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February 29, 2008

New MnSCU Contract Set to Increase Faculty Pay

11.2% Over Next Two Years

If the administration thinks that a 5.5 - 7.5% increase in tuition is "minimal," then why not raise staff and faculty pay by this minimal amount?


From the Pioneer Press:

MnSCU faculty closer to new contract

Paul Tosto

Article Last Updated: 02/29/2008 05:08:07 PM CST


The Minnesota State College Faculty union represents about 4,400 faculty members at Minnesota's 25 state community and technical colleges.

Union President Greg Mulcahy and MnSCU Chancellor James McCormick said in a joint statement they were pleased to have reached a settlement.

If union members approve the deal it will go the MnSCU board for a vote, then to the Legislature for approval.

The IFO estimated the contract would deliver an 11.2 percent salary hike for its members through this year and next.

Biofuels Study Upsets Farmers

Two Groups Suspend Grant Money at U

From the Daily:

February 28, 2008

Results showed that some biofuels added to global warming, and did not benefit the environment.

By Kelly Gulbrandson

Two soybean-focused groups suspended $1.5 million in grant money for professors researching biofuels earlier this week as an angry reaction to a University study.

After the study, published by University professors David Tilman, Stephen Polasky and Peter Hawthorne, was released in the Feb. 7 edition of the journal Science, local farmers and other agencies voiced their opinions about claims that stated using biofuels, such as soybeans, contributes to global warming.

Tilman, who is currently on sabbatical from the University, said he feels the study is misunderstood by others in the industry.

"The goal of our paper was to point out if we do certain things, that those things would give us fuels that didn't have very much environmental benefit," he said.

Tilman said the paper didn't say the problems were happening now, but instead that they could happen in the future

Bev Durgan, director of the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station at the University, said whenever a researcher publishes a study, there are going to be people who disagree with it.

She said research will continue at the University and that this decision won't have an effect on that.

Gordy Thomas, a farmer from Rockford, Minn., said he found the biofuel study to be "troubling."


=======================

This is a very good example of why the apparently abstract concept of academic freedom is crucial to the mission of a university.

Especially so in these times when research may be tied financially to those who have a stake in the outcome of that research.


A Stranger in a Strange Land

U Vice Provost Interviews in Iowa City

From the Daily:

February 29, 2008

University Vice Provost Arlene Carney is a finalist for the provost position at the University of Iowa.

By Emma Carew

Vice Provost for faculty and academic affairs Arlene Carney is taking part in a two-day interview process for the position of provost at the University of Iowa on Thursday and Friday.

The previous provost, Michael Hogan, vacated the position in August when he was named president of the University of Connecticut, University of Iowa Vice Provost Tom Rocklin said.

"We have the highest regard for Vice Provost Carney, and while we would hate to lose her, we congratulate her on the honor of being named a finalist for the position of Provost at the University of Iowa," Provost Thomas Sullivan said in an e-mail statement Thursday.

Rocklin said the new provost will be "centrally involved" in executing the last year of the University of Iowa's current five-year strategic plan, and will also be charged with developing the next five-year goals.

Anderson, who serves as the undergraduate representative on the committee, said he met Carney on Thursday afternoon and was impressed with her friendliness.

"I was struck by how personable she was," he said.

Hogan had a reputation for being highly accessible to students, Anderson said, and undergraduates are hoping to bring in someone with similar qualities.

Carney was on campus for the interview at the same time as Suzanne Ortega, current vice provost and dean of the graduate school at the University of Washington.

Only three of the five candidates have been identified, and the University of Iowa will release the names of the final two candidates on the day before their visits, according to the University of Iowa Web site.

---------------------


Iowa has a pretty good track record of selecting high quality admininistrators.

Recent Iowa presidents have gone off to be presidents of Michigan and Cornell. The provost Dr. Carney is campaigning to replace has taken a job as the president of UConn.

Our senior administrators - Yudof excepted - seem to stay at Minnesota until retirement. Whether this is a good thing is debatable.

Ciao, Bonzo

Meanwhile, Down In Iowa City

U's Arlene Carney Is Iowa Provost Candidate

From the Iowa Press-Citizen:


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Two provost candidates have forums today

Arlene Carney, University of Minnesota vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, will participate in a faculty-led public forum set for 3:30 p.m. today in S401 Pappajohn Business Building. Carney will also participate in a public symposium on the same topic as Ortega, which is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Old Capitol Senate Chamber.

Carney, an audiologist, has been at Minnesota since 1994 and a vice provost there since 2005. She holds degrees from St. John's University, University of Massachusetts and Minnesota. Her research area is speech perception and production in children and adults with normal hearing and with hearing losses, including patients with cochlear implants.

February 28, 2008

Latest on Light Rail Through U

From 'CCO's website:

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Council approved a light rail route that will run across the Washington Avenue Bridge down Washington Avenue to University Avenue, and then on to St. Paul.

At first, the University of Minnesota administrators, area businesses and residents wanted the light rail to tunnel under Washington Avenue, but that was too expensive.

The Metropolitan Council Chair Peter Bell understands the concerns of businesses and residents.

"We're going to be working with them to mitigate those concerns," said Bell.

The University of Minnesota is also studying an option to push reroute [sic] the light rail to an old railroad bridge over the river. However, the plan could delay construction for a year and jeopardize millions of dollars in federal funding.

Keep it up, President Bruininks, maybe you'll be able to torpedo this project yet...

