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April 30, 2008

No Pinocchios

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MPR Reports:

DFL Rep. Alice Hausman of St. Paul has been wearing a button that has a picture of Pinocchio with a circle and a red line through it.

Hausman said she was wearing the button with the hopes that everyone negotiates in good faith over the final weeks of the session. She wouldn't say when asked if the button was directed at the University of Minnesota and Governor Pawlenty.

The U of M has been raising some hackles in recent weeks because of its shifting stance on the Central Corridor Light Rail Line. Governor Pawlenty vetoed funding for Central Corridor in the bonding bill but included the proposal in his latest budget offer.

Ambitious Aspirations, or

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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."


Institutions With Newly Elected (2008) National Academy of Science Members


Berkeley 3
University of Texas – Austin 3

Arizona State 2
U Washington 2
UCLA 2
UC – Santa Barbara 2
UCSD 2

Oregon State 1
Maryland 1
UCSF 1
UC – Santa Cruz 1
Indiana University 1
Oregon Health & Sciences University 1
Michigan 1
University of Texas – Southwestern 1
Wisconsin 1


Minnesota has 13 members (total). In the last ten years we have had 2 elected - Professors Tilman and Goldman. Wisconsin has a total of 44 members. In the last ten years they have had 19 new members elected.

"I've heard some of the 'doubters' say things like, 'I'd settle for best in the Big Ten," he [Bruininks] said. "Students don't choose the University of Minnesota for (a) mediocre future."

If this isn't hubris, Bob, I don't know what is. We'd be extremely fortunate to be one of the best schools in the BigTen. Get real. Continuing on with this third best public research university in the universe stuff is an embarrassment and only serves to make you look foolish. Wake up and smell the fair trade coffee.

April 29, 2008

Letter of the day: Light rail on Washington Av. makes most sense

From the Star-Tribune:



A representative of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association (letter, April 26) inaccurately implied that the Metropolitan Council initially approved a plan for the Central Corridor light-rail transit line that included a tunnel under Washington Avenue. That simply is not accurate.

In June 2006, when the council approved a recommendation for LRT on University and Washington avenues, Chairman Peter Bell warned that the cost of the project would have to come down if it were to meet federal cost-effectiveness requirements and win federal matching funds essential for construction. Chairman Bell specifically said that a tunnel, costing $200 million or more, was one of several features that would have to be carefully scrutinized during preliminary engineering.

Further study determined that a tunnel simply was too expensive, but that light rail would work on Washington Avenue as part of a transit-pedestrian mall. The university countered by resurrecting the so-called "northern alignment" through Dinkytown. Bell agreed to listen to the U's arguments, but warned that making such a major change in the alignment would likely delay the project for a year and add at least $40 million in inflationary costs.

It is important to understand that the northern alignment is one of dozens of options that had been carefully evaluated and rejected years earlier during the corridor "alternatives analysis," which was led by Ramsey County.

It's clear that during the last two decades, "all of the options" for improved transit in the Central Corridor have been studied and the best one has emerged -- a light-rail line with an auto-free, transit-pedestrian mall on Washington Avenue.

STEVEN DORNFELD, ST. PAUL; PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR, METROPOLITAN COUNCIL



I think that Peter Bell has done his job, and very well. Isn't it about time for you to start doing yours, Bob?

April 28, 2008

Further Evidence of an Old Maxim

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"Watch What They Do Rather Than Listen to What They Say."

The Pioneer Planet has an interesting article today
concerning the activities of university attorney Rotenberg, President Bruininks, and VP O'Brien in support of the Central Corridor project.

The public good, my foot...

Light Rail - Smoke, Mirrors...

And Other Avoidance Mechanisms

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When you can't win an argument based on its merits, make a lot of noise and point elsewhere.

Today we have another vaguely threatening op-ed from the University administration.

What, exactly, is the point of this article? Well, the university does not want light rail at grade on Washington Avenue for a variety of reasons, none of which seem to stand up to serious scrutiny.

People who know anything about urban planning seem to think that light rail at grade along Washington Avenue with a pedestrian mall would be a very good idea for the next 100 years. Many holding this opinion are faculty and staff at the university. The administration wants light rail so much that it lobbied the state and the feds against funding:


Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he vetoed funding for the Central Corridor light rail line in part because of concerns expressed by the University of Minnesota. Top university officials have been voicing their concerns to state and federal officials.

It looked as if the route was not going to go where they wanted it. Their arguments against it have been oblique and vague and this smokescreen continues today in an op-ed in the Pioneer Press:

Enhance transportation, but be sure to protect neighborhoods, too

By Kathleen O'Brien

There is probably an image of the University of Minnesota that persists in the collective memory of those who were here 10 to 20 years ago — of long registration lines winding through Fraser Hall; long lines of cars waiting, sometimes for more than one hour, to get into a parking lot; and classrooms that were sorely in need of renovation.

And a four year graduation rate of 18%...


All that has changed at the university over the years: registration can now be done online and the university has made a big investment in modernizing its buildings and improving the educational environment.

