The University of Missouri continues its free fall after the Black Lives Matter protests. “Mizzou” has now lost almost a quarter of its freshman class. That is devastating for any academic institution and Mizzou is reportedly closing dorms due to lack of students.
We followed the controversy over the actions of Professor Melissa Click who notoriously led attacks on a student journalist as part of protests. The school sacked Click, but her actions and the aftermath have now threatened the entire school. The school furthered the controversy with the resignation of the President and Chancellor and made various changes to accommodate the BLM protesters. I have spoken to people at Mizzou who say that they do not feel that they can speak honestly about the BLM demands or their view of Click in fear of being called out as racists or microaggressors. Notably, most of the faculty have been strangely silent in the midst of the changes. New controversies have arisen in recent protests or memorials, such as the effort to hold a memorial for the recent massacre at a gay night club.
What is clear is that the school is still reeling from the loss of reputation and uncertainty of its future viability. One only have to look around at the empty dorms to see what happens when a university abandons core values and controls over its academic mission. This year the entering class will be just 4,799 students — that is a nose bleed of over 1400 students. The problem for struggling schools is that it can trigger a downward spiral as uncertainty breeds greater uncertainty over the value of its educational program — and the value of its degree.
The good news is that the school has a high retention rate of over 80 percent and that rate has only slightly fallen. Moreover, the score profile includes the same 26 ACT score from the prior year. The concern is that, faced with a shrinking applicant pool, the school might be forced to reduce its entry qualifications, which can fuel additional concerns over its standing.
Missouri has a proud history as the state’s leading public university. While I have serious concerns over free speech on campus (including the campus police calling for students to notify them of any “hurtful” comments of other students), the school will recover in my view so long as the faculty returns the focus to academic excellence and discourse.