The Metropolitan Council Chair and former University of Minnesota regent, Peter Bell, deserves a great deal of credit for getting this job done. Thanks, chairman Bell, for a thankless task.

Mr. B.

The Daily weighs in:

Metropolitan Council members voted on Wednesday to take the Central Corridor light-rail line into final design - and nixed plans for an underground tunnel.

Vice President for University Services Kathleen O'Brien, a member of the Central Corridor Management Committee, voted to recommend that the Metropolitan Council adopt this plan.

However, she said she voted in favor for the sake of progressing project planning but was not in favor of the line's route through campus.

The University fought hard for a tunnel underneath Washington Avenue, but that feature would have added significantly to project costs.

The transit and pedestrian mall on campus could be open to light-rail, pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

Another possibility would only allow emergency vehicles, busses and pedestrians on the Washington Avenue segment of the route, pushing other traffic onto surrounding streets.

Studies will be completed later this year to see what is feasible.

Also, the University is in the process of studying another possible alignment. Putting the line farther north through Dinkytown would avoid Washington Avenue altogether.

Peter Bell, chair of the Metropolitan Council, said the University-funded study will be considered if it meets the federal cost-effectiveness guidelines, although that would not guarantee the plan would change.


February 24, 2008

5, 4, 3 , 2, ….

Or, Will the Central Corridor Route Be Under, Over, or Around the U?


From Sunday's Pioneer Planet:

University Ave. train ready for crucial votes

BY DAVE ORRICK
Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 02/24/2008 12:59:42 AM CST

What has been impossible for three decades could be reality by the end of the day Wednesday: Everyone agreeing on a light-rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis.

But between now and then, plenty of work remains to avoid having the long-proposed Central Corridor light-rail line doing what it's done many times in the past: stall.

First, elected and appointed leaders on a key advisory panel have to agree on a route. Then, they have to agree on priorities to ensure the nearly $1 billion government project comes in under budget. (Yes, leaders are saying it will.)

Then, the Metropolitan Council has to agree, either by unanimous vote or close to it, so that Gov. Tim Pawlenty will endorse the project.

Let's hope that University administrators have finally learned something about the art of compromise and playing with the resources we've got. We'll see by Wednesday and then comment on other compromises that need to be made in order to assure real progress toward a rational goal of being one of the best universities in the BigTen. We do not have the resources to be one of the "top three public research universities in the world [sic]."

The sooner our administration gets real and deals with our actual problems, the better off we will all be. It is a public embarrassment that our leaders continue with this top three business and Driven to Discover advertising campaign.

February 22, 2008

It All Depends on What You Mean By The Word Minimal...

Tuition Hikes Will Be Minimal.jpg

Some people aren't buying it.

From the Daily:

Bruininks requests $225M from Senate

President Bob Bruininks faced opposition and criticism about the expected tuition hike.


By Hilary Brueck, Jake Grovum


He came to request money from the state, but University President Bob Bruininks instead found himself defending upcoming tuition increases at the Capitol on Thursday.


Following his presentation of the University's capital request, Bruininks and Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, sparred on an expected increase for the 2008-09 school year.


"The headlines scream 7.5 percent and it scares people away from the institution," Robling said. "I don't know how you can get the message out that you are still affordable to an average, middle-income family."


Robling questioned the tuition hike, citing a 13 percent increase in state appropriations to the University last year.

And from a faculty committee meeting last September:


Minutes
Senate Committee on Finance and Planning
Tuesday, September 18, 2007


"Will the Regents support a 7.5% tuition increase, Professor Martin asked? They have been told it is part of the budget plans, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Professor Chapman suggested that 7.5% will be seen as quite high. Mr. Pfutzenreuter agreed but pointed out that for Minnesota residents the legislature provided funding to buy down the increase by 2%, so it will only be 5.5% (for students from households with an income of up to $150,000). Professor Chapman said he was sorry to see such an increase in an election year; Mr. Pfutzenreuter said the other choices are increased state funding or less new investment."

Bottom line: The important thing is how much money students owe when they are finished at the U. Why is the U so reluctant to commit to stabilizing tuition? Why do they want to play these games of jacking up tuition and then say, well we will give more financial aid?

By the way is twenty percent of the endowment really being used for financial aid as this article implies? I thought that we spent less than 5% of our endowment per year...

So which is it, minimal or quite high? I guess it all depends on who's asking. Would a salary increase of 7.5% for AFSCME workers, civil servants, faculty, or the administration be minimal?

Bob?

February 20, 2008

John Shutske to Wisconsin

I know that John leaves a nearly twenty year record of outstanding work here at Minnesota. He will be missed. He is a farm boy who understands the importance of agriculture to Midwestern states. With best wishes for continued success in your new position, John.



From the Wisconsin website:


John Shutske, a University of Minnesota specialist in agricultural and food system safety, health and security, has been appointed as the new associate dean for agriculture and natural resources extension in the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and UW-Extension program director for agricultural and natural resources.

“My research and Extension programs explore and educate to protect worker and public health as agricultural technology and practices change,? Shutske says. “We’ve worked on a range of mechanical, chemical, biological, and animal hazards for many audiences. I am particularly proud of our Extension and research focused on protection of farm families, children, immigrant workers, and other vulnerable audiences.

He has also worked on efforts to protect businesses and consumers from potential food system terrorism threats, and to address such emerging issues as avian influenza, foodborne illnesses, and human pathogens in wastewater.