Ah, excuse me please but where was good old Folwell Hall in the last session at the legislature? And how many years did it take the U to step up to the plate on the Science Classroom Building? And how much attention did they pay to the faculty members who actually use the building? Look at what they do, not what they say. Claims continue to be made about huge advances. But this supposed huge change comes by comparison to an abysmal baseline. Our graduation rates are still near the bottom of the BigTen and the lowest of the administration's peer comparison group.


The parking situation has improved tremendously over the past 20 years, too, largely due to the university's strong commitment to provide transportation alternatives for all coming to the U and investments that enhance service and accessibility to and around campus.


Today, two-thirds of the university's daily commuters bus, carpool, bike or walk to and from campus. Twenty thousand students use the U-Pass program, a university-subsidized program that provides unlimited transit rides at greatly reduced fares; 2,000 employees use a similar program. The university also provides free shuttle service between its East Bank, West Bank, and St. Paul campuses, including express buses.

That's why it is vitally important that the Central Corridor enhance the region's transportation system while protecting the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses.

And so when you are really desperate, start talking about damage that will be done to local business if things don't go your way. Somehow this concern about local business didn't seem to be there when the stadium was sited? And Dinkytown was basically destroyed a few years ago with many businesses going under. And that was ok? Now all of a sudden we see crocodile tears from the U administration about small businesses.

The university community is heavily dependent upon transit. We and our partners are obligated to provide safe and functional access to and from the university campus for the 80,000 people who come to campus daily as well as the half million people who visit the hospital and clinics just off Washington Avenue annually and the hundreds of thousands who come to campus for arts and cultural events and scholarly meetings.

A well-planned Central Corridor line would enhance the university and the surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. After all, it's a decision that we'll have to live with for the next 100 years.


That's right VP O'Brien.

So why don't we have an honest discussion of what would happen if light rail went down Washington Avenue at grade.

The argument always seems to start with the premise that somewhere else is better. Then we move on to the one about the Washington Avenue route being dangerous. Then the U Hospitals will starve.

And of course you can always get consultants, sufficiently well paid, to say anything you want. With current behavior at the U the public should be skeptical of assertions made by the Morrill Hall crew.

How is it that the cost differential estimate by the Met Council for the Northern Route differed from what the University administration claims? It is obvious that anyone hired by the university to do a study on this situation would know the desired outcome.

Yes the U has an image problem, as alluded to in the first paragraph of your article.

There are some pretty good reasons for this. Go over to Northrup and read the inscription on the building and think about it.


April 25, 2008

Top Pay at The U - Faculty

Some of them actually make more than assistant football coaches:

Cicchetti, Dante $384,851

Kehoe, Patrick James $321,172

Tonry, Michael H $300,000

Chari, Varadarajan V $295,605

Wolf, Susan M $286,400

Kocherlakota, Narayana $277,221

Rios-Rull, Jose Victor $275,000

Rustichini, Aldo $275,000

Kehoe, Timothy J $270,000

Sainfort, Francois $265,000.00

Emma Carew has a nice spreadsheet at the Daily. Unfortunately Minnpost misread it, but I'm sure this will be corrected. They had the top salary listed as $169 K - but that is only for an assistant professor..

[Added later: Curiously they removed the $169K figure but did not replace it with the $385K. Maybe they figured the casual reader might think it was a misprint?]


Also gender equity comes to mind. It appears that there is only one woman on this list. Maybe next year we should raise Julie Jacko's salary to this range. After all, she is a star, so we've been told. And poor Francois Sainfort. If he had this information last October, he could have negotiated a higher salary. When he starts working full time, he can argue for a big raise, too.

[My apologies for being so cynical, but recent events around here have just been too much.]

"Ambitious aspiration to be one of the third best public research universities in the world [sic]"

And the consequences are:

a) See our new power couple
b) See below

From the Daily:

Research becoming priority for higher salary

By Emma Carew

Aassociate professor of piano Paul Shaw recently learned, much to his surprise, that his salary is much lower than the average of others at his rank.

"I always thought that my salary was on the low end," Shaw said. "But I didn't know it was that low."

Shaw said although he is in a tenured position, his salary is about $30,000 less than the $82,543 average for associate professors, and it is also lower than the average for assistant professors, as reported by the Daily on Tuesday.

"People don't really care whether or not you can teach," he said, "so long as you have this high profile reputation in your field as a doer."

There is a disconnect between the administration's "lip service" of how important teaching is, Shaw said, and where the money actually goes.

"There are people who are excellent teachers and they bend over backward for their students," he said. "The money doesn't go toward that."

Shaw said he once sat on a search committee for an opening for assistant professor, an entry-level rank; it was an experience he found somewhat embarrassing.

"They're offering a base salary of more than what I'm making," he said. "I pointed it out to my unit director, and I noticed that I haven't been asked to serve on any search committees since."

When the writing studies department was created two years ago, it combined teaching specialists from the old General College program with lecturers from the now-defunct rhetoric department and the English department.

According to an instructor in the department, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job because of his annual renewable one-year contract, the teaching staff that came from the General College are being paid between $5,000 and $10,000 more per year than those who came from rhetoric and English.

Although the first-year writing program was touted by the administration as an integral aspect of the strategic positioning plan, the instructor said he feels like it was a hollow priority because pay equity doesn't seem to be part of the plan.

