Missouri university branch freezes hiring, cites Ferguson unrest

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2014 9:03 PM

(Reuters) - The University of Missouri-St. Louis has frozen hiring due to smaller-than-expected student enrollment that followed unrest in nearby Ferguson over the police shooting of an unarmed teenager, the school's chancellor said on Wednesday.

Chancellor Thomas George said in an email to faculty and staff the university faces a $2 million deficit in the coming months, although he added that some factors other than the unrest have contributed to the shortfall.

The announcement of below expected enrollment at the school underscores the continued fallout in the area from months of protests and occasional rioting following the Aug. 9 shooting death in Ferguson of black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson, and a grand jury decision in November not to indict Wilson.

"Throughout the recent events facing the St. Louis region, UMSL (University of Missouri-St. Louis) has clearly been on the forefront of seeking solutions, while carefully maintaining the reality of a safe and secure campus," George said in his email. 

The university and other nearby campuses are suffering from "widespread anxiety" about the region, he wrote.

The enrollment of students taking classes on campus increased slightly for the fall, but it was below expectations, according to George. Student registrations for the spring are showing a decrease, he said.

Meanwhile, realty brokers in Ferguson have predicted many homes could go up for sale early next year after stores were looted and set ablaze in the St. Louis suburb.

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last week that no major employer in the region has halted a project because of the riots and protests. Even so, the newspaper said local business leaders and economic development officials have expressed concern about how the area is perceived.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)