Dan Verbeck is a local radio news legend but that doesn’t mean he’s above writing PR. In his latest communique from KCUR he notes the great community relations that the University of Missouri – Kansas City has with their neighbors given a recent award from some small East Coast College I’ve never heard of .
Great neighborhood relations for UMKC is an interesting thesis, but it’s also completely bogus.
There are many reasons why this ranking and subsequent award have no basis in reality, but probably the most obvious is that UMKC got rid of its neighbors a long time ago.
Up until the late 90’s UMKC had a unqiue, community feel and the college co-existed with neighbors as the campus naturally expanded. When I attended the University the place was already in the midst of a huge land grab, and was kicking longtime residents to the curb. They viewed the move as modernization and I have to admit that the houses so close to the campus were mostly maintained by a few old ladies and a bunch of leftover hippies who never dreamed of leaving college, but were too lazy to get a doctorate in sociology, media studies or creative writing. Nevertheless, this campaign concluded with a last desperate move involving caustic signage that spelled out the situation clearly.
“UMKC KILLS OUR HOMES”
That was the slogan that made liberal arts professors feel bad about themselves for a change and the phrase still resonates with some of the remaining faculty from those days. For those of us who remember the slogan, the legacy of community relations is pretty much a joke and any efforts to improve the image of the University in this respect will have to overcome this aspect of Kansas City history. A token award probably won’t erase this part of UMKC’s past.
Also, the fact that UMKC admits so few nearby African-American and Latino students from around KC and would rather search around the world for “model minority” enrollment continues to impact more accurate gauges of its community relations.
Still, prizes are nice and I’m sure the University is proud of planting tulips and making sure their increasingly generic campus looks like every other well-manicured degree factory in the state.
In the final analysis, my Alma mater has always been, and will always be, a school of convenience for returning students and commuters. However, not so long ago the place seemed far more connected to Kansas City without all of the lame motion graphics commercials they run on late-nite cable TV. Now, most of the surrounding neighborhoods have been paved over by huge parking lots or converted into campus buildings, and the most frequent “community relation” that few mention is the consistent level of car break-ins and robberies courtesy of the Eastside just across Troost. Just a short walking distance away from the urban campus.