Many professors at the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus view leader Mun Choi as a man to be feared because he rules the campus through bullying and harassment – driving out those who disagree with his priorities.
And according to a faculty review of Choi’s performance as Chancellor released Thursday by the Campus Faculty Councilthe university’s morale was “damaged beyond repair” by his administrative style.
“I found reading the comments quite disheartening, to see how frustrated and sincere so many members of the community are about our institution and the direction we’ve taken,” said Chuck Munter, associate professor. at the college of education and human development of the university, during the discussion of the report. “But I don’t think I was surprised.”
A smaller number, according to the review, appreciate Choi’s advocacy for the university, citing his good relationship with political leaders and his clear plans for the campus. They said “it’s refreshing and exciting to have someone with a vision…”
The report is based on a survey that drew 547 responses from approximately 2,400 full-time faculty.
Choi, who became president of the UM system in 2017took over as Columbia Campus Chancellor in 2020. He is the first person to hold both high-level administrative positions.
The four-campus UM system is the largest public university in the state with nearly 70,000 students, and the Columbia campus accounts for nearly half of that total, with 31,410 students. The system has an annual operating budget of $3.5 billion, of which about $470 million comes from state tax support.
It is one of two land-grant universities in the state, with responsibility for bringing learning to each county through MU’s Extension Service. The Columbia campus is a member of the American Association of Universitiesor AAU, an organization made up of the best public and private research institutions in the country.
Faculty council chairman Graham McCaulley said it was the first performance review of a chancellor in 10 years and was aimed at improving the university. Including the Acting Chancellors, the position has been held by six different people during this period.
“Our goal here is to move our institution forward,” said McCaulley, associate professor of extension and state nutrition, health and family expert.
Respondents were asked to rate Choi in a number of areas, and he received an overall rating of 2.26 on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being a superior performer. They were also asked to provide comments.
Of the professors ranked with no administrative duties, 208 said Choi should not be retained as chancellor, while 87 said he should stay.
Those with administrative roles and non-tenured professors tend to rate Choi higher than tenured professors. The only group that had a larger share of those who wanted to retain Choi than those who wanted him fired were tenured or tenure-track professors who spend more than half of their time on administrative duties.
Choi’s lowest rankings were for whether he showed a commitment to shared governance, follows democratic leadership policies, seeks faculty input, and is respected by the campus community. There were 100 comments on shared governance, which aims to give faculty a role in decision-making on campus.
“He is incredibly opposed to true shared governance and all efforts are lip service at best,” read a commentary included in the report.
There were 59 comments about low morale.
“I have seen the most talented people leave this institution over the past three years because the climate hinders their achievement, especially in research,” one comment said. “I believe that in some ways the faculty and its morale have been damaged beyond repair.”
The problem, said one commentator, is that Choi doesn’t take criticism well.
“He has fostered a general culture of helplessness and submission on campus in which faculty fear for their individual and departmental safety and risk retaliation for speaking out,” the commentary reads.
Those who support Choi and see him as an asset to the university also provided comments. Of that group, 71 praised him for his ability to build relationships.
“He has a very good relationship with the board of conservatives and Jefferson City lawmakers,” one commentator said. “It does a good job of presenting the positive aspects of the university to external stakeholders.”
His decisiveness, seen by some as evidence of an authoritarian style, drew applause from others. Two dozen said his decision-making was a strength.
“He makes tough decisions that previous administrators were unwilling to make,” one comment read. “I believe his leadership is a breath of fresh air for our campus.”
Choi and the Conservatives’ board received copies of the report, held discussions with board members and provided written responses, McCaulley said.
“It was a productive meeting, we answered questions about the report and the process, talked about the professors’ opinions and what they were, and we felt it was heard,” McCaulley said.0
Conservatives have sought to absorb some of the anger directed at Choi, he said.
“The board believes it is essential that the faculty board understand that many of President Choi’s criticisms reflect actions and positions taken in support of shared goals with the board of curators,” said Darryl Chatman, chairman. of the board of curators. a statement included in the final report. “As an example, President Choi’s comments and criticisms of the AAU’s emphasis on our role as a university, greater accountability, shared governance, and the Missouri Legislature are generally the result of this alignment of objectives and priorities with the board.”
Choi, in his response, said he found parts of the survey “thoughtful and helpful.”
However, he said, he had also heard many expressions of appreciation for his leadership and suggested the sample was not large enough to be representative of the entire faculty.
“After reviewing the results, I’m interested in finding ways for my firm and I to gather more constructive feedback on a variety of topics from a broader group of faculty,” Choi said.
The report comes at a time when Choi recently exceeded the average tenure of his predecessors.
Selected in the fall of 2016, Choi returned to the university on March 1, 2017 and has held the position for 5 years and 5 months. Choi’s nine predecessors as president of UM System held the position for an average of 4 years and 11 months.
In August 2017, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported that Choi wanted to keep the job for 10 years or more.
“Obviously it’s not a decision for me, but I want to be able to contribute to a long-term goal of helping, while leading, but also ensuring that we have the strategic vision to make this university even better than he is,” Choi said at the time.
Choi’s greatest achievement to date is the completion of the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health Institute, built at a cost of $275 million. Several comments noted his efforts to complete it and some questioned its value.
“His fiasco building precision medicine has diverted funds from other parts of the hospital and the university and he is now sacrificing the future of the School of Medicine,” read a critical commentary.
His immediate predecessor as permanent chairman, Tim Wolfe, resigned amid campus protests over racial issues in the fall of 2015 after less than four years of work.
More than 40 comments questioned Choi’s commitment to diversity.
“After 2015, there was hope for improvement in the racial climate in Mizzou. That hope is now dead,” said one commentator. “If anything, things are worse than they were before.”
The survey was conducted alongside a performance survey of Provost Latha Ramchand. The report on this investigationreleased in July, reflected some of Choi’s criticisms.
Under the heading “Subordinate to the President,” a sample comment stated that they were unsure how Ramchand would work under another leader.
“It’s hard to know because everyone perceives the rules (Mun Choi) with an iron fist,” the provost’s report said. “It’s hard to know what (Ramchand) is capable of accomplishing with limited opportunities and an overbearing boss.”
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