The decision to come to Wisconsin was an easy one, Shutske says.

“There’s a special spirit at the University of Wisconsin,? he says. “I saw that spirit up close as I interviewed for this position and had a chance to visit with a dynamic group of people.

“The agricultural, food and natural resource industries are economically and culturally important in Wisconsin, and the partnership between these industries and the university is impressive,? he says.

“I see a strong desire in Wisconsin to continue to be a worldwide leader, working in partnership with agricultural producers, the food, energy, and natural resource industries, and communities as they work with us through critically important changes in the next 20 years,? he adds.

February 19, 2008

University Of Minnesota / U leaders push bioscience buildings

New financing scheme may accomplish goal

See previous post for backstory. The Pioneer Press today provides further insight into the deal that is apparently taking place concerning new biomedical science buildings. Note Mr. Pfutzenrueter's admission: " This is an effort by the university to grab market share..." Waves of spam have gone out to incite the troops to hit the capitol this Thursday. Free lunch, free bus ride, and a chance to endorse... what?

I am certainly not against the University obtaining funding from the State in support of its legitimate mission as a land grant institution. In fact we need every penny we can get to stabilize tuition and support the core of the university, including non-science areas that are also critical for our remaining a great university. This is a matter of priorities and also a matter of the soul of a university. It is not a Driven to Discover marketing campaign.

These proposed blank check biomedical science buildings have financial implications for the U that are not being examined carefully and honestly. Where is the money going to come from to pay for the new faculty? Set up funds are, crudely speaking, a million dollars per new faculty member. And the NIH funding situation right now is terrible. See the post: If You Fund It Grants Will Come.

From today's Pioneer Press

BY PAUL TOSTO Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 02/18/2008 11:40:34 PM CST

University of Minnesota leaders believe they have the legislative votes for a plan to build four new biosciences buildings on the Twin Cities campus, with the public paying most of the $292 million cost.

The university has pitched the biosciences buildings for a couple of years but hadn't been able to gain enough support in the Minnesota House. Officials have argued the buildings are crucial to the U's staying competitive with other universities in the race for National Institutes of Health grants.

At a hearing last week, U leaders also stressed the buildings' potential as a jobs machine in a fragile Minnesota economy. University supporters have been e-mailing faculty, urging them to pack a legislative hearing Thursday to try to win more votes.

Some faculty members are skeptical and want the Legislature to ask more questions of the U to justify the cost. Gov. Tim Pawlenty hasn't weighed in.

The plan would commit $233 million in state money to pay off bonds floated by the university. Because they'd be university — not state — bonds, they would not be subject to the limits of this year's state capital bonding bill.

U leaders say their traditional capital request — $226 million for spending on projects ranging from repairs on aging buildings to a new Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus — remains their top priority this session.

A few weeks ago, however, lawmakers who support the biosciences buildings approached
the U with a financing plan similar to what was used for the new Gophers football stadium, said university chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter.

"We're pleased with this new approach," he said. "I believe both bodies will pass it."

Why are the buildings needed?

"This is an effort by the university to grab market share" of federal research dollars, Pfutzenreuter said. "To do that, you have to have new facilities to attract top talent in the country and get them to bring their research. That's the pressure we're feeling from other universities."

Funding the project with university bonds and state cash made the difference in gaining House support, said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Capital Investment Finance Division Committee. She expects the biosciences building plan to be part of the bonding bill coming from the committee next week.

The U's competitiveness and the state's economic needs were equally important in moving ahead, she said. While she hasn't talked to the governor about it recently, Hausman said "he has indicated all along a willingness to support" the biosciences effort.

U President Robert Bruininks last week focused his arguments to lawmakers on the potential economic bump the buildings might bring, including thousands of new jobs and strengthening the state's leadership in the medical device industry. He also cautioned: "This is an industry that is global. It is very easy to lose."

While U partisans may pack Thursday's hearing, some remain skeptical.

Lawmakers need to ask more questions, said William Gleason, a professor in the U's medical school who blogs on campus issues and often challenges the U administration. He asks where will the money come from to hire faculty and buy equipment for the new buildings once built.

Two of the buildings would focus on magnetic resonance imaging and cancer research, but the U already has fairly new facilities in each of those areas, he added.

"Why shouldn't the buildings in this group be subjected to competition with buildings in other areas of science as well as nonscientific areas?" Gleason said.

"If they can be justified as good investments and we can fill them with new faculty without damaging the core of the rest of the university, then let's do it," Gleason said. "But writing a blank check given the current situation does not seem to make any sense."

February 18, 2008

The Strib Again Carries Water for U

Or, If You Build It, Grants and Jobs Will Come

This is the fourth re-incarnation of this craziness. For an introduction to the backstory, please see:


"The Red Phone Line Between Morrill Hall and the Strib Editorial Office Still Works"


From yesterday's Star-Tribune:

Chances are better today than they were a few weeks ago that in 2028 and beyond, Minnesota will be among the states that are home to a globally competitive biosciences industry.

That's the result of months of negotiating by Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, several senior House DFLers, and University of Minnesota officials. Word went out last week from House Capital Investments chair Alice Hausman: "We have a deal."

Under the arrangement, the state would be committed to paying the debt service on $233 million of the $292 million bond issue the project requires.

So the state is going to be servicing the majority of the debt. Could this money not be used for other things of higher priority, say tuition stabilization?

But -- significantly -- the bonds' issuer would be the university, not the state.

