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March 28, 2008

Live By the Sword, Die by the Sword?


Latest US News Rankings - Law School Slips

There seems to be some disagreement among OurLeaders about whether rankings matter.

On the one hand we have things like:

Under the leadership of Provost Sullivan, the University community articulated "an ambitious aspiration for the University—to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic] within a decade."

On the other hand we have:

"What separates the top three from the rest ... including the University of Minnesota, is relatively little."

Robert Bruininks

And on the third hand we have:

Vice President Brown noted that the President has said that the top three is an aspiration for excellence, not a destination.

But if you are going to use rankings in your favor, when they are good, you also have to acknowledge them when you have, shall we say, problems.

From the Pioneer-Planet::

The University of Minnesota Law School has slipped out of the top 20 in the influential rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, a move that could cost the university some prestige and make it tougher on law graduates seeking jobs.

The university now ranks 22nd among national law schools, according to the 2009 rankings due to be released today. That's down from a rank of 20 in 2008 and 19 in 2007.

While many experts attack the U.S. News rankings as a poor and superficial way to judge an institution's quality, the numbers carry tremendous weight with prospective students and law firms looking to hire top graduates. The university has promoted its law school as a "top 20" destination. In December, as it named David Wippman its new dean, the university referred to its law school as "consistently ranked in the top 20."

Yes, it's that time of year again, folks. The greatest educational hits of US News. Last year I gave an analysis of the results:

"The First Annual BonzoSummary (BS08) of BigU's Progress Toward Greatness"

After further analysis BS09 will be available, complete with information about how we are progressing toward our goal ( maybe our goal, see above) of becoming one of the top three public research universities. That would be in the world.

Don't you love the smell of hubris, early in the morning?



It's Mark Yudof - New UC System Leader

UC Regents appoint Mark Yudof as new president

Bay City News Service
Article Launched: 03/27/2008 04:35:19 PM PDT

The University of California Board of Regents voted unanimously today to appoint Mark Yudof, currently head of the University of Texas system, to lead the 10-campus UC system.

The appointment was made at a regents meeting at the UC San Francisco-Mission Bay campus.

Richard Blum, who chairs both the UC Board of Regents and the search committee, said in a statement, "I am delighted that Mark Yudof has agreed to lead the UC system and serve as its next president.

"I cannot think of a more qualified person to meet the day-to-day challenges and provide the long-term vision that is needed at this time in the university's history," said Blum.

Yudof, 63, will replace current UC President Robert Dynes, who last August announced his intention to step down no later than June 2008 after nearly five years in the position.

Yudof's appointment is effective this summer, with the exact date to be determined. He will get a compensation package valued at $828,000 for the 2008-09 academic year.

"I am deeply honored by this appointment. The University of California stands as a model for the world, creating tomorrow's leaders and innovators and helping to solve many of society's most pressing problems," Yudof said.

He added, "I can think of no greater personal privilege than to have the opportunity to lead this remarkable institution."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "The regents have made a terrific choice in selecting Mark Yudof to be the next president of the University of California. As one of the nation's most important and respected university leaders, Mr. Yudof has a proven record of great achievements'

"I am confident that his broad range of executive and academic expertise will serve the university and the people of California well," Schwarzenegger said of the appointee.

Yudof has served as chancellor of the University of Texas system since 2002 and UC officials describe him as one of the leading figures in American higher education.

He heads one of the largest university systems in the country with 15 campuses, 185,000 students and an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion.

Yudof previously was president of the University of Minnesota and a longtime faculty member, dean and provost at the University of Texas at Austin.

Before serving as chief executive in Texas and Minnesota, Yudof was a faculty member and administrator at University of Texas at Austin for 26 years.

Yudof, a native of Philadelphia, earned a bachelor's degree and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the American Law Institute, and a member of The President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, an appointment President Bush made in 2006.

The University of California includes more than 220,000 students, 170,000 faculty and staff, and an $18 billion annual budget at its 10 campuses throughout the state.

The UC system also is involved in managing the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories at Berkeley, Livermore and Los Alamos, N.M.

March 26, 2008

Iowa and Purdue Choose New Provosts

The Iowa search was mentioned earlier on this site: "Final Candidate for Provost Visits University of Iowa."

