University of Missouri Spent $1.3M Repairing Image After Student Protests

'It's a budget bloodbath,' one CEO told LifeZette of what kowtowing to progressive tantrums has cost

The fallout for the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, after its student protests caught the attention of many across the nation appears to be an ongoing public relations challenge.

“Mizzou” has been in the spotlight often in the past several years. Minority students spoke out against the racism and bigotry they said they’d experienced on campus back in 2015, which led to a protest on September 24 of that year called “Racism Lives Here.”

In October 2015, upset students sent a list of demands to the university’s administrators, calling for 10 percent of the faculty to be black, for the university’s president to hand-write an apology admitting his own “white male privilege,” and for all students to be required to receive “comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion” training, among other demands, as LifeZette reported at the time.

Continuing campus craziness by liberal students bent on change led one 1978 alumnus, Victor Wirtz, to note, “At breakfast this morning, my wife and I agreed that MU is not a school we would even consider for our three children.” He added, “[The school] has devolved into the [UC] Berkeley of the Midwest.”

The university spent $1.3 million with a branding firm in the aftermath of the 2015-16 student protests, Fox News reported Monday.

“Two and a half years after the University of Missouri at Columbia’s race-based protests garnered negative national attention, especially after former communications professor Melissa Click went viral for threatening a student journalist, freshman enrollment is still down, costing the university millions,” Fox News noted.

The university contacted the branding firm 160over90 to assist with its public image. The firm recommended the school spend $1.8 million for student recruitment and enrollment marketing. In addition to the branding effort, the university has also created a race relations council.

Although freshman enrollment has yet to recover to its 2016 levels, the university is optimistic the public relations drive will be successful.

A University of Missouri spokesperson told Fox News that “enrollment is projected to be up by 14 percent” and that the school has received a “significant amount of increased support from legislators, alumni, and the general public.”

Eric Schiffer, CEO of top-ranked firm Reputation Management Consultants, based in Irvine, California, provided a sense of how damaging the student protests were to the University of Missouri’s reputation.

When asked if $1.3 million struck him as a lot of money in PR costs for the university, Schiffer told LifeZette, “It’s a budget bloodbath” and “a giant amount of money.”

“In most cases, the leaders at various universities don’t take a servile puppy dog leadership approach — they have the strength to manage [crisis] properly.”

He added, “The University of Missouri [received] even more negative press than they had [earlier], because of the crazy amount of money they spent on PR.”

Schiffer doesn’t believe most universities would be subject to the public relations disaster the University of Missouri had to deal with after its student protests.

“In most cases, the leaders at various universities don’t take a servile puppy dog leadership approach — they have the strength to manage it properly,” Schiffer told LifeZette.

In terms of whether student protests will continue to be a thorn in the side of university recruitment, Schiffer foresees manageable risk.

“There is the potential for it to become more frequent, especially when protesters see they can impact the bottom line through a strategic thermonuclear hail of ‘free speech’ fire,” he told LifeZette.

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“There will be many more crisis contracts that likely will be in the seven figures,” he added. “But if leadership addresses underlying concerns and brings people together, then the types of protests that bring blistering heavy media attention won’t happen.”

The Chronicle of Education estimates the University of Missouri’s freshman class has declined by a third over the past two years.

Kyle Becker is a content writer and producer with LifeZette. Follow him on Twitter

(photo credit, homepage image: University of Missouri Protest 2015, Gradient/Colored, CC BY-SA 4.0, by Mark Schierbecker; photo credit, article image: University of Missouri Protest 2015, CC BY-SA 4.0, by Mark Schierbecker)

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Kyle Becker is a content writer and producer with LifeZette.