"At this University, this is a dead end job," he said.


Teaching staff who fall into the professional and administrative category end up teaching three or four classes a semester, Sirc said, because they aren't expected to conduct research.

"Four courses a semester can lead to burn out," he said. "It's an unfortunate implication for students."

But for whatever reason, inequities do exist within colleges and departments, Stenhjem said.

Human resources and industrial relations professor John Fossum said the University may be leaning toward higher levels of classes taught by adjunct, part-time and non-tenure-track faculty in order to free up tenured and tenure-track professors for revenue-generating research.

As state funding for public institutions dries up, Fossum said universities have to be able to increase funding from other sources, such as research productivity and tuition.

"The hiring of part time faculty is a way of increasing productivity in terms of generating student credit hours," he said.

Fossum said it's often difficult to judge good teaching, but that it's much easier to measure research productivity.

Sirc said he would hope that, despite the pressure for emphasis on research, faculty members are still striving to be great teachers.

"I would hope that the value (of good teaching) is priceless," he said
.

Bob, Tom? You've been strangely quiet on these issues...

Emma - you're on a roll. Keep up the good work. Maybe you could do the Rappin with Robert bit next year? He'd know he was in a hardball game.

April 24, 2008

Meanwhile, In That Alternate Universe

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AHC News Capsules

April 23, 2008

This has been a difficult week for the University's health sciences as two of our recent top recruits face significant charges of wrongdoing by their former university employer. We are committed to learning all the facts before making any decisions or public comment here; however, this incident already provides us with an opportunity to reflect and learn.

Within this increasingly competitive environment of academia, we are playing on a new field of endeavor that has rules and procedures all its own. We're learning those rules, and working to compete effectively as we seek to attract high performers who can augment the significant talent already here. We're learning that there are great strengths within this institution in our evolving corridors of discovery that are acting as a talent magnet drawing faculty to come join the activity taking place. We're learning that the promise of new research buildings and investment in our core service platforms are attractions to talented faculty and staff. And we're learning once again that the most important assets we have in the Academic Health Center are all of you - it's your relationships, your reputation, your work that are the primary draws bringing national and international attention to the University of Minnesota.

– Frank B. Cerra, M.D.
Sr. Vice President for Health Sciences



"rules and procedures all its own"

I don't think so, Frank. This is exactly the kind of thinking that gets us into these situations in the first place. We have rules and procedures. Let's follow them.

We are supposed to be having faculty meetings about 7.12 statements. This hasn't happened. We are supposed to be discussing procedures for post-tenure review. Why hasn't this happened?

The message needs to go out from the head - that's you, Frank - that we have rules and procedures and that we are going to follow them - including powerful department chairmen. In the long run, if an institution does not have integrity, well sadly you know what has happened here over the years.

"acting as a talent magnet" The salaries these folks are being paid might actually be the magnet, Frank. This is not going to be a general solution to the problems at hand.

"an opportunity to reflect and learn" - certainly, but we have had the same opportunity in the past, and apparently NOT learned. Two words - Tzvee Zahavy.

Time to start walking the talk?

Rotenberg is Driven to Discover... A Regents Policy

Or, Shades of Zahavy


From the Daily:

Professors could be violating U policy

The University had previously taken a backseat in the investigation, but is now looking into the situation.


Husband-and-wife team François Sainfort and Julie Jacko, in allegedly retaining employment as professors at both the University of Minnesota and Georgia Tech, were in violation of policies at both institutions.

Previously, the University has taken a backseat to the Georgia attorney general's investigation, but news that Sainfort and Jacko could also be in violation of University policies may heighten the investigation here.

If the investigations in Georgia and Minnesota both find the professors to be fraudulent in their employment contracts, the University could dismiss them, per Board of Regents procedure.

Until late Wednesday, University general counsel Mark Rotenberg was unaware of institutional policies prohibiting double employment, saying that type of behavior was generally prohibited by "basic norms of honesty and fair dealing" in the University Code of Conduct.

After an initial interview, Rotenberg located a regents' procedure that prohibits full-time employment outside the University for all employees.

This isn't the first time a University professor has been implicated in double employment.

In 1995, professor Tzvee Zahavy was fired for working both at the University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Before he was aware of the policy prohibiting double employment, Rotenberg said the University's handling of Zahavy was a precedent in dealing with so-called double-dipping professors.

"The Board of Regents and the administration of the University made it clear years ago that it would not tolerate undisclosed, simultaneous full-time employment," Rotenberg said.

University policy also prohibits employees involvement in outside commitments that "interfere with the performance of regular duties," regents rules state.

Sainfort currently is the head of the Division of Health Policy and Management at the University's School of Public Health. Jacko serves as the director of the Institute for Health Informatics through the School of Nursing.

Sainfort now earns $285,000 at the University and Jacko makes $216,000 - a total increase of about $100,000 from their Georgia Tech salaries.

Both Sainfort and Jacko signed employment contracts with Georgia Tech after beginning full-time employment at the University, according to their revocation notices from Georgia Tech.

The faculty members are suspected of double-billing their time and falsifying travel reimbursement documents and "other potentially illegal actions," according to a Georgia Tech news release.

The investigation has revealed $100,000 in "questionable activity," the news release states.