Short posts on the people hired may be found on the Periodic Table:

Loh Named New Iowa Provost

Purdue's Agriculture Dean [Randy Woodson] Named Provost

It looks as if our good neighbors have made fine choices. Congratulations to them.

Creationists Expel Our Man, PZ


This is rich. Go, PZ!

From City Pages:

Film producers don't recognize Richard Dawkins

Creationists block blogger, ignore top scientist

At a private screening hosted at the Mall of America theater last week, Mark Mathis, producer of a new documentary starring comedian Ben Stein that targets critics of intelligent design, resorted to drastic measures to keep critics of the film away: He enlisted mall security.

And it worked—sort of.

"I'm blogging this from the Apple Store at the Mall of America, because I'm too amused to wait," wrote University of Minnesota biology professor PZ Myers, a notorious and outspoken enemy of creationists everywhere. Myers appears in Mathis's film, and is thanked in the credits—but he was ejected at the theater door.

According to Myers, he was waiting in line with family and colleagues, having registered to attend the screening, when a security guard pulled him from the line and informed him that Mathis had instructed the theater not to allow Myers in.

The popular blogger and defender of evolutionary theory obliged, and headed straight for the nearest internet connection where he got right to blogging. It was not enough that he had been booted from a film he appeared in (and which is called...wait for it...Expelled), there was also this: "They didn't notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn't recognize him."

The guest was perhaps the world's best-known living evolutionary biologist: Richard Dawkins.

"He's in the theater right now, watching their movie," Myers wrote. "Tell me, are you laughing as hard as I am?" —Jeff Severns Guntzel

March 24, 2008

Mark Yudof to Head Cal System?

A Preview of Coming Attractions

From the Sacramento Bee:

Fortunately, in Mark Yudof, a search committee has tapped the right person to serve as the next University of California president.

Yudof, a first-rate constitutional scholar and teacher, has served as chancellor of the University of Minnesota system (1997 to 2002) and the University of Texas system (2002 to present). The University of California really needs someone from outside the system to bring in fresh ideas, fresh personnel and shake up old ways of doing business. Yudof is ideally suited to do that.

Yudof has shown himself to be a quick study, an extremely effective manager, an imaginative thinker and a savvy political leader in working with governors and legislators. Amazingly, he still teaches. He believes strongly in academic freedom and in shared governance with the faculty.

Yudof has been a master in fighting for public universities in the state budget process and in seeking revenues from elsewhere. He has sought endowed professorships, increased financial aid for students and encouraged research partnerships.

The regents vote on Yudof's selection on March 27. They should approve it with unanimous enthusiasm.

The stark contrast between Mark Yudof's words and actions and those of OurLeader makes it clear why Yudof is set to run the most prestigious state university system in the country. Later in the week we should know whether any snags develop over Yudof's moving to California. This will be the subject of another post.



(Who is back from a warm place in the sun, ready to work like crazy until the end of term, as are his students, hopefully.)

March 15, 2008

Leadership Matters

Georgia Tech President to Head Smithsonian

WASHINGTON (AP) -- -- The troubled Smithsonian Institution says it has chosen Georgia Tech President G. Wayne Clough as its new leader.

The Smithsonian Institution museum. nicknamed the Castle, is on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

Clough will assume control of the world's largest museum and research complex July 1.

Lawrence Small resigned as the Smithsonian's secretary a year ago amid an investigation into his spending.

The Smithsonian Institution also has been criticized for its business practices and how much it pays its executives.

Smithsonian board Chairman Roger Sant said in a statement that Clough will usher in a new era, "bringing a unique combination of academic achievement, talent, leadership skills and experience in public service, science, management and development."

Clough, 66, has served as president of Georgia Tech since 1994 and has degrees in civil engineering. He is credited with transforming the Atlanta school into a top 10 public university, boosting spending on research and raising nearly $1.5 billion.

He previously held high-level posts at the University of Washington and Virginia Tech and taught at Stanford and Duke universities.

"During his remarkable career, Wayne has shown an ability to dramatically advance the institutions and constituencies he has served," said Alan Spoon, a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents and chairman of the search committee.

There are many interesting aspects of this story. I know people at the Smithsonian, both in the arts and the sciences, who were destroyed by Small's behavior as he tried to make the national treasure more like a business. It is telling that an academic has been chosen to replace Small. Perhaps there is a difference between a university and a business, something that seems to be poorly understood around here lately, at least by administrators.

