Having taught in the Art Department at MWSU for 28 years, 15 of them as chairman of the department, I am nothing less than totally appalled at current happenings at Missouri Western under the questionable guise of fiscal exigency.
In 2019, I donated one of the largest and most comprehensive fine arts print collections to the university as an “unrestricted gift” to give the university maximum flexibility as to its potential uses. It came to my attention that newly arrived President Wilson had closed the University Collection Gallery and the prints have been relegated to storage. When I inquired as to the status of the collection, I was not so subtly reminded by Mr. Wilson that my donation was an “unrestricted gift” and he could therefore do whatever he wanted with the collection.
I have since learned that Mr. Wilson has eliminated the position of dean of Fine Arts because of “inadequate financial resources,” but simultaneously found the money to create two additional high-cost administrative positions, which makes his argument of fiscal exigency ring rather hollow.
Plans were also in progress to build a $4 million art annex adjacent to Potter Hall. Thanks to a million dollar donation from local resident Drew Brown, and a matching grant from the Sunderland Foundation, the project was well underway when it was reduced to half its original size.
I could find no evidence that any additional funding for the project was being pursued either by the MWSU Foundation or the President’s Office. I suspect that the project will eventually be abandoned, the matching grant monies will be withdrawn and Mr. Drew’s generous donation will be repurposed.
It does seem rather odd that in a time of supposed fiscal exigency that an Esports complex can be built and a coach hired so that college students can play video games and that a women’s lacrosse team can be started and a coach hired — neither of which I would place in a category of academic necessities. One can only wonder what the institutional priorities are at MWSU.
The fine arts major and the art education major will be eliminated, as will a number of minor programs in the Art Department and all that will be offered are the programs in animation and graphic design. Plans are to terminate four faculty positions in the Art Department. All of these changes will effectively eviscerate the Art Department which I and my colleagues spent decades building.
It appears that Mr. Wilson and the current administration have little regard for anything cultural, and that they are making a concerted attempt to turn Missouri Western from a respected four-year liberal arts institution into a glorified Job Training Center or a two-year community college. St. Joseph and Missouri Western deserve better — we can only hope that Mr. Wilson’s tenure at Missouri Western will be as brief as it was at his last institution.