New MU chancellor makes presence known in first two weeks on the job

Feb 18, 2014

R. Bowen Loftin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Richard Bowen Loftin has made his presence on the MU campus feel like two years as opposed to the two weeks he has been in office. 

Loftin has been eating lunch with students in the dining halls, sitting in on faculty meetings, and attending sporting events when it fits his schedule. This past Friday, the media was given a chance to learn more about the man behind the bowtie.

Just as he did at Texas A&M, Loftin will become indulged with the physics department at MU. He says the essence of being a chancellor is to be a risk litigator and a problem solver, both skills that he is proud to have learned from his time in physics.

“(Physics) taught me a couple of things; to be analytical, to try to quantify what I could quantify and work with things objectively.”

Those skills come in handy for a chancellor that is dealing with extraordinary situations during his transition. Loftin was asked about the independent counsel that will investigate the handling of the Sasha Menu Courey case.

“We have to develop mechanisms to continually renew the way in which we tell people, ‘Here is how you handle this, here is what you do when you observe something or something happens to you.’ Too often communication is done in one-dimension and you think you got it down. How you report, to whom you report seems to be the sticking point in most of these cases.”

When asked about his feelings regarding Michael Sam and the overarching media rush that has hit Columbia since his announcement, the chancellor offered his support.

“I only knew Mike Sam from watching him play because I watched him tackle Johnny Manziel. He is an outstanding football player. The story here is there is no story. This is Mike Sam who decided he wanted to tell the world…that’s his business. This is his story, not Missouri’s story.”

Loftin acknowledged that the University needs to be creative in finding additional ways to support its institution. He said there are more ways to expand and diversify the revenue base than just raising tuition. He referred to his past as a student as a prime example of his view on the affordability of education.

“There are true consequences about raising tuition. If you know my history, access is very important to me. I came from a very poor family and without the support of financial aid I wouldn’t have been able to make it. So, I really feel strongly about making sure people can get in here and money not being a real factor in that (ultimately).”

Loftin has made just as strong of a presence in social media as he has face to face in the community. He has already accumulated about 10,000 followers on Twitter and says that number will certainly increase. He said he uses Twitter as a vehicle to obtain quick feedback from students.

“Students are concerned about a whole bunch of things; pizza, parking, eating in the residence halls, everything you can imagine," Loftin said. "Students tend to tell me through Twitter what is bugging them right that second. It’s 140 characters and it’s spur of the moment so you get that kind of instantaneous ability to sample what’s going on out there.”

He then mentioned he would be getting dinner with his wife, Karen, later in the evening. A reporter joked about following along to join him. In typical-Loftin fashion, he extended the invite.

“You can show up. It’s a free country, you know that," Loftin said. "Get a reservation though, it’s going to be a little crowded I suspect.”