Tuition is not simply a revenue pool that can be increased at will in order to cover budgetary shortfalls. What OurLeader said at Crookston about tuiton stabilization should be said in the Twin Cities and at the state legislature.

It is also telling that the president of Georgia Tech is credited by the story with having raised the Georgia Tech to be in the top ten public universities. No small feat. This was accomplished in part by recruiting U of M faculty members. I don't recall Georgia Tech trumpeting "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three research universities in the world [sic]."

Actions speak louder than marketing campaigns.

OurLeader Lobbies Outstate

Promises to Stabilize Tution, Limit Increase to One Percent
--- At University of Minnesota, Crookston

From the Grand Forks Herald

By David Dodds, Herald Staff Writer


In his first visit to University of Minnesota-Crookston in 16 months, Bruininks thanked the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce for its strong support of the bill that uses higher gas taxes and motorist fees to fund $6.6 billion over 10 years to fix high-priority bridges and provide basic transportation needs throughout the state.

Legislators overrode Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto last month to pass the transportation bill.

The UM system, with its five campus — Twin Cities, Crookston, Duluth, Rochester and Morris — aren’t in the clear, though.

Bruininks is tussling with Pawlenty and his proposal to cut about $27 million from the system’s budget. The Minnesota State Colleges and University system would sustain similar cuts under the governor’s plan.

Pawlenty has said the amount is small considering what the UM system spends in a year, but Bruininks contends it would affect all aspects of the system, from its ability to conduct research to scholarship funding.

In Crookston, Bruininks reiterated his promise to increase student tuition “only as a last resort? when trying to offset cuts in state funding.

Bruininks said UM students, including those in Crookston, have seen back-to-back years with tuition of hikes totaling about 14 percent.

Stabilize tuition

The president used the UMC campus to indicate his concern for the enrollment impact continued steep tuition increases might have.

He pointed to successes that UMC has experienced recently, including this past spring’s 1,072 full-time degree-seeking students, a 13 percent increase over the previous year.

“We’re starting to make forward progress here,? Bruininks said, “and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that.?

If it does reach a point where tuition must be raised, Bruininks said he’d fight to limit it to 1 percent to 1½ percent — considerably less than the most recent hikes.

“We want to get it a back to more stable,? he said.

March 14, 2008

Final Candidate for Provost Visits University of Iowa

Or, Five Strong Outside Candidates Interviewed

The University of Iowa will select a new Provost by the end of the month from a field that includes Dr. Arlene Carney, a current U of M administrator. The new Iowa president, Sally Mason - previously at Purdue - will announce her decision shortly. Three of the finalists are women, so the final top administrative positions at the U of I could both be held by women. One of the finalists, Camilla Benbow, is also one of three finalists for the provost position at Purdue.

Of the schools in the BigTen that we might be able to overcome in our long climb to greatness, Purdue and Iowa seem to be the next rungs on the ladder. So it would be wise to observe their activities. Iowa, in particular, seems to have done very well in the last few years in selecting top administrators. The last two presidents at Iowa have gone on to head Michigan and Cornell, and the last provost left to become president of UConn. Good eye, Hawks.

At the U of M, both of our current top administrators have been internal candidates. The last presidential search was marred by a row over secrecy. The University under court order was finally forced to disclose the names of candidate finalists. Let's just say the list was not impressive. Perhaps in the future getting some new energy and ideas from outside would be a good idea? One effect of having an open process is that selection committees will need to come up with a slate of candidates that can stand public scrutiny.

From the Des Moines Register:

Seattle U dean and Grinnell grad is U of I provost finalist

The University of Iowa's fifth and last finalist for the position of provost is Wallace D. Loh, dean of Seattle University's College of Arts and Sciences, the U of I announced today.

Loh, who is also a professor of public service and psychology, will visit the U of I campus Wednesday and Thursday.

Before becoming Seattle University's dean of arts and sciences in 1999, Loh was director of policy for Washington Governor Gary Locke. Loh was also vice chancellor for academic affairs and law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1995-1997. He was dean of the University of Washington Law School from 1990-1995. He worked in law firms in New York and San Francisco.

Loh was born in China and raised in Peru. He speaks Spanish, Chinese and French. Loh received his bachelor's degree from Grinnell College.