Hello, kitty. Nice work, counselor. Welcome to the game.

Dean Delaney of the School of Nursing Reacts

From the Pioneer Press Learning Curve:

U dean asks for open mind on double-dipping allegations

Two University of Minnesota professors recruited here from Georgia Tech remain under investigation amid allegations they continued to take paychecks from Georgia Tech while on the U payroll. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is also reporting that one of the profs paid out more than $80,000 in Georgia Tech money to a family member for consulting fees.

It's not clear what will happen, but in a new e-mail sent to students and staff, nursing school dean Connie Delaney is urging U folks to "suspend judgment and permit these colleagues the time and opportunities to address the allegations in the proper forum with appropriate due process. I remain hopeful that they will do so."

The situation, she writes, "is of great concern as well as disappointing for the School of Nursing, the School of Public Health, and the Academic Health Center as we recruited Profs. Sainfort and Jacko actively because of their expertise in informatics and its applications."

April 23, 2008

How Others See Us

The Minnpost spin:

The Strib's Jeff Shelman goes document diving on the two U professors accused of double dipping. Francois Sainfort and wife Julie Jacko emailed Georgia Tech officials this February they hadn't signed a U deal that was actually inked in October. The U's general counsel isn't fulminating yet; sounds like he wants to keep these folks. More trouble: GT questions $86,000 in consulting payments to Jacko's brother. The Atlanta paper has more details. The duo's $1.6 million Georgia home hasn't sold.

As Others See Us

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Beware the Dreaded Gopher Jacket!

Rotenberg's Reaction To Smoking Email

So this differs from the Zahavy situation exactly how?

Oh, I see, Zahavy was not as good a rain maker...

And Zahavy did it to us, whereas they did it to Georgia Tech.

We are so fortunate to have that moral compass in Morrill Hall. I think it is about time to bring it out into the sunlight for annual inspection.

You say it is broken and you have a problem with sunlight? Bob, Tom?

More Info From the Strib:

U prof's e-mail trail raises questions

By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune

April 22, 2008

A February e-mail from one of the two high-profile University of Minnesota professors accused of drawing salaries from two schools at once described his spring semester schedule at Georgia Tech as "completely full."

At the same time, the embattled professor couple of Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko, who are being accused by Georgia Tech of double-dipping, had been on the University of Minnesota's payroll for several months and were working full time in new jobs in Minneapolis, university officials say.

The Feb. 11 e-mail exchange between Sainfort and Georgia Tech associate engineering Dean John Leonard, obtained from the Atlanta school through a public records request, does not indicate that full-time work in Minnesota was foremost on Sainfort's mind.

After Leonard wrote that Georgia Tech employees cannot be on the payroll of another organization other than as a consultant, Sainfort replied:

"As a matter of fact, Julie and I have not even signed an employee contract yet with Minnesota. ... We have only agreed to unofficially start this semester with full residence starting in May."

University general counsel Mark Rotenberg said the pair signed employment contracts and were added to the U's payroll in October and were expected to be full time at Minnesota at the beginning of January.

"That e-mail communication is difficult, and we're going to need to understand exactly how that e-mail came to be written and find an explanation to that e-mail, if there is one," Rotenberg said.

Rotenberg said it is very common in higher education for researchers to work at one institution while tying up loose ends at a previous school.

According to a letter from an Atlanta lawyer to Georgia Tech, Sainfort was scheduled to represent the Atlanta school as late as April 10 in a meeting with a hospital executive.

On April 2, the two wrote checks to Georgia Tech for a combined $2,619.36 for travel reimbursement. Georgia Tech sent letters to them regarding tenure revocation on April 16.

Georgia Tech is also believed to be questioning payments totaling $86,000 that the school made in consulting fees to Jacko's brother.

Sainfort and Jacko remain employed by the U, but Rotenberg said his office is "gathering facts and putting the pieces of the story together."

The two were scheduled to begin work in October, their tenure was approved this fall and they were to be in place in Minneapolis in January.

Sainfort is being paid $285,000 by the school and also holds a prestigious Mayo professorship. Jacko is being paid $216,000. The two were offered an additional $25,000 in moving expenses and $39,000 for housing transition. The couple's five-bedroom, six-bath home in the tony Buckhead area of Atlanta is currently on the market for $1.6 million.

Rotenberg said he hopes to get to the bottom of the case within the next few weeks. "I think there are a number of missing pieces here, and we're attempting to gather them and evaluate them as soon as we can," he said.

More On Power Couple

The Atlanta Constitution has some further information on this story.


Please see the Periodic Table for more details.

In an e-mail to Georgia Tech associate engineering dean John Leonard in February, Sainfort said he and his wife had formally requested a leave of absence from Tech beginning May 15, 2008.

"Between now and then, we will travel from time to time to Minnesota for the transition," he wrote, adding that his workload for the semester was "completely full, with a class, four Ph.D students ..."

In the February e-mail, Leonard cautioned Sainfort against confusion over the schedule. "Please make sure that neither you and Julie are on the payroll at Minnesota, even at a small percentage. This could cause problems," he wrote.

Sainfort said in an e-mail in response that he and his wife had "not even signed an employment contract yet."

