. (AP) – Missouri’s Democratic governor pledged Thursday to circumvent the Republican-led Legislature if needed to fill vacancies on the board that oversees the state’s flagship university, further escalating the tensions of legislators already frustrated about the handling of racial issues that culminated in the resignations of the system president and campus chancellor.
The only two black members of the Board of Curators, which runs the University of Missouri’s four-campus system, resigned last week amid the turmoil. That left three of the nine seats on the board vacant, but GOP leaders have said they have no interest in filling the vacancies before next year, when Gov. Jay Nixon is out of office.
“We’re not in a hurry to do anything for the University of Missouri,” said Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard.
Speaking to reporters during an Associated Press and Missouri Press Association event at the governor’s mansion, Nixon said he would “not hesitate at all to make interim appointments” when legislators are out of session.
Tensions with the Legislature started building in the summer, when the University of Missouri and Republican lawmakers butted heads over the Columbia school’s ties to a local Planned Parenthood clinic that enabled the center to start providing medication-induced abortions.
Then in November, the Columbia campus was the site of protests that resonated across the nation over what activists said was administrators’ indifference to racial issues.
“It’s apparent to me that no one is in charge,” Richard said Thursday during the press event at the governor’s mansion. “So we’ll be in charge.”
Richard has said the University of Missouri is primed for a budgetary “haircut,” and last week said that there will be a serious discussion of its budget.