The U of I is seeking to replace former provost Michael Hogan, who was named University of Connecticut president in August. Loh is the last of five finalists to visit Iowa City.

The others are:

Robert J. Sternberg, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and psychology professor at Tufts University

Suzanne Ortega, vice provost and graduate dean at the University of Washington

Arlene Carney, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Camilla Persson Benbow, dean of education and human development at Vanderbilt University.

March 13, 2008

Our Leader Points His Finger at the Governor for Tuition Increases. First, Look in the Mirror?


Or, Bruininks Threatens Governor With (Larger) Tuition Increase

From the Minnesota Daily:

Bruininks: Governor's budget plan could raise tuition

By Jake Grovum

While additional tuition hikes would be his "last resort," University President Bob Bruininks said with proposed state funding cuts to higher education looming, it might be the only option.

A $27 million cut to the University from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's plan to solve the state's $935 million deficit problem, would have dire consequences for the University, Bruininks said at a House Higher Education and Workforce Development Policy and Finance Division hearing Wednesday.

"If the cut's this deep, tuition must be a part of the solution," he said. "Tuition will be the last resort, and I'm hoping we don't have to go there."

With a proposed 5 percent tuition increase for middle-income students set to take effect next year, Bruininks said there needs to be cooperation to keep higher education affordable.

"To put higher education in front of the parade, in terms of cuts, is just not a very smart strategy," he said.

Keep it up, Bob. Look at the posting right below this one.

Eventually the governor and the state legislature are going to get tired of this little game you have been playing.

Tuition is not simply an adjustable parameter that you can fudge in order to make your budget come out right. You are going to have to start committing to stabilize tuition. We are way out of line compared to our legitimate competition.

If this means cutting back on so-called central administration initiatives or your absurd "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]," so be it.

You said in your state of the university address that this was a land grant institution. It is long past time for you to start walking the talk.

March 12, 2008

State college costs twice U.S. average

Minnesota students pay more out of pocket, even with grants and other aid

From the Pioneer Press:

Even with a generous state grant program and other financial aid, the net cost of a public college education in Minnesota is nearly twice the national average.

That's a key finding in a new report by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, which notes some families are paying a big chunk of their annual income to finance their kids' education.

The numbers might not shock anyone who has paid a tuition bill recently. Charges have more than doubled in a decade at the University of Minnesota and in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. Still, the data show that even with grants and scholarships, Minnesota is an expensive place to attend a public college or university.

And it may get even more expensive soon because colleges and universities may be pressured to reset tuition increases higher this fall to help close a projected billion-dollar state budget gap.

Among its findings, the Office of Higher Education discovered:

-- Net tuition and fees — an amount minus state grants and other aid — for first-year, full-time students in 2005-06 were $4,720 at Minnesota's public universities, about twice the national average and slightly higher than its Big Ten peer states. Minnesota's two-year schools showed similar patterns.

-- Two-thirds of seniors graduating from the state's public universities had student loan debt in 2006, and that debt averaged $21,000 — both numbers higher than the average of Big Ten states.

March 11, 2008

Grassley on Washing the Dishes

“Tuition has gone up, college presidents’ salaries have gone up, and endowments continue to go up and up,? Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, wrote in a letter to the [best-endowed] colleges. “We need to start seeing tuition relief for families go up just as fast. It’s fair to ask whether a college kid should have to wash dishes in the dining hall to pay his tuition when his college has a billion dollars in the bank.?

Boston Globe

[The U of M currently has an endowment of 2.8 billion dollars.]

March 10, 2008

Viable Alternatives to The Washington Avenue Tunnel?

If neither the law nor the facts are on your side, shout a lot...

Mr. John Dewitt has an interesting piece in the StarTribune today. He is a retired financial systems analyst living in neighboring Prospect Park. In 1995, he was one of the founding members of Transit for Livable Communities.

Soapboxes spring up over transit-mall plan


March 9, 2008

There's an old saying that if the facts are on your side, use them, and if the law is on your side, use it, but if neither is on your side, shout a lot.

That may help explain all the shouting since the Metropolitan Council chose a transit mall as the preferred option for light rail on Washington Avenue through the University of Minnesota campus.

The university's approach to this issue has been most disappointing.

