the campus. And how could they not be after chancellor Tim Wolfe groveled about his apology to campus agitators being “long overdue.” Then, when protestors offered him a list of demands, including that Wolfe write a “handwritten apology,” which “must acknowledge his white male privilege,” and then asks for his “immediate removal,” Wolfe simply walked away.
Others were left wondering whether Mizzou was a safe place to be. Unsurprising, given the stories of students who felt that the protesters “brought more division, hostility, and discrimination than that one man [yelling racial slurs] could have.” Having professor Melissa Click call for “some muscle” to take care of a student journalist trying to photograph the public demonstration was also a bad look. What sad irony that riots in favor of “safe spaces” led to prospective students feeling unsafe.
And still others wondered whether the values of the administrators and faculty still represented the community, or were instead being swallowed up by liberal indoctrination. “[The University] has devolved into the Berkeley of the Midwest,” one concerned parent wrote the school, according to records gathered by the Wall Street Journal.
The bottom line is simple: At a time when student loan debts are soaring and the prospect of a good job is stagnating, students and their families are going to demand the best out of their education. Nowhere is this more true that in rural and Rust-belt states that have economically struggled in recent years. To them, spasms of political correctness and fascistic styles of protest are so far removed from their everyday economic reality that they can’t help but be concerned about sending their children to institutions that are supposed to be focused at economic improvement. As Victor Davis Hanson wrote:
Student debt in America has surpassed $1 trillion. Many graduates did not receive in return an education competitive enough to qualify them for high-paying jobs.
The country owes about $20 trillion in debt. It will soon not be able to meet its pension and Social Security obligations. After slashing the military budget and raising income tax rates, the United States is still running unsustainable annual deficits. The world abroad is becoming dangerously chaotic.
Instead of protesting those existential crises, students cry over Halloween costumes, deride free speech as hate speech, devour their own liberal administrators, and dismiss $100 million payoffs as too little.
Protestors have finally hit rock bottom and jumped the shark. From now on, the same old screaming will be seen mostly as going through the tired motions in lieu of offering coherent ideas.
The University of Missouri has already suffered at the hands of protestors who took the proud public institution off course. Other colleges should take note and ensure they are laser-focused on creating an atmosphere conducive to peaceable debate and conversation about the issues of importance to today’s young adults.
Photo credit: Mark Schierbecker