UNews looks back on the stories that shaped this year.
Up In Arms or Standing Ground?: Faculty, Students Take Aim at MO Guns Laws from Both Sides of the Spectrum
UNews spoke with UMKC community members about their reactions to controversial changes to Missouri gun laws. These laws dropped permit fees and training from conceal- and- carry obligations and amended Stand Your Ground legislation so that there is no duty to retreat before using a firearm. The adjustments also specified that gun-owners can opt for a lifetime permit in lieu of renewals, and that it will no longer be a crime to carry a gun into public spaces. “I am actually one of the people who feel safer when more people have guns,” said student Kacey Henik, “because I am of the belief that most people who carry a gun do so with good intentions.” Others, unsurprisingly, disagreed.
Bugs Bed Down in Books
Following the creation of an anonymous twitter account titled “MNL Bed Bugs”, UNews investigated widely circulating rumors of bed bugs in Miller Nichols Library. The findings? Bed Bugs had been a problem for over a year, and UMKC administrators and facility management had quiety been addressing the problem.
A Millennial’s Guide to Political Persuasion
Kicking off our election coverage in late September, this article helped guide readers through the chaotic and bitter, seemingly unending election season. Other favorites from UNews’s election coverage included UMKC grad Valorie Engholm launching a campaign for state representative, an in depth analysis of the electoral college, and an investigation into whether third party votes are wasted. Popular Op-Eds included Trump as the Class Mansplainer, How some LGBT Criticism of Clinton Reveals Sexism, and The Case for the Underdog.
Students and Colleagues Remember Dr. Tom Poe
Over thanksgiving break, the UMKC community was dealt a heavy blow with the passing of beloved film and media studies professor Tom Poe. “Tom was definitely an optimist,” remembered Dr. Lyn Elliot. “He was almost childlike in terms of his undimmed enthusiasm. Life had not beaten him down and he was not jaded at all.”
The Professor Watch List Controversy | Students and Faculty Weigh In
Hoping to identify professors allegedly biased by far left viewpoints, the Professor Watchlist website functions as a kind of database where users can look up anyone listed. Some praised it for raising awareness about the inner workings of certain classrooms and allowing students to freely access this information. Opponents of the site stated that it unfairly targets professors, infringing on their teaching styles in a kind of modern day educational witch hunt. “I think it is part of a conservative backlash against the perceived liberal bias in academia, which is in turn related to a widespread attack on public higher education,” said Dr. Jennifer Frangos.
A New Era | UMKC Welcomes UM President
UM President Dr. Mun Y Choi visited UMKC for the first time. His December visit, and the audience of leaders it drew, was described by Chancellor Leo Martin as a “who’s who of the Kansas City community.” Two state representatives, members of the Missouri 100, business leaders from Cerner, Black and Veatch, as well as student representatives were all in attendance for Choi’s address.
Gov. Greitens cuts $10 million from UMKC | Mid-year budget cut impacts unknown
The first story in what would become and ongoing, hot ticket issue at UMKC ran after newly elected Gov. Greitens announced $83.3 million for the current fiscal year, which included this past spring semester.
“It definitely won’t impact tuition because what we’re talking about here is in the appropriation for the fiscal year that we are in that ends in June,” said Director of Media Relations John Martellaro back in January. “So the next budget, which the legislature would have to craft and vote on next session, begins July 1st. And that would be the one to impact future tuition costs.” And impact tuition costs it has.
Hundreds Protest Trump at City Hall
During the first week back from winter break, dozens of UMKC students and organizations attended a protest in city hall.
Hundreds of similar protests took place around the country, and while some turned violent, the demonstration at KC remained peaceful.
UMKC Student Stuck Overseas Amid International Controversy
What was originally intended to be a quiet, long overdue visit with family overseas turned into a crisis for UMKC student Fatma Abdalla this past January. President Trump’s immigration ban (which was eventually struck down as unconstitutional) left her stuck in Libya, separated from her three children and uncertain how or when they would be reunited. “Believe me, there is nothing harder than a mom who feels she can’t come to back to her kids. That she is out of control to solve this issue is even harder,” said Abdalla in a phone interview with UNews. Abdalla returned to the states on Feb. 9, just days after a Federal Appeals court upheld a ruling striking down the ban.
Body of Missing UMKC Student Toni Anderson Found
Anderson’s disappearance first made headlines early in the fall semester. After months of fruitless searching, UMKC community members finally found answers when Anderson’s body was found in her car at the bottom of the Missouri river.
While rumors of foul play continue to circulate, the KCPD maintains there is no evidence to suggest Anderson’s death was not accidental.
Man Charged with Raping UMKC Student in Dorm on Campus
The biggest story of the year hit UMKC’s campus in early March, after local news media reported that a student at UMKC was sexually assaulted in Johnson Hall. Students living on campus criticized the administration for not addressing students until after they learned about the incident through local media. Speaking to UNews about the incident, Director of Media Relations John Martellaro added fuel to this criticism with what he later described as “unfortunate and inappropriate comments” in a letter to the editor. The lack of communication with students and controversial comments by Martellaro prompted an on campus anti rape rally that ended with students marching into Vice Chancellor Mel Tyler’s office and demanding action. Following the demonstration, UMKC held a listening session where students and staff discussed ways to fight against rape culture on campus.
“I Want to be a Teacher” Education Majors Lose Out on Credit Hours and Thousands of Dollars
Changes to Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) certification requirements left many students studying art education in a tight spot. New requirements forced students to pay for more classes while making other, previously required classes no longer count towards the major. While changes to DESE certification are outside of UMKC’s control, students felt pushed to the side and ignored by administrators. “The disorganization was apparent with their advising department,” said student Sam Johnson, who switched majors after the fiasco. “The entire semester they were understaffed. One adviser for undergrad and grad, and it was a very long wait to see her. Everyone was left to figure things out on their own.”
Is Athletics Spending Unsustainable? | Faculty Senate Pushes Morton for New Strategy
After a tense meeting just before spring break, the UMKC Faculty Senate pushed Chancellor Leo Morton to develop an effective strategy that addresses athletic spending and substantially reduces the university’s subsidy of the athletic department. In a time when academics are under serious financial stress, no money from the core budget is invested in research, and $12 million is given to athletics annual, many senators expressed confusion regarding the university’s priorities.“Athletics are a strategy,” Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said. “What are we trying to accomplish?” These criticisms didn’t just come from faculty, however. Students at UMKC also pushed the school to address concerns over athletic spending. “After all the budget cuts we received this year, I can’t help but feel any of my money going to sports is very arbitrary,” said student Autumn Steele.