As an institution funded largely by Minnesota taxpayers, the U owed Minnesotans an objective analysis of the viable alternatives to a $200 million tunnel.

I first heard the school's arguments nearly a year ago. There was one option, a tunnel, and the arguments were weak. I kept waiting to hear about other options and for better arguments. But the arguments only became more strident. Last summer, I learned that a tunnel was probably too expensive and that a surface alignment for light rail might be necessary.

In mid-January, with the decision day barely a month away, I learned of Minneapolis' growing concern that the university still had no "plan B." At the last minute, the U came up with an alternative, the northern alignment. But it was much too late for any meaningful analysis of an option that knowledgeable planners believed had little chance of obtaining federal approval.

A number of the U's concerns about a surface alignment fail to withstand the slightest scrutiny. For example, the U pictures a Washington Avenue littered with the bodies of dazed students struck down by light-rail trains. But if we look at the two busiest pedestrian nodes on the Hiawatha Line -- the Nicollet Mall and the Metrodome when a game lets out -- we find zero incidents in 3 1/2 years of operation. The existing traffic on Washington is far more threatening.

There are some points to consider in favor of a transit mall:

When Salt Lake City extended its light-rail line, TRAX, through the University of Utah campus, 6,000 parking spaces were eliminated. The University of Minnesota has done a commendable job of growing transit's modal split, but there's always room for improvement. If the U eliminated that many parking spaces, it would eliminate at least 12,000 trips to and from the campus each day.

Instead, the U appears committed to a "no net loss" parking policy. It can and must do better.

A majority of the traffic to the U comes off of our freeway system, suggesting opportunities to intercept and reroute it.

Every destination on Washington Avenue has an alternate means of access, even though it may be less convenient.

The U would no longer have its mall divided by an urban arterial for cars, complete with a jersey barrier topped by a fence.

I understand that the U has hired a Boston landscape architecture firm to develop plans for how Washington Avenue might look and work as a transit mall. Let's see what the firm comes up with, and then we can discuss how that vision will be destroyed if Washington must accommodate heavy car traffic.

At some point, we need to stop planning as if it were still 1950 and start planning for 2050.

It's called leadership, John. It has been lacking at the university in this instance as well as many others. Foot-dragging, whining, and in general being uncooperative - this is not how to win friends and influence people...

And I am sure you know, John, since you live in Prospect Park, that the university's view of parking is colored green. The U has a built in conflict of interest in this matter. Follow the money...

March 7, 2008

In Order To Solve Problems, First You Have To Understand Them


OurLeader's State of the University Address (2008)

Being driven to discover I was in my lab with five undergrads on Thursday afternoon when this much heralded event occurred. For some of the things we do, students need direct supervision. It would have been nice to attend and ask OurLeader questions, e.g. "What happened to Folwell Hall?" Maybe next year...

The Daily reports on the address:

University President Bob Bruininks delivered his sixth-annual State of the University address to roughly 250 people Thursday afternoon at the Mayo Auditorium.

A focus on the University's goal to become one of the top public research universities dominated the speech.

The president played off the famous tale of a Dutch boy who plugged a sea wall with his finger, saving his village from a flood.

"The tide is rising on all sides," he said. "We can plug the holes we see and pray for the flood to retreat, or welcome the water and rise with it."


[A Rising Tide Lifts All Ice Floes]

Bruininks thanked state officials for their support of the University's biomedical research program.

Bruininks didn't discuss the Folwell Hall renovations that were left out of the bills.

Bruininks acknowledged tuition affordability as a continuing challenge for the University. Although scholarship support for low-income students has increased in recent years, there should be more focus on students between extreme income brackets, he said.

"Middle-income families bear the brunt of any increase in tuition and fees," he said. "We must strive to create a consistent and substantial level of scholarship and grant support for all middle-income Minnesota students."

Brett Bennett, a neuroscience and biochemistry senior, said he came to the speech to hear what Bruininks had to say about the University's strategic positioning plan.

Bennett, one of roughly 10 students at the event, said low student turnout could result from some students' busy schedules - but some just don't care, he said.

Bennett said he saw a lot of advertising for the speech.

During the question-and-answer session that followed the address, Bruininks was asked how he liked being the University's president.

Bruininks said it's been one of the best jobs he's ever had, but it's one he can't do forever.