The buildings will be a robust contributor to the state's economy in their own right, housing about 4,800 new hires and generating $100 million to $120 million a year in federal research grants.

And where are the funds for these new hires? And funding for the equipment that needs to go in the buildings? Where did the numbers come from for new federal research grants? Last I heard both NSF and NIH were on the skids...

But their bigger promise lies in the job-producing potential of new companies that will be spawned by the knowledge they generate. They can be the locus of the next generation of "medical alley" comercial [sic] ventures for Minnesota, based less on devices and more on molecular and cellular manipulation to ease human suffering. Venture capital firms are already inquiring about the plans, attests Frank Cerra, the university's senior vice president for health sciences.

Hmm...3M Pharmaceuticals has just shut down. A U stem cell patent has been sold to Athersys of Cleveland. Medical Alley is alive and well and still employing lots of our graduates.

And, miracle of miracles, despite all this talk about interdisciplinarity - the current buzzword for garnering grants - employers actually want people who know something. Things like electrical engineering, computer science, chemistry, physics... As our administrators may eventually learn, in order to have strong interdisciplinary programs you first need strong disciplinary programs. Would you prefer - to use a made up example - to hire an electrical engineer who did molecular biology for an advanced degree, or would you be better off hiring a real molecular biologist?

Is putting all of our chips on the table in an irrevocable way such a hot idea? Seems as if a little diversification in the research and intellectual portfolio is called for here. Simply mumbling about interdisciplinarity is not going to do it in the long run.

Also some honesty about the collateral expenses of these buildings is in order. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a university president to see the logical consequences of this proposed blank check expansion.

Are we going to continue to bleed the core, jack up tuition, and make ridiculous statements about ambitious aspirations to become one of the top three public research universities on the planet? Or are we going to get real, roll up our sleeves, and strive to be one of the better universities in the BigTen?

Think about it, please, President Bruininks.

Ciao, Bonzo

February 17, 2008

The University is for Whom?

Occasionally Mr. B. despairs about the academy and those who administer it - presidents, provosts, deans and department heads. But every once in a while he runs across people like the president at Carleton (the late Howard Swearer) and various other outstanding deans and department heads who make him realize that all is not lost.

Jim Chen, a former U of M faculty member and now law dean at Lousiville, is one of these people and he writes in a recent post on MoneyLaw, "Julius Caesar Was Wrong: A Two Act Post:"

I now make this solemn vow. For all the days that I am privileged to work in legal academia, in whatever position I might hold at any time, I shall devote every fiber of my being to resisting, defeating, and ultimately destroying those who forget that the academy exists not to serve them, but those who pay the tuition and the taxes that sustain our temples of learning. So help me God.


Jim is going to be a very busy man. But he has a lot of energy.

Ciao, Bonzo

p.s. How long do you think it will take before similar sentiments are expressed by the current occupants of Morrill Hall?

February 14, 2008

The Daily, Finally, Gets It

Mr. B. has previously posted on the proposed percent increase for tuition at the University of Minnesota.

From Curiouser and Curiouser:

The Daily and the Strib both have a report from last Friday's Regents Meeting.

The Strib's account has been summarized in the post (Bad Move, Bob) below.

Today, in continuing puff-piece fashion, we see in the Daily headlines - "Regents discuss tuition, facilities."

Nowhere in the Daily article do we find information about the amount (5.5-7.5%) of the proposed increase.

Why?

Mr. Bonzo



Today the Daily finally reports the plans of OurLeader (in place since at least last September) for tuition increases:

Tuition to touch $10,000
State funding is low and University spending is high; students pay.

According to the Board of Regents meeting last week, the University expects to raise tuition again next year. The state is draining funds and it remains to be seen how the University will give back to the students now paying even more tuition.

It is projected that Minnesotans will pay over $10,000 for the 2008-2009 academic year, and nonresidents will pay over $14,000 to attend. This is a 7.5 percent increase for families making over $150,000 and a 5.5 percent increase for those making less than $150,000. This is double the tuition of 1995 and $3,000 more than 2003.

The University has now positioned itself as one of the most expensive state universities in the country, outcharging the likes of UCLA, Berkeley, Wisconsin and Iowa.

Decrease in state support makes students shoulder the burden. The increasing amounts of tuition money are being funneled into building repair projects, expanding the Carlson school and funding other special projects, such as the new stadium.

The $58 million remodeling of the Carlson School of Management should help the business students, but what of the decrease in tenured positions for top scholars and professors in CLA and other colleges?

We wonder how the University plans to position itself as a national leader in research when exorbitant tuition rates will fail to attract talented students - in-state or out-of-state.

Although part of the problem of the rising tuition is the state's lack of investment, the University is using the funds they receive in ways that are hard to see on the individual student level.

You cannot raise the expectations of everyone about resources, bleed money from the core to finance new initiatives, spend money on going green, finance a new honors program (this will cost money) and manage to keep tuition down. This last item needs to be a priority, not just an adjustable parameter that is moved up or down to make the budget come out right.

To be making noises about being one of the top three public research institutions on the planet is absurd given our present circumstances. This is the time for OurLeader to make the case that the University of Minnesota should be in the top half of the BigTen. That would, of course, require an honest admission of where we stand right now. But I think such a goal would resonate with the citizens of the state, the legislature, and our students. Think about it, Bob.

February 13, 2008

Amy Gets It

Bob Does Not...