Neither Cheap Shots Nor Free Agents Are Free

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The Star-Tribune - of the Red Telephone - Editorializes

Editorial: A glimpse of academic 'free agency' at U April 22, 2008

Recruiting isn't just restricted to University of Minnesota athletic teams. While coaches woo talented athletes, the academic side is essentially doing the same, hoping to lure the best and the brightest new professors.

In search of marquee faculty for its new bioinformatics programs, officials landed a husband-wife pair of superstars from Georgia Tech.

But the couple now find themselves in a dispute with Georgia Tech. The Atlanta school contends that the two never really left and are "double-dipping" by drawing salaries and expense reimbursements from two institutions at the same time.

While it's too soon to draw conclusions about the allegations, the case offers an intriguing glimpse of a rapidly changing academia -- one increasingly modeled after professional sports free agency.

In their world, Jacko and Sainfort are top athletes. Their expertise in a critical, if little understood, field can pull in research dollars, create spin-off companies and lure new ones here. Health-care informatics, at its simplest, utilizes computing power to compile and use health data.

Jacko and Sainfort, though, came at a price. Together, their salaries top $500,000. Are they worth it? Only time will tell.

While a few professors earn big salaries in a star-based system, many don't. Nationally, 68 percent of those teaching in college classrooms are not tenure-track professors, compared with 43 percent in 1975.

What's the impact in the classroom and the overall quality of education? How much will universities have to shell out to keep their stars? Like the Jacko-Sainfort case, only time will tell.

I hope the spin meisters of Morrill Hall are on this. Bob, Tom?

April 22, 2008

Our Newest High Profile Hires

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Story in today's Daily

April 20, 2008

Rowing in Tar? Part the First

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Recent develpments at BigU have been pretty depressing: The Double Zahavy, ScrewU, MoreU, Tuition Bingo, Strange Academic Priorities, Light Rail Dog in the Manger Behavior...

Being in the middle of flyover land, aka the Midwest, OurLeaders often fail to notice that there is another audience out there, aside from the Strib, the legislature, and all of us Lake Wobegon residents. That audience has a lot to say about how the delusions of grandeur are going to play out. They give the grants, make the awards, elect to the National Academies, rank programs, and generally determine how we will be perceived nationally and internationally. Contrary to what you might hear from OurLeaders, we are not doing so well in comparison with our peer universities, or even the other BigTen schools.

Waves of propaganda spew forth periodically about phenomenal progress from an abysmal baseline, e.g. our four year graduation rate in 1992 was 18% and now it is up to 45%, ergo we are doing a fantastic job, even though the competition - that would be other BigTen schools - is killing us on this stat. Anyone who dares to deviate from the party line, "one of the top three research universities in the world [sic]," is accused of being willing to settle for mediocrity or called a doubter. The usual kind of McCarthian bluster and appeal to an unthinking herd mentality is used to try to beat any opposition down. The words dialog and conversation are used by OurLeaders without ever actually engaging in them, witness OurProvost's decision that he really didn't have the time for the blog promised last September ironically titled "Conversations." Provosts at other institutions blog, and some university presidents - e.g. Yudof - teach. With a chief of staff and an office full of minions, somehow you'd think time could be found? While I was at 3M, I don't remember the VP for research having a chief of staff. Both of our provosts do. The dean of the Medical School does. Our best dean - in the College of Pharmacy - does not. Maybe OurGuv was right about cutbacks in the administration being a good place to start?

Without close examination talking about dialog and conversation seems to sell. If you continue to say something often enough, people might even start to believe it. That's how marketing campaigns like Driven to Discover work. Panem et circensa or a new football stadium are the apparent answers to morale problems. And occasionally we can buy some heavy hitters - e.g. Jacko and Sainfort for half a mil - while paying many of the current hard-working faculty peanuts. Reminds me of a bad professional baseball or football team, but I thought this was supposed to be a university?

Unfortunately there is a great big world out there and it is moving at a considerably faster pace than ours. While the administration fiddled, Health Informatics and Bioinformatics crashed and burned. Now in a rush to catch up, the administration is ill-equipped and error prone. The Whitaker foundation scattered new biomedical engineering buildings throughout the country like grass seed. But not here, even though we had quite an advantage ten years ago. Once again we got a little too cute about it and got caught with our hand in the cookie jar. How many Bakken chairs did we have? How many heads of biomedical engineering? And how many millions of dollars of NSF money did the university have to return when the last one left?

There is lots of blame to go around but in the end it comes down to leadership.

Read a little on the recent outside searches done for president and provost at the University of Iowa. They've hired Sally Mason from Purdue and Wallace Loh from Seattle. These people know how to walk the talk. Keep an eye on Iowa, Purdue, and Ohio State in the next few years. They are our real competition and they are stockpiling good administrators for the long haul, while we continue to do recycling projects. Change is touted as a good thing by our administrators, except of course in the administration itself...

April 19, 2008

Sounds like just the kind of people we need here...


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Tech says profs dashed, kept cash

The view from Atlanta:

By ANDREA JONES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/19/08

Professors François Sainfort and Julie Jacko came to the Georgia Tech campus in 2000, lauded as leading experts in the field of health science engineering.