The University benefits from creativity and fresh ideas that come with turnover
, he said.

March 6, 2008

Uthink, IThink, What Does Vice-President Brown Think?


I'm from Central and I'm here to help.
Please, tell me what is on your mind?


"Vice President Brown noted that the President has said that the top three is an aspiration for excellence, not a destination."

Faculty Consultative Committee, Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vice President Brown began by telling the Committee she had no formal agenda or particular issues to bring up but that she did want to make a few comments about strategic positioning. Her visit is primarily so she can listen and learn about issues of concern, both about strategic positioning and because President Bruininks has now been in office for five years: are there things they should be paying attention to?

Professor Durfee then recalled that the Committee had received a checklist from the Provost with all of the recommendations from the task forces and the status of each one. One had the impression that if all the items were checked off as completed, the University would be among the top three. What she has been talking about sounds more strategic. Will the Committee receive another checklist from the Provost? Vice President Brown said while she could not speak for the Provost, she doubted another such list would be prepared.

Professor Windsor commented that about half of the list of items Vice President Brown enumerated require money. Where will the funds come from? Who decides how to allocate the money? Given that the source of funds is finite, who decides how much will go to each unit?

Professor Windsor said it was her impression that compacts tend to keep the operations adequate, which is not the same as moving to the top three. There needs to be a large influx of funding to move to the top three. Vice President Brown responded that money is not necessary to do everything; the University also needs to change how it thinks about some things (for example, carrying out the administration of the institution more efficiently and effectively so that more money is available for academic activities).

Professor Elliott said that around this table over the last several years the Committee has talked about the perception that strategic positioning started out on a broad scope with a lot of participation, but as they see decisions made and where investments are made, the process is led from the top and people are told what to do. How are faculty involved in these decisions? Is the process administration-led or have they found ways for everyone to work together? Vice President Brown said she hoped that everyone was working together.

Professor Dahlberg followed up on Professor Windsor's line of questions. Across the country, state funds for public universities are declining and there is nothing to indicate that pattern will change. Those in the trenches want the University to move up in the rankings, but that takes money.

In terms of resources, as all units using resources as effectively and efficiently they can, are they the right size, and do they have the appropriate staff? She [Brown] said she is not suggesting that any unit has too much money, but when one talks about making choices, one must be sure that units are using money effectively and efficiently. That is the point of accountability.

In terms of bottom-up versus top-down, Professor Chomsky said, no one is talking about the connections between the task forces and the proposals now. It would make a difference to the faculty to be able to see the connections. Everyone recognizes that the University cannot do everything at once, but there is a sense that after all the task force recommendations, everything is now administratively-driven. Vice President Brown said she could not agree.

Professor Durfee said the Committee has heard over and over about the importance of supporting core disciplines and that perhaps there should be less emphasis on central investments in new multidisciplinary centers if they come at the expense of supporting the core. Vice President Brown said she understands the message but since she is not an academic officer she would not try to respond but rather would pass the message to the President.

Professor Wambach said that if everyone must do better with no additional funding, how can the institution see faculty productivity gains? Faculty have the same number of classes, the same amount of time needed for advisees, the same demands for grant-getting, and so on. Where will an increase in productivity come? Faculty are at the limit of the amount of time they have to spend, and the money can't come from the supply budgets—cutting the number of paperclips won't help much. How will the University get to the top three with the horses it has? Vice President Brown said she would again defer on answering but would communicate the message to the President.

It is a question of priorities when there is a fixed amount of money, Professor Dahlberg said. The bottom line is that any great university is a great faculty, reflected in Nobels, membership in the national academies, etc. As public funding declines, the University must develop the private-university model-and there are no large private universities. They focus on some number of core departments. He went on to say that his experience on the budget-model subcommittee led him to conclude that in the view of many the budget model is convoluted with strategic positioning and so many of the comments from people the committee interviewed dealt more with strategic positioning rather than the new budget model. In those comments no dean north of Washington Avenue believes that he or she gained resources with the budget model.

Professor Durfee suggested, apropos the top-three goal, that as the University proceeds, there may be a change in goals and the endpoint may not define them. Vice President Brown noted that the President has said that the top three is an aspiration for excellence, not a destination.

That last piece of doublespeak says it all.

And so it goes.

These issues have been on the table for several years now as anyone who reads minutes from such committee meetings is well aware.

