Show us the $

Months after leading the charge to bring a medical school to Missouri Southern, University officials have gotten as far away from the project as possible.

Throughout last fall and winter both administrators and Board of Governors members offered every assurance a partnership with the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences would become a reality, and Southern would boast of a branch medical school on its campus.

But then the project went south.

Even as all indications pointed to KCUMB saying no to the proposal, Southern officials continued to sound a false optimism.

First, former KCUMB President Karen Pletz was fired. Pletz had been the main contact in Kansas City in regards to the partnership, and allegations flew after her termination that she had kept the governing board in the dark about university affairs and projects.

Southern continued to say a medical school was a done deal, however, without even bothering to ask KCUMB’s board if it was something they were interested in or just Pletz going rogue.

Communication between the institutions deteriorated through the spring, with emails obtained by The Chart showing sparse contact between University President Bruce Speck and Danny Weaver, the interim president at KCUMB and leader of the school’s board.

Then, just as Southern officials went completely silent about the project, KCUMB’s board voted unanimously against pursing a partnership in Joplin.

Not much has been said since April about bringing a medical school to Southern. People involved said other schools would be contacted, and at least one has, but the sound of silence in regards to this proposal speaks volumes.

Dr. Larry McIntire, who originally proposed the idea of a medical school at Southern, has apparently created a nonprofit group of community leaders to look into the matter further.

He didn’t return phone messages.

Rob O’Brian, president of the Chamber of Commerce, was and still is a player in the medical school project, serving to rally support from Joplin’s business community.

He didn’t return phone messages.

In fact, the only one talking is Speck, who now says Southern isn’t involved at all, stressing that this project is a community effort.

Just months after spearheading the effort to bring a medical school to Southern, the University’s administrators and Governors seemingly want nothing at all to do with it.

Maybe Speck and the Board realized this idea will not become a reality any time soon, and decided to cut their losses after public embarrassment.

Maybe the community leaders realized Southern just couldn’t and wouldn’t get it right, and decided they’d have better luck doing it their own way.

Whatever the cause for Southern’s change of heart, this doesn’t have to be a total loss.

Speck said community members pledged nearly $2 million to fund the $10 million project.

We call on those who have pledged money, and those who considered it, to stand with their commitments. Everyone knows the next fiscal year will be a rough one, and the University faces large cuts in state funding.

After all, what will be the economic impacts if and when people lose their jobs and programs are cut?

That money would be better used helping Southern close the gap than funding a pipe dream.