Thursday, March 4, 2021
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A Chat with the Chancellor

Chancellor Leo E. Morton spoke Monday with a group of students about several topics, including the Bloch School rankings, the smoking ban and the proposed Downtown Campus for the Arts.

In the wake of the Princeton Review withdrawing rankings from UMKC’s Bloch School, the University has declared a moratorium on further rankings applications until the process is reviewed by faculty. While some data regarding mentorship programs and student clubs had been falsified during the application process, the Bloch School remains a prominent part of the University.

“It is just going to make us better,” Morton said. “As a result, we are going to improve our processes and we’ll get better at this.”

While it was a difficult episode for UMKC, the quality of the education remains unaffected. There was no need to exaggerate the number of student clubs for programs which were already great, according to Morton.

When asked how the Chancellor weathered the pressure during this incident, he joked “I was seven feet tall before this started.”

Morton spoke with excitement about the future of the University and upcoming projects, which include the Downtown Campus for the Arts.

The $96 million project will create a new location for the Conservatory of Music and Dance adjacent to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The University needs to raise another $17 million before they can approach the state for support.

“They know we’re coming,” Morton said.

Under current legislation, the state can contribute half of project capitol under the stipulation that the first half is raised from private support. The project currently has $31 million from donors. The University has about another year and a half to reach its $48 million goal and request the other $48 million from the state.

Morton also answered questions about the campus-wide smoking ban that went into effect Aug. 1 of last year.

The Smoke-Free Initiative is a step toward a cleaner and healthier campus. Morton, a former smoker, recalled the last time he lit a cigarette was May 10, 1973.

“The day my son was born, I threw them out the window. Never smoked again,” he said.

While the student initiative has discouraged smoking on campus, it may be impossible to fully enforce.

“We don’t have a smoking policeman,” Morton said with a laugh.

UMKC is the last of the University of Missouri system schools to become smoke-free.

Morton is confident though that the rules will be observed.

The press-conference-style interview was not all business. Morton told students more about his job and what it means to him.

“This is the best job on the planet,” he said.

When asked about the best part of his job, he replied “This. Talking to you guys.”

Interacting with students and hearing their reactions to their education and the institution is important to the Chancellor of six years. The job is more than managing a University; it is about making a meaningful impact on the city and its people.

“Kansas City cannot be what it needs to be without having a great University,” he said.

Morton emphasized the importance of making a meaningful difference. In his current position, he feels involved in the continuing dialogue of University policy. Though the job is demanding, it is a perfect fit for the workaholic.

“I don’t have any free time,” he said. “And I don’t sweat it.”

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