The concerns have been consistently ignored by our central administration.

Occasionally they will stop by and enthusiastically thank faculty members for their input. Or send some poor soul like Vice President Brown to serve as flak catcher.

Meanwhile, OurLeader and OurProvost motor along making claims of varying intensity about "ambitious aspirations to become one of top three public universities in the world [sic]." This nonsense continues unabated witness OurLeader's recent state of the university address. Such pomposity is laughable given our present situation. Does OurLeader think that faculty do not know what resources would be required for this ambitious aspiration? Or is this merely a cynical ploy to try to extract more money from the state legislature?

Let's commit to being one of the better universities in the BigTen.

March 5, 2008

UThink, IThink, Who Knows What OurProvost Thinks?


Yesterday I received an email about the latest decision concerning the blog formerly known as Conversations - the one OurProvost promised us last September (2007).

from Katherine Himes to bgleason@umn.edu

date 04 Mar 2008 10:34:59 -0600

subject Re: Provost Academic Update

Dear Bill,

After much consideration, we have decided not to launch a blog at this time.


Katherine Himes, Ph.D. (on behalf of Provost Sullivan)

Sad. And what a glorious idea it was. As of November 30th the following entry could be found on OurProvost's blog on UThink. The next day the entry was gone, but the template hung there for months like an empty suit. Now, even the empty suit is gone.


In the spirit of strategic positioning, and exploring new methods of communication, I have decided to launch a blog. I plan to make biweekly entries into the blog, on such topics as:

Law (as former dean of the Law School and a faculty member, this is of particular interest to me)

Art and design (a personal passion)

Travel (currently, I am planning a trip to Italy)

Twin Cities Culture (we are so fortunate to have such resources as the Guthrie Theater, Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra)

The strategic positioning effort, “Transforming the U? (of course!)

Academic initiatives and trends

Other personal observations

We’ll moderate blog submissions for relevance and redundancy, but we hope for a free exchange of thought, thought-provoking, and wide-ranging entries. We hope our experiment with a blog will be successful, but we need your help. Please join the conversation!

Upon reflection, OurProvost seems to prefer one-sided conversations. As with other university matters, the Bruininks/Sullivan regime is a lot better at the talk than the walk.

If OurProvost blogs some crank might publicly question him about the administration's "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research institutions in the world [sic]."

We couldn't have a thought-provoking, free exchange of ideas on a topic like that could we? Those kinds of conversations take place at top universities. Tom? Bob?

Memento Mori.

March 4, 2008

Footsteps on the Path to Greatness

U of M Gets Major Collection
-- of comic books

MinnPost Reports:

By Judith Yates Borger | Monday, March 3, 2008

The University of Minnesota Elmer Andersen Library is taking custody of a major comic book collection. There were about 130 boxes, each holding maybe 250 comics. The comics are being catalogued and valued now, but the collection's worth is likely to be well into six figures. Who bought all of these comic books in the first place? My husband.

Biomedical facilities funding debated

From the Daily:

By Jake Grovum

Even with a projected $935 million budget deficit for the state on the horizon, the University is asking for nearly $520 million between its capital bonding request and biomedical research program.

Many have hailed it as a potential boost to the economy - creating jobs and expanding the biomedical industry in Minnesota - but some take issue with the project's cost.

With the budget deficit looming, funds are tight at the Capitol, Chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Policy and Finance Division Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said.

"To me it's a question of fairness," Rukavina said at a Capital Investment Finance Division hearing last week. "I ask for a lot of things at Christmas too, but I don't get them."

Between funding for the stadium, another University medical project in Rochester and the biomedical research plan, Rukavina's committee would carry $70 million per biennium in the higher education committee, funds "that could go for a lot of other things," he said.

At the hearing last week, a number of representatives from research firms like Medtronic spoke in support of the bill on the University's behalf, but they also stand to gain from the project.

Under the legislation, the University would be required to make the labs available to research firms for a fee, and would forfeit patent rights to discoveries that "do not involve its innovative intellectual contributions."

With the cost of the project taking center stage of late, and private interests set to potentially benefit, the lack of private funds directly involved in the program could be an issue.

The Capital Investment Finance Committee included the request in the bonding bill, and the House is expected to debate it on Thursday.