The tenured faculty members were lured away by the University of Minnesota in October.

But they didn't bother to tell Georgia Tech, according to Tech documents detailing a tenure revocation process. Tech renewed Sainfort's contract in October and Jacko's contract in January.

Georgia Tech officials now charge that the couple continued to collect paychecks, double-billing the school and falsifying travel and reimbursement documents, according to a news release.

Sainfort was associate dean of Tech's College of Engineering and head of Tech's Health Systems Institute, and Jacko was a professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering.

State investigating

Tech issued a press release this week with details of the investigation, but did not name the professors. Sainfort and Jacko are named in tenure revocation documents requested by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state Open Records law.

The release says the case is under investigation by the state attorney general's office. To date, Tech officials say, the investigation has revealed about $100,000 in questionable activity.

The news came as a shock at the University of Minnesota, where the couple hold prestigious positions. "We're still trying to learn the facts on this," said university spokeswoman Mary Koppel.

Koppel said hiring the pair, recognized experts in the field of health informatics, was a coup for the school.

"We were quite happy to have recruited them," she said.

Widely published

Sainfort, who has received millions of dollars in research grants and has written for more than 130 publications, accepted a position as head of the Division of Health Policy and Management in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in October.

Sainfort was quoted in a news release issued by the Minnesota university in November: "The researchers within the school are known for combining traditional public health with new techniques and for working across disciplines. This approach is key to addressing public health issues in the United States and globally."

But according to documents from Georgia Tech, he had just signed an employment contract with Tech on Oct. 19. As associate dean, he was paid an annual salary of $235,440, with a travel budget of $7,000, according to the Georgia Departments of Audits and Accounts, which records state employees' salaries.

Software claim to fame

Julie Jacko, known for her research on human-computer interactions, signed an employment contract with Georgia Tech in January, months after she had started at Minnesota. At Tech, she was paid $167,000, with nearly $8,000 in travel compensation, according to records.

Her Minnesota faculty profile says she is a professor with the School of Nursing and director of the school's Institute for Health Informatics.

Jacko gained national attention for her work developing software for people with visual impairments. Inspired by her mother's own battle with blindness, she and other researchers worked to create computers that would aid those in need. She won a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers grant and brought the project to Georgia Tech.

The couple did not return phone calls to their Atlanta or Minnesota numbers.

This week, Georgia Tech began the process of revoking the couples' tenure. Letters to Sainfort and Jacko charged "willful and intentional violation of Board of Regents and Georgia Tech policy" for accepting full-time employment elsewhere.

"Should criminal charges be brought against you arising from your actions, we will amend this statement of charges to include that as an additional basis for revocation of your tenure and termination of your employment," the letters state.

Georgia Tech spokesman James Fetig called the case an anomaly.

"This is an isolated case that does not reflect on the character of our outstanding faculty who, through their demonstrated integrity, daily earn the respect of their peers and society," he said.

Two for One

Recent Administrative Hires at the Academic Health Center seem, shall we say, problematic...

From the Strib:

Pair collected paychecks from Georgia Tech despite being employed at U of Minnesota


ATLANTA - A husband and wife who brought millions of dollars in grant money to Georgia Tech have been identified as the two professors being investigated for collecting paychecks from the university after already accepting jobs at the University of Minnesota, according to university documents.

The Atlanta-based university turned over the names of Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko to the Georgia attorney general's office, according to documents The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained through a state Open Records Act request.

An attorney for the couple told The Associated Press on Saturday that Georgia Tech was portraying the situation inaccurately, and that his clients welcome an "objective and professional review" by the attorney general's office.

The documents allege that Sainfort and Jacko double-billed their time to the institution and falsified travel reimbursement forms. So far, the university says it has identified about $100,000 in questionable spending, all from private funding sources.

Martin Goldberg, a Miami-based attorney, represents both Jacko and Sainfort.

"They are bewildered by Georgia Tech's actions this week," Goldberg told the AP. "Georgia Tech's portrayal of the situation raises a whole host of questions about the university's motives, once professors Jacko and Sainfort decided to leave Georgia Tech to join Minnesota."

Georgia Tech has started the tenure revocation process for the pair and the university previously said the state attorney general's office is investigating the case. Sainfort was associate dean of Georgia Tech's engineering college and head of the university's Health Systems Institute. Jacko taught in the school of biomedical engineering.

The two had been working at Georgia Tech since 2000 when they were lured away by the University of Minnesota in October. Georgia Tech has claimed it renewed Sainfort's contract in October and Jacko's contract in January without knowing the pair were employed elsewhere, according to the documents.

University of Minnesota spokeswoman Mary Koppel told the newspaper that the institution is "still trying to learn the facts on this." She said the university was "quite happy" to have recruited the pair, who are considered leaders in health science engineering.

From Dean John Finnegan:
I am delighted to welcome the newest member of the school's leadership team, Dr. François Sainfort, the new head of our Division of Health Policy and Management. Dr. Sainfort comes to us from Georgia Tech, where he was the senior associate dean for interdisciplinary research in the College of Engineering. Dr. Sainfort is joined by his wife, Dr. Julie Jacko, who has appointments at the School of Nursing and the SPH. Dr. Jacko will head the University's new Institute for Health Informatics.


