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University of Missouri in financial tailspin as freshman enrollment dips and revenue slides
The campus protests of last fall are apparently to blame, as the university freezes hiring and merit pay raises. - photo by Eric Schulzke
The University of Missouri, which was wracked with highly publicized campus protests last fall that led to the resignation of the system's chancellor, is now struggling financially, faced with a shortfall in freshman admissions.

I am writing to you today to confirm that we project a very significant budget shortfall due to an unexpected sharp decline in first-year enrollment and student retention this coming fall, interim MU Chancellor Hank Foley announced Wednesday, the Columbia Daily Tribune reports.

The financial shortfall, sparked by 1,500 fewer students enrolling, of whom most would be incoming freshmen, resulted in a $32 million budget gap. To address the gap, Foley announced 5 percent across the board program cuts, a hiring freeze and the temporary elimination of merit salary increases.

Sparked by the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests temporarily shut down the campus, capturing the nation's attention. In early November, the New York Times reported, the school's football team threatened to boycott an upcoming home game unless the university's chancellor resigned, which he did in time to avert the boycott and end one student's hunger strike.

This financial impact was predicted in January, when director of admissions Chuck May announced that freshman applications were down.

While we dont have any clear data," May wrote in an email, as reported by the Kansas City Star, "we know that the events this past fall have had an impact, and we are answering any questions that parents and students have about those events. We are working closely with many on campus to make every effort possible in the coming months to minimize that decrease."

In late February, the University of Missouri Board of Curators voted to fire Melissa Click, who became the poster child of the fall protests when she confronted a student reporter to prevent him from filming a protest on the campus quad and called for "some muscle" to have him forcibly removed from the scene.

Video of that confrontation went viral, and Click, a communications professor, immediately came under attack.

In announcing her firing, board chairwoman Pam Henrickson noted that the board respects Dr. Clicks right to express her views and does not base this decision on her support for students engaged in protest or their views, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune. However," Henrickson concluded, "Dr. Click was not entitled to interfere with the rights of others, to confront members of law enforcement or to encourage potential physical intimidation against a student.
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