March 3, 2008

Regents Professor Emeritus, Dominick Argento

Another National Treasure at Minnesota

Margaret Soltan, in her blog University Diaries, writes:

The other piece on the program was the world premiere of Dominick Argento’s Evensong in memory of his wife. UD cried at the end: two neatly symmetical tears, one out of each eye. She thinks it’s because of some of the words Argento wrote:

"[P]ray that an angel will stir up our hearts, will trouble our souls and move us to comfort the afflicted… [T]he gift of love comes at the cost of everything we are, and all that we will ever be. Giving it is the greatest blessing within our power."

March 2, 2008

How to Circumvent State Bonding Regulations

Or, Flim Flam Revealed

Mr. Michael W. McNabb has called this situation to my attention. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota (B.A., 1971, J.D., 1974) and a lifetime member of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association. I have posted some material on the Periodic Table quoting him directly on the matter. I thank him for the information and permission to attribute it.

A questionable gimmick has been used in the past to circumvent limitations on state bonding authority.

The way this stunt works is that so-called University bonds are issued for this purpose. These beauties are paid from state revenues but they do not have the usual full faith and credit guarantee. If the state finds itself unable to pay, then the university is obligated to make up the difference.

And of course the University's source of revenue is...tuition!

The bonding session last Tuesday concluded in less than an hour and one billion dollars was approved without any input from persons who wished to testify.

During the bill's oral summary by staff, it was announced that bonding for the proposed biomedical research facilities would use the same mechanism as previously used for the stadium. Snickers and laughter could clearly be heard from the committee table.

The State does not have two tubs of money. One for football or soup du jour, and the other for the academic mission of the university. No one flagged this stunt for the football stadium so it is a fait accompli.

But now someone has finally blown the whistle:

"There is no doubt that these buildings would be part of the state's overall debt obligations and should be treated accordingly," he [Minnesota Finance Commissioner Tom Hanson] wrote to lawmakers, adding that "this proposal would appropriate roughly a half-billion dollars over more than 25 years without any further oversight."

Whether this attempt to circumvent statutory bonding limitations will be tolerated for a second time is an interesting question.

March 1, 2008

UThink, IThink, What Does Dr. Warren Warwick Think?

Of Driven to Discover

Professor Warwick thanked Vice President O'Brien for mentioning teaching.

He said he was offended by "Driven to Discover" — who is driving the University?

It should have teaching and discovery. The major point of the University is to teach students, the state, and the nation.

Who's behind "Driven to Discover"? It could apply to 3M as well as the University.

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who is Dr. Warren Warrick?

He is one of the truly great faculty members at the University of Minnesota. He is responsible for our position as one of the premiere medical institutions in the world for the treatment of cystic fibrosis. And no, this is the real deal, and not just another Driven to Discover marketing claim.

For further information, please see Atul Gawande's New Yorker piece on the Bell Curve, where Dr. Warwick figures prominently.

UThink, IThink, What Does Dr. Carney Think?

It is always interesting to learn about the opinions of administrators on university matters. Some of them change their positions from what they said earlier to something different when they get into a position where they can do damage.

OurLeader changing his position on General College is an example of this phenomenon.

So it is interesting to hear what Arlene Carney, our current Vice-Provost, has to say in her campaign to become Provost at the University of Iowa.

The Daily Iowan reports:

Provost finalist touches on legislative funding and scholarships By Ashton Shurson - The Daily Iowan Issue date: 2/29/08

Carney said the first challenge facing higher education today is providing access to students without the ability to pay. Public research universities, she argued, must provide more scholarships to students.

"Receiving scholarships was a critical factor for me," said Carney, who came from a family with a welder father and a stay-at-home mom. "We want to make [less well off students] believe they belong."

Secondly, Carney said public research universities should have student bodies, faculty, and staff that look like the United States demographically.

"All of our students are living and working in a more diverse world," Carney said. "It's our job is to lead them in this world regardless of their backgrounds."

Following her speech, audience members had a chance to ask questions. One asked if there was anything really distinct to Carney about the UI. Carney cited the UI Writer's Workshop and the balance of focus between the liberal arts and sciences and the medical school.

The University of Iowa is apparently looking for a provost who can get along well with students, staff and faculty. Their previous provost is now the president of UConn. Their last president - the one who went to Cornell - was also pretty down to earth.