Someone else was just as offended as Mr. B. (see previous post below) by OurLeader's latest infomercial that came disguised as an inquiry about what was on the minds of campus-wide recipients.

From today's Daily:


Bruininks' e-mail more convincing as an ad

Please stop sending me advertisements in my e-mail to justify your spending.

By Amy Pason

On Monday, I opened my e-mail to find a gem sent by President Bob Bruininks, subject: "What's on Your Mind?" Why Bob! I'm flattered that you would want feedback from me!

Enclosed was not a genuine question for my response, but an advertisement to gain my support on the current University lobbying campaign for funds.

The first asks what we should do when it's cold outside.

Second, the University is cutting-edge with being a green campus.

In total, this ad is to convince us that we need the state to give us more money for our buildings.

I worry when Bruininks says we can delay some repairs or divert funds from academic programs if the Legislature doesn't open its pockets more.


All said, something doesn't add up. Where is all this money really going?

We have enough money for a stadium but not for building repairs. We do not have enough money to give wage increases to workers but need good buildings for great faculty. We apparently have a legitimate need for building repair, yet the administration must put together a PR video to convince us to join the cause. Our tuition keeps rising, yet Bruininks can afford a new set of specs.

Legislature, give what you can to meet our campus needs. Bob, try to prioritize our spending in a way that makes sense. And please, stop sending me advertisements to justify your spending choices. E-mail me directly if you really want my opinion.


February 12, 2008

The Answers to Life’s Persistent Questions

Or, The World According to Bob

tuitionNYfini.jpg


President Bruininks spammed us recently with an infomercial. Everyone on campus apparently got a link.

Mr. Bonzo has an irreverent commentary on the vid as well as some selected stills for your viewing pleasure.

A sample is posted above.

One might naively expect from the clip's introduction that it would be devoted to answering some of life’s persistent questions. Au contraire, the usual nothing burgers are served up lukewarm:

1. Indoor Entertainment?

2. Going Green?

3. New Facilities?



Green Bob smugly addresses these issues a la Nixon, complete with a gas-fired fireplace in the background.
He is wearing a tasteful maroon/gold tie and stylish glasses. No Walter Mondale specs for OurPrez, he could be the CEO of Twin City Federal, or an elderly anchor.

Burning questions? Welcome to the new semester? Bob, in case you haven't heard, we have been in session for nearly a month. These kinds of semester kick-offs usually are served up at the beginning of the ah, er, semester…

Next time you do this, get some real students asking real questions. One question of great interest to our students is: How much is tuition going to go up next year?

Another question from a faculty member is: How are we going to pay for being the third greatest public university on the planet?

Relax, Bob, you seem to be in pain. Have some ketchup... It contains natural mellowing agents and goes well with both spam and burgers. Richard Nixon used to like it with cottage cheese.

February 11, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

The Daily and the Strib both have a report from last Friday's Regents Meeting.

The Strib's account has been summarized in the post (Bad Move, Bob) below.

Today, in continuing puff-piece fashion, we see in the Daily headlines - "Regents discuss tuition, facilities."

Nowhere in the Daily article do we find information about the amount (5.5-7.5%) of the proposed increase.

Why?

Mr. Bonzo

February 9, 2008

Bad Move, Bob

Or, Let Them Eat Student Loans...

From today's Star-Tribune:



U's tuition expected to surpass 10-grand

By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune
February 8, 2008


Most University of Minnesota students will almost certainly face a pricetag of more than $10,000 for the first time next fall.

"I don't see any possibility that we can roll it back," University President Robert Bruininks said after a presentation to the school's regents Friday.

The projected increases -- which are taking place in part because of lower-than-hoped-for state appropriations -- would take annual tuition and fees for Minnesota residents into five figures.

While tuition increases won't be announced until April, the university is projecting an increase of 7.5 percent for Minnesota families making more than $150,000 per year and 5.5 percent for families making less than $150,000.

"Compared to what our parents paid for school, it's ridiculous," said Anthony West, a freshman from Mahtomedi who plans to major in biomedical engineering.

While the university has greatly expanded its aid to low-income students, more undergraduates are leaving school with significant debt. In his presentation Friday to the Board of Regents, Bruininks said that 60.5 percent of students graduating in four years get loans to pay for their education and the average debt is about $20,500.

University officials largely attribute the tuition increases to cuts in higher education funding from the Legislature.

"I don't think we're getting a fair cut from the state government," Regent Anthony Baraga said.

"We [Bruininks] can't be on a rollercoaster at Valleyfair every year," he said.

Of 10 schools the university considers its peers, Minnesota has higher resident tuition than Wisconsin, Ohio State, UCLA, California-Berkeley, Florida, Texas and Washington. Only Penn State, Michigan and Illinois have higher price tags.

Wisconsin's resident tuition is currently more than $2,400 cheaper than Minnesota. Iowa residents pay about $3,300 less at the University of Iowa than Minnesotans do at the university.

Bruininks said one of the biggest differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin is that Wisconsin benefits from having more nonresident students who pay higher tuition.



Why might that be, Bob? How is Wisconsin managing to do this?

This article raises a few other interesting questions:

The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition at Wisconsin and Michigan is considerable, whereas we cut our difference significantly last year. If you can't compete on quality, compete on price. How is that working out?

The increase for MNSCU schools next year is going to be 2.5%/3.5%. Why the difference?

As an advisor and supervisor of undergraduates, I note that the job market is getting tighter and tighter due to an imminent recession. Is it fair to push people out the door with that kind of debt load under these circumstances?

