School of my youth is just not the same



Brennan Stebbins

As a kid, I spent a lot of time at Missouri Southern.

My father, Chad, has worked here since before I was born, as well as my grandparents, Wayne and Janice.

My mom, Debbie, even graduated from nursing school at Southern and I was often in tow when she attended classes.

I remember going to all the football and basketball games. I remember shooting hoops with friends and doing impersonations of Lions basketball players.

I also spent a lot of time around The Chart in my youth. I remember my dad bringing me to the office on Wednesday nights for foot-long sub sandwiches. We had cookouts and Christmas parties at our house for Chart staffers.

I remember Rick Rogers, a former Journalist of the Year, losing his shoe in our backyard after our dog took it under the crawlspace of the house.  

When I was growing up, I always wanted to work at Southern. I always imagined myself working in the same office in the Chart some day.

Now, as I near graduation, I find that I can’t wait to get away from this University.

During my three years on the newspaper staff here, I’ve had a blast. We’ve covered controversy and broken big stories. But The Chart has been the one consistent thing about my experience here. The one place I could always count on for a laugh was The Chart office.

Now when I walk through the doors on the third floor of Webster Hall, it’s not my dad in Office 332, but T.R. Hanrahan. My dad served as T.R.’s adviser in the 1990s, and how he serves as mine.

I remember as a kid when T.R. would sleep on our couch every Wednesday night. He was living and working in Kansas City, but also working on The Chart during the week so he needed a place to crash on Wednesdays.

My brothers and I would always be in bed and asleep by the time Chart production night was finished, but in the morning we would wake up and have breakfast with the disheveled man who slept on the couch.

T.R. was named Journalist of the Year by the Missouri College Media Association under my dad’s guidance. Now, I’m proud to say, I’ve been named Journalist of the Year under T.R.’s guidance. And my dad has a different office a few feet down the hall.

So why am I so eager to leave this place?  

The school I was so proud of growing up is not the same place it once was.

Decisions are now made solely on the basis of making more money. Good faculty and staff members are kicked to the curb, and an administration with its collective head in a place where the sun doesn’t shine runs amuck and flaunts its power.

Hanrahan has been fired for doing his job too well.

All indications from University President Bruce Speck are that he despises a free student press.

Ever since I’ve been a student here, I’ve noticed changes at Missouri Southern for the worse

When I arrived, Speck often spoke of his “open-door policy.” If anybody wanted to visit with him, they could just call his secretary and make an appointment, he said.

But then as a no-confidence vote took place and this newspaper began reporting on various controversies, including a failed effort to bring a medical school branch to campus, Speck changed.

He refused one interview request after another. He went into hiding. And he took Missouri Southern’s reputation and integrity down with him.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a meeting I had last spring with Speck. He only agreed to meet with me if I came as a student, and not a representative of The Chart, and if I agreed not to take any notes or repeat anything that was said during the discussion.

When I first walked into his office, before that meeting officially began, he said to me: “Now, it is my understanding that you are here as a student and not a member of The Chart, correct?”

I told him it was impossible for me to separate the two, and he seemed on the verge of walking out on me.

“Okay, I’m here as a student who is concerned that you won’t speak to the campus newspaper,” I said.

The truth is, I really can’t distinguish between being a student and being an editor of The Chart. Just as a student-athlete is always a student-athlete, regardless of whether they are playing a game or taking an exam, I am a student editor of the campus student newspaper.

That has been my saving grace.

When times got tough, I always had The Chart to lean on. When times were good, I had The Chart to laugh with.

I’ve probably spent more time in The Chart office than I have classrooms, and I’m sure there are instructors willing to attest to that.

That’s not to say I haven’t had positive experiences here outside my involvement with The Chart. I was able to take anthropology courses from Dr. Jill Greer, satisfying a thirst for that subject I’ve had since I attended the University of Missouri. Michael Rodgers spawned a great interest in American literature. In fact, I can honestly say that he is the best instructor I’ve had in my college career, both at Missouri Southern and at Mizzou.

I want to get away from this place because it has become depressing watching a school I care so much about, that has been so important to my family for so many years, ruin itself.

On many days The Chart office has been the only place on campus where I can be in a good mood. Of course, watching the men’s basketball team also puts a smile on my face.

But I will always remember my time with The Chart. I remember driving through a blizzard and trudging through a foot of snow to cover Gov. Jay Nixon’s state of the state address during my internship as state editor. I remember the trips to Kansas City, Austin, Texas, and Louisville, Ken., and the various MCMA trips around Missouri.

I remember spending a semester as editor-in-chief as my little brother, Grant, served as cartoonist.

And I remember all the history that came before me, and that I hope will continue.

I suppose I’ll end this by giving out a few thanks. Thanks to T.R., for teaching me everything about journalism that I never learned in a classroom. And that’s a lot. Thanks to Alexandra Nicolas, for being The Chart mother. Thanks to Luke Taylor for providing us with so many jokes at his own expense. Thanks to Jordan Larimore, for running the entire sports section as a true freshman, and then again as a sophomore. Thanks to “Downtown” Willie Brown, for being the most reliable photographer I’ve ever run into, and I’ve worked for several professional newspapers. Thanks to all the practicum and newswriting students for contributing to this newspaper.

Thanks to Nathan Carter, for doing that thing he does.

Thanks to the great instructors I’ve had. Thanks to my dad for getting me started in journalism more than nine years ago. Thanks to Bruce Speck for offering me so many opportunities to break big stories. Thanks to Robert Corn for being a legend at this school, and a hell of a basketball coach.

Thanks to all the Chart staffers who came before me and decorated the walls of the Chart office with awards.

And thanks to anybody I may not have mentione, but I’ve already gone over the word count for this column.

I guess there is just one more thing to say.

This is the last sentence I will ever write for The Chart.