Educational Management

By Gene I. Maeroff COLUMBIA, MO., May 28–Budget conscious administrators at the University of Missouri’s main campus here have proposed dropping some programs and sharply curtailing others. But the plan has brought a flood of protest letters, emergency hearings in the State Legislature and criticism from three of the University’s nine board members.

“More people have talked about the University of Missouri in the last 30 days than in the last 30 years,” said Dr. Wilbur Miller, Associate Dean of the College of Education, which would lose one- third of its $3.6 million budget under the proposal, jeopardizing many of its undergraduate programs.

Provost Ron Bunn has proposed abolishing two of the university’s 14 schools and colleges and sharply reducing the operations of seven others over a period of three years. The money freed by those actions could then be reallocated to the remaining programs to improve faculty salaries and buy equipment for research.

–The New York Times, May 30, 1982

It was June 1, 1982 and Ron Bunn, the Provost at the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus, faced several questions. He wondered how the administration’s effort to develop a long-range response to financial pressures had led to such a political maelstrom. He wondered whether there was anything the administration could have done to prevent events from careening out of control. Most important, he wondered what, if anything, he could do now.

—————————————————————- This case was written by Jacqueline Stefkovich, Chris Harris, and Lee Bolman, for the Institute for Educational Management, Harvard University, and is based in part on the research of Professor David Kuechle, Harvard Graduate School of Education. The case was developed for class discussion, and is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of an administrative situation. © 1986, Institute for Educational Management

University of Missouri 2

Nineteen eighty-two marked Ron Bunn’s second year at the University of Missouri. He was new to the state, but not to higher education. Before coming to Missouri, he had been a full-time faculty member at the University of Texas and at Louisiana State University. He was a graduate dean at the University of Houston for seven years and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at the State University of New York in Buffalo from 1976 to 1980. He had directed long-range planning efforts at the last two institutions, but neither involved program reductions on the scale contemplated at Missouri.

From the beginning of his tenure, Bunn was aware of the university’s fiscal problems. He knew from the outset that cuts in programs would be difficult, but he also wanted to help a university that he believed “was beginning to enter a period of protracted financial stress”. He had been optimistic about his reallocation proposals. He felt they had the potential to save several million dollars and to strengthen the programs that were most central to the mission of the university and most needed by the citizens of Missouri.