You apparently want more money. Where is this supposed to come from?

Ciao,

Bonzo

ps. A friend notes that the Pioneer Press had already beaten the Strib to the punch in announcing the $10,000+ figure.

February 8, 2008

Thriller!

Or, A Touch and Go Landing at the U

Within the last year both Dr. Barbara Brandt of the University of Minnesota and the American Occupational Therapy Foundation were thrilled by snagging Dr. Charles Christiansen for a position at their respective institutions. Hopefully at least one of them remains thrilled in the next couple of years.

From the U's website:


MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (Sept. 5, 2006) -- Charles Christiansen, Ed.D., will lead the Center for Allied Health Programs at the University of Minnesota beginning December 2006.

“The key to building an effective 21st century health care system is having a well-trained, team-oriented and patient-oriented workforce,? said Christiansen. “I am thrilled to return to the heartland to work at the University of Minnesota to lead a new center dedicated to this objective. The Board of Regents, President Bruininks, and the Academic Health Center leadership have shown great vision and wisdom in creating it.?

“Minnesota is fortunate to have attracted Dr. Christiansen to this effort. He will be instrumental in shaping the future direction of this center in its role as a statewide resource in the allied health sciences,? said Barbara Brandt, Ph.D., assistant vice president for education at the Academic Health Center.

From the AOTF website:

American Occupational Therapy Foundation Names Charles Christiansen, EdD, OTR/L, New Executive Director

The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) has selected esteemed occupational therapy scholar Charles H. Christiansen, Ed D. to serve as its new executive director succeeding Martha Kirkland who retired from the position after 23 years of service.

He has most recently served as Vice Provost for Health Sciences and Founding Director, Center for Allied Health Programs at the University of Minnesota.

The AOTF Board and staff are thrilled that Charles Christiansen will be serving as our new executive director said AOTF President Ruth Ann Watkins. Dr. Christiansen understands and personifies our organizational vision and mission.

As an educator, researcher and practitioner, I know the value of the AOTF to the profession said Charles Christiansen. My vision builds upon scientific inquiry and social justice- the two main pillars that support the Foundation today. In addition to continuing to build upon the bold vision of the Board, it will be my mission to help the individual practitioner understand just how important the work of the Foundation is in their daily lives.

Dr. Christiansen will assume his new position March 17, 2008.


By the way, this short tenure does not set a record, since Dr. Christiansen will have been here for about fifteen months. Fred Silver occupied the Bakken chair for only a year. Likely, there are even shorter stays, unknown to Bonzo. Although the U advertises incoming faculty, they don't like to do this for those who have left.

February 7, 2008

Slaughter on Washington Avenue? Or Shootout at the Weisman Museum

Light Rail and Washington Avenue,
Under, At Grade, Or Somewhere Else?


Yesterday Mr. B. spent a very interesting hour and a half in the Weisman museum on the University of Minnesota campus listening, along with the Metropolitan Council, to comments from the public concerning the planned light rail project down the so-called Central Corridor between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

There is a distinct possibility that the route will include Washington Avenue on the university campus. Originally some hoped that this routing would be underground, but financing issues seem to make a tunnel unlikely. So it may be a choice between at grade on Washington Avenue or perhaps some other route leading to better traffic control opportunities.

Since the project will go through the University of Minnesota somewhere, U folks are understandably interested and have strong opinions on the matter. The usual suspects from the U of M were there. Neighborhood activists, bicycle riders, and students of urban planning also had an opportunity to speak. Even an artist made his pitch at the end. Great mix of people.

The chairman of the Metropolitan Council, Peter Bell, ran the meeting impeccably, greeting each speaker and thanking them for their input. It was an efficiently run and informative meeting.

To no one’s surprise, all of the speakers officially affiliated with the University endorsed the university position which was basically that an at grade light rail system on Washington Avenue is unacceptable.

The session was scheduled to run from 12 to 2 pm, but actually finished at 1:20 pm, which was quite surprising given the number of people present – my estimate is about 100. People who wanted to speak were asked to register to speak and to limit their remarks to 3 minutes if they were speaking for themselves or five minutes if they were speaking for some organization. After everyone who had requested time in advance had spoken, chairman Bell asked for further input until there was no more. Thus everyone who wanted to say something had their shot.

The entire meeting was peaceful. At first I was a little surprised to see a police officer, but he turned out to be one of the speakers. Vice President Kathleen O’Brien from the university was notably conciliatory in her remarks toward the end of the meeting, not insisting that the answer was a tunnel or forget about it, as some of the earlier speakers had argued.

It should be noted that there was no give and take or argument between the council and the speakers. Speakers simply made their presentations and sat down.

A very brief summary of remarks follows with identification of the speakers where possible:

Maureen Reed ( U of M Alumni Association)

Light rail at grade a tremendous threat to health and safety. Would suck lifeblood out of hospitals and clinics

Steve Wilson, Summit University Planning Council

Support building of light rail line. Do it right..
Restore missing LRT stations.

Take into considertaion the needs of those who need transit the most.

Arvonne Fraser, Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood

LRT - right rather than quickly
Surface line dangerous and inefficient, Washington Avenue not wide enough

Steven Rosentstone (U of M, Minister of Culture)

Central corridor - not every option will produce great outcomes
At grade will produce bottlenecks
Businesses will be destroyed

Bobby Daniels, Medical School and UMP physicians

At grade will lead to 10% reduction in those accessing clinics. $100 million in revenue loss.