From Dr. Frank Cerra:

“This institute is critical to the University of Minnesota’s commitment to improving health care through more effective and efficient use of health informatics across disciplines,�? said Frank B. Cerra, M.D., senior vice president for Health Sciences. “Dr. Jacko’s extensive experience in this field will be crucial to the success of the center and its ability to facilitate collaboration, propel creativity, and inspire breakthrough discoveries across the schools of the Academic Health Center.�?

Institute For Health Informatics Established

(Dec. 11, 2007) -- Julie A. Jacko, Ph.D., has been named director of the Institute for Health Informatics at the University of Minnesota’s Academic Health Center. The institute was developed as a new interdisciplinary program to improve the quality and efficiency of health care and clinical research through research and education in health informatics.

More to come on this interesting development.

Sustainable Sanitation in Haiti

University of Minnesota Engineers Without Borders Wins National Award

From the U of M Website:


Engineers Without Borders group helps bring recycling and sanitation to one of Haiti's poorest areas -

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL ( 4/18/2008 ) --

The University of Minnesota student chapter of Engineers Without Borders has been awarded a $25,000 grand prize advocacy award from the KEEN footwear company for the students' work to bring recycling and sustainable sanitation to Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the world.


The project was chosen from among hundreds of award entries nationwide.

The University of Minnesota students are partnering with the Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) in Haiti on the project in the Shada neighborhood of Cap-Haitien, Haiti's second largest city. The more than 20,000 inhabitants of this densely populated neighborhood live without access to clean water, sanitation or garbage collection.


The project, which was initiated last fall, aims to clean up the streets by finding a way to recycle discarded plastic into useful items for the residents. Most Haitians transport their water in plastic sachets (similar to heavyweight plastic bags) that are thrown into the streets when empty.


"Our idea is to get them to think of plastics not as waste, but potentially as a material they can use to produce useful products," said Brian Bell, a University of Minnesota civil engineering student and president of the student chapter of Engineers Without Borders.


The students are currently researching water sachet properties and initiating designs of a re-melting system to be tested in Minneapolis over the next year. Students plan to travel to Haiti this summer for an assessment trip and will return to Haiti in 2009 to help the local people fully implement the ideas.


The group's original idea was to recycle the plastic into footwear for Haiti's children, but recent research by chemical engineering students in the group found that if plastic waste was melted and reused, the material would be too stiff for shoe soles. Instead, the plastic will likely be recycled into sporting equipment for youths or for affordable toilet molds to establish a much-needed sanitation system.


"We have some of the world's brightest minds in materials research right here at the University of Minnesota," said David Gasperino, a U of M chemical engineering Ph.D. graduate who now is serving as a professional mentor on the project. "I was drawn to this project because of its focus on using the research expertise we have to help make a difference in another country."


Beyond addressing the needs of waste disposal and sanitation, the students hope to help local Haitians find a way to transform the pervasive plastic waste into a profitable recycling enterprise.


"Small ideas turn into a big difference in many of these types of projects. If we develop a use for the plastic, there will be an financial incentive to clean up and resell it to be recycled," Bell said. "This means people there could start a business and earn money to support their families."

About 20 University of Minnesota students are involved in the Haiti project and are split into two work groups-one focused on indoor sanitation and another on plastics recycling.


"There's a huge disconnect between life here in Minnesota and life in many countries around the world," Bell said. "Getting involved in projects like this is really a sign of what the students who are involved care about, and that is helping people in need."


About Engineers Without Borders-University of Minnesota


Engineers Without Borders-University of Minnesota (EWB-UMN) partners with disadvantaged communities around the world to improve their quality of life by implementing engineering projects that prove environmentally and economically sustainable. The University of Minnesota chapter was founded in fall 2005 and now boasts more than 40 active members working on projects around the world.

This is the work of our university.

April 18, 2008

Hey You, Hustle On Over to Hasselmo -> right now !

"Improving the Health of Our Community: U of M Medical Student Projects"

You've got til 1 pm today.

Just got back from Hasselmo Hall, Floor 2. This is the huge mausoleum to the left of Coffman as you face it from Washington Avenue. Go in from the Mall and you will be on Floor 3. Go down one floor to see the posters.

Very impressive example of community involvement by our first and second year med students. Lots of bright eager people doing a boatload of interesting projects, e.g.:

Northpoint Health and Wellness Center
Southside Community Health Service
Southeast Asian Community Center
Native American Community Clinic

A Closer Look at the Increasing Diabetes
Epidemic at Smiley's Clinic in South Minneapolis
Emergency and Community Health Outreach (ECHO)

The list goes on.

Highly recommended.

This is the work of our university.

April 17, 2008

University Priorities - A Matter of Discipline?

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The outstanding university citizen and scholar, Tom Clayton, writes in the Daily today:


I have no personal complaint to make, but I do wonder about the imbalances of the national higher-educational system when it comes to remuneration. It is certainly not true, as has been asserted, that market-driven salaries are inversely proportional to the intellectual and social value and contributions of the disciplines, but everyone ought to regret that the salaries in some fields of IT and the hideously underpaid biological sciences are much lower than those in the School of Management and the Law School. And "CLA" is seriously misleading: there are the social sciences, and then there are the arts and - now what was that panting also-ran? - ah, yes, the humanities, such as languages and literature, art history and others.