Loss of that magnitude would cripple the U medical school. Emergency vehicles would have a difficult time.

Greg Hoessness, U of M Police Chief

Lots of traffic. Pedestrians oblivious while plugged in to iPods, etc. Level 2 trauma center access bad.

Steve Hausch, U of M Med Center

Opposed to at grade. Ease of access to services is critical. Tunnel option preferred.

Phil Easton - Athletics Department

Opposed to at grade option.

Mr. Baker, U of M Parking and Transportation

Safety, emergency access, and reliability of concern

Kristin Denzer, U of M Graduate and Professional Students

Favors tunnel because at grade precludes tunnel, whereas other options
(more stations, extension) could be taken care of later.

Emma Olson, U of M undergrad student body president

Ekspecially articulate
Lots of students use public transportation.
Support a tunnel. Safety is the reason. "I urge you guys..[sic]"

[Regardless of one's position, speech like this from the student body president is embarrassing.]

Josh Tolkin, urban planning student

At grade is preferred. A tunnel will lead to lost economic opportunities. Artery cut is a bad argument, at grade lines in Europe, Denver, Sacramento. No safety problems. Important piece of urban infrastructure. Tunnel at huge cost does not outweigh cost of other desirable things.

Matt Clark

Hold off on Union Depot

Consider possibility of light rail at grade, put traffic under.

Lois Brown, U of M grad student

Washington Avenue unsafe now and she avoids it. Putting a train on Washington Avenue will actually be safer than the present traffic situation. Divert traffic from Washington Avenue.

130 million dollars for a tunnel is a solution for a problem that doesn't exist.

John Ulit

Transit mall on Washington Avenue. University students would be in no more danger than drunken Vikings fans downtown who have to deal with light rail at grade. Transit mall will be the best decision ever forced on the U of M.

Marcus Young, Artist in Residence for City of St. Paul

Do not forget about a vision for public art in the Central Corridor project.

Ross Jackson

Push hard for bicycle access as part of project

Kathleen O'Brien, U of M VP for University Services

Northern alignment a viable alternative to tunnel

Margaret Carlson, U of M Alumni Association

Best doctors at the U. At grade option will make it more difficult for patients to get to U of M. Do not make it more difficult or people will have to change doctors.

---end of public comment summary---

If money were no object, a tunnel would be a great novelty, like the streetcars of my youth. But we have to recognize that there are limits to what we can spend and that issue was simply ignored by the tunnel fans. Just as it will take a lot more money than we’ve got to be one of the “top three research universities in the world.? We are somehow going to have to reconcile the resources we’ve got with our ambitious aspirations. This continues to be a hard lesson for the U of M administration to learn.

Given how dangerous it already is to cross Washington Avenue as a pedestrian, the complaint that somehow the light rail at grade will be unsafe rings hollow. Surely a combination of overpasses, underpasses, and well done pedestrian crossings could handle this objection? There are already two bridges over Washington Avenue as well as a tunnel between Moos Tower and a parking garage.

The complaint from the U hospital is lame. The situation at the U hospital is currently ugly. We are going to build a new pediatric unit across the river at the Cedar/Riverside complex. Perhaps the University could consider locating a trauma center there also? Hospital access from 94 to the Cedar/Riverside complex would seem to be a lot simpler. Mr. B. is not an urban planner, but problems due to the light rail at grade would seem worthy of an urban planner’s attention, especially at the university. With an emphasis on outreach and community involvement such a planning project could be a worthwhile opportunity for U faculty and students to show their stuff.

My main concern is the problem that two lanes of light rail at grade and two lanes of traffic may cause. In an emergency – hospital or fire department – efficiently moving the necessary vehicles through a single lane of traffic may be a big problem. Also an accident could completely seal off things in one direction leading to a traffic nightmare. I am not a traffic engineer and there may very well be ways around these problems. I hope so.

If this last issue can be addressed satisfactorily, then I believe that an at grade Washington Avenue light rail path would be the best compromise.

Instead of saying that light rail at grade down Washington Avenue is unacceptable, as evidence of good faith it would be interesting to hear the University of Minnesota administration asking the questions: "What if light rail went at grade along Washington Avenue? How could we make this work?"

At the end of the month they may have to start thinking about answers to these questions.

I am dismissing the so-called Northern route out of hand. Interested readers may wish to enlighten me to the contrary. There was a lot of talk that at grade on Washington Avenue would sever an artery. Washington Avenue is, indeed, the main and most convenient way to put down a transit line through the university with ready access to East and West Bank, Coffman, Northrup, and UHospitals serving as just a few examples. Are there any arguments on this?

February 5, 2008

Bad Carma?

Some progress is being made in unraveling the Carma web site data for the U of M's steam generation (power) plant. This data has been mentioned previously in connection with the U's going green(er) efforts.

At the suggestion of Professor Swackhamer, I contacted Mr. Jerome Malmquist who is a Departmental Director in Facilities Management – Energy Management at the University of Minnesota.

He responded via email yesterday with the following information. It is reported without change or editorial comment:

Bill,

I and one of my engineers took a little time to check out the Carma web site. Like many web sites, groups, etc. that are showing up, it seems like there are new ones every day, they take data that they don't completely understand and at times misinterpret it.

First, the University of Minnesota is NOT a power plant by definition. We are a steam generation plant. The steam is used to heat and cool the campus.

Secondly, the data on CO2 emissions appears to be close. If it comes from the MNPUC it might be just slightly overstated.

But, the power output is very misleading. We are not sure where they would get that number from so we assume it is a calculated guess. We don't understand the large "Red" dot. We didn't have time to read that far but we assume it has more to do with our size and not what we are doing to reduce CO2 emissions.

In fact, our steam plant has reduced CO2 emissions, confirmed by NASD audits via our membership in CCX, by over 38% from our baseline. I doubt there are many others who can say that. Further reductions are being made by using oat hulls as a fuel.

In addition we are continually working to reduce energy consumption in our buildings. For example, the steam consumption in the MCB building has been cut by over 24% comparing 12 months ending in November of 2006 with 12 months 2007.

At the same time we cut electrical use by over 6% and we are not done yet. At some point [we] the only option to further reduce CO2 from the boiler plant is to turn off the heat. Which building do you work in?

I hope this information helps.

Thanks for asking,

Jerome

February 2, 2008

Green Bob

What Bob Hath Wrought...
Or, What Are the Consequences of Signing the Climate Commitment?

Mr. Bonzo has previously posted on the current Green revolution at Minnesota. The first green revolution connected to Minnesota was the work of of a Nobel-prize winning General College alum, but that is a topic for another day.

For background on going green at Minnesota, see:

Re-writing History At Minnesota
Or, How Green Is My Power Plant

and

Bob Bites The Bullet


Some of these earlier posts contained an error, since modified but still under investigation, about the amount of coal that the university burns in its power plant. There are also some numbers posted on the CARMA website concerning the source of fuel for the university's power plant as well as the amount of carbon dioxide that the plant produces. They don't seem to agree with university statements about the fuel mixture for the power plant. CARMA states on their website that they will correct any errors and so Bonzo has informed a university administrator of the existence of CARMA. If the site is in error, hopefully the university will inform them of this fact. Any new developments in this area will be posted.

But the main topic for this post is the consequences of OurLeader signing the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. There seems to be some misunderstanding on the part of university administrators, or people who speak for them, about the consequences of signing this agreement. Some material from the Chronicle of Higher Education follows:

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Buildings & Grounds

The Greening of the U. of Minnesota


In December, The Chronicle ran a story about the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, which included a box on four institutions that, so far, had refused to sign.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was one of them. University officials, like those at other institutions that had not signed, were concerned that some of the goals of the commitment — notably climate neutrality — just weren’t feasible. The Twin Cities campus gets about 70 percent of its power from fossil fuels, a great deal of which is coal, one of the dirtiest and least-climate-friendly power sources out there. Deborah L. Swackhamer, interim director of the university’s Institute on the Environment, was also concerned about the commitment’s fuzzy language and its push to include sustainability in the curriculum, which is set by faculty members, not the university president.

It seemed that Robert H. Bruininks, the university president, would never sign.

Yet on January 8, Mr. Bruininks added the University of Minnesota system to the list of signatories, making Minnesota the first Big 10 university to commit.

He did so without a lot of fanfare. Although student groups celebrated the signing, the university never even issued a news release about it.


Daniel Wolter, a spokesman for the university, said that after examining the commitment, university officials found that it was “in line with our institutional goals.? But he said there has been some “frustration? about the emphasis that people have placed on signing the commitment.

“There is an unusually large focus being put on this one specific agreement,? he said. “Our concern is that there are a lot more meaningful things that institutions can do with regards to climate.?

For example, the university is a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange, a legally binding climate agreement that has real penalties for institutions and businesses that do not meet carbon-reduction goals. There are no penalties associated with the presidents climate commitment, and colleges can meet goals on their own timeline.

Mr. Wolter also said that advocates of the climate commitment have tried to use Minnesota’s signing as leverage to get other Big 10 institutions to join up. “I think every other institution needs to look at [the commitment] and how it fits with their campuses,? he said. “We are not making any pronouncements about other campuses and what they should and should not do.?

Now, the work begins. Although small colleges have been able to make great strides toward climate neutrality, that goal is more difficult for large institutions. The University of Minnesota’s Morris campus, which was among the commitment’s charter signatories, gets a great deal of power from wind; Mr. Wolter says university officials believe that the rest of Minnesota likewise will move away from coal in time.

What may have been thought impossible a few months ago has now become an imperative.


It is interesting to see what our president has committed us to do. From the commitment website:

Accordingly, we commit our institutions to taking the following steps in pursuit of climate neutrality:


1. Initiate the development of a comprehensive plan to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible.


a. Within two months of signing this document, create institutional structures to guide the development and implementation of the plan.


b. Within one year of signing this document, complete a comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting, and air travel) and update the inventory every other year thereafter.


c. Within two years of signing this document, develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral, which will include:


i. A target date for achieving climate neutrality as soon as possible.

ii. Interim targets for goals and actions that will lead to climate neutrality.

iii. Actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students.

iv. Actions to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.

v. Mechanisms for tracking progress on goals and actions.


And also from the commitment:

In recognition of the need to build support for this effort among college and university administrations across America, we will encourage other presidents to join this effort and become signatories to this commitment.

This seems to contradict Mr. Wolter's statement concerning pronouncements from signers to other campuses about what they should be doing.

We apparently have a lot of work to do. Let's get on with it. Oh, and this is going to cost money. Let's be honest about that, too.

Ciao, Bonzo