Tom Clayton
Regents Professor
Department of English Language and Literature
University of Minnesota

University priorities are also evident in appeals for funding from the state legislature. OurLeader's behavior with respect to the badly needed interior rehab of Folwell Hall makes clear what his priorities are. The humanities are what makes this place a university, Bob.

April 16, 2008

Light Rail Redux

This is not a problem that is just going to go away, Bob.

From the Daily:


Gov.'s line-item vetoing puts Central Corridor light rail in jeopardy

The University is studying a possible change to the line's alignment. The Northern Alignment would take the line through Dinkytown instead of Washington Avenue through campus, but it could also delay the project for up to a year.

There are rumors floating around the Capitol that the University wouldn't mind if lawmakers couldn't come to an agreement this year, Hausman said.

And also in the Daily today is a very perceptive letter to the Editor:


Administration failing on light-rail issue

Failing to be persuasive on the field of reason, University administration is enlisting Regents to engage in melodrama over the light rail.

The administration's presentation to the Board of Regents, summarized in the April 14 Daily article, did not mention the overwhelming benefits in safety and health of diverting four lanes of vehicular traffic on Washington Avenue away from the heart of campus.

It also did not present the alternative vehicular routes available for clients of the academic health service.

It is time for University administration to embrace a solution that corrects the serious design mistake of the last century that mixed heavy car and truck traffic with pedestrians in the middle of campus.

Perhaps the new University sustainability coordinator and the College of Design could help them move into the 21st Century?

Les Everett
program coordinator
University Water Resources Center

How about it, Bob?

April 14, 2008

A Hundred+ Million Dollar No Bid Contract Extension

Conflict of Interest - Real or Apparent?

http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2008/04/14/72166651

From the Daily:

The University athletics department has agreed to a 15-year, $114 million contract extension with marketing firm Learfield Sports that gives the company exclusive rights to sell remaining signs and corporate sponsorships at TCF Bank Stadium.

The deal, approved by the Board of Regents on Friday, also acts as a continuation of other non-TCF Bank stadium-related rights that were set to expire in 2013.

Because the deal extends the current contract, the University didn't go through a bidding process, which initially raised potential red flags for University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter.

A third-party firm, Conventions, Sports and Leisure International, reviewed the contract at Pfutzenreuter's request to ensure the University was getting a fair shake, he said.

"I'm very comfortable with the contract," Pfutzenreuter said.

Although there was no bidding process, Learfield Sports President Greg Brown said other companies had a chance to make their cases in 2006 when the University got approval to build the stadium.

In addition to the business-side benefits of the deal, Brown said one of the most overlooked parts of the contract is the "opportunity to continue working with the people."

"We're really excited about the leadership of the program," he said.

Associate Athletics Director Tom Wistrcill, one of the University's lead negotiators in the contract process, said Learfield Sports' performance in its other marketing duties for the University made it an easy choice.

"We didn't really explore those other opportunities," Wistrcill said of the other three companies besides Learfield Sports interested two or three years ago.

Wistrcill worked at Badgers Sports Properties, a partner of Learfield Sports, before coming to the University, but said that connection had little impact on the deal.

"I'm very familiar with the people at Learfield, and that's the only impact it had," he said.

Athletics officials have addressed the potential conflict of interest before, and Pfutzenreuter wasn't worried about Wistrcill's connection during contract negotiations.

Now let me think about this one more time. A long-term contract for over a hundred million dollars with no competitive bidding... Really?

You paid yet another company, to tell you that the contract was OK? And who exactly were they and what kind of answer were you expecting from them? Wouldn't it have made more sense to put this out on competitive bid?

And the winner was Learfield, for whom one of the lead negotiators for the U used to work...

Sorry, Pfutz, doesn't pass the smell test.

Bob, Tom (especially Tom who is a lawyer): This OK with you? Ah, I see, Pfutz is the money.

April 13, 2008

Peter Bell - An Honest Broker, Former Regent

p1railB.jpg

And The Only One Who Seems to Have Clean Hands on Light Rail


From the Star-Tribune:

Lori Sturdevant: Working toward the train in vain

The guy whose job nobody at the Capitol coveted last week was Metropolitan Council chairman Peter Bell.

For months, Bell had been the face of the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line. He pushed hard to get $70 million for the line between Minneapolis and St. Paul into Gov. Tim Pawlenty's bonding recommendations and in the Legislature's bonding bill.

On Monday, Pawlenty -- Bell's boss -- vetoed his own Central Corridor recommendation. He left us scribblers to speculate about his intentions. Did he want to kill the project and please those in his party who still consider light rail a form of social engineering? Or did he want to reserve it as a bargaining chip for future dealmaking with DFLers?

Whatever his intentions, he evidently didn't share them in advance with Bell, who says he wasn't consulted before the governor whacked the legs out from under his credibility.

"The governor has concerns that go beyond Central Corridor," Bell said with a sigh. "I don't think it's his job to make my life easy."

True enough. But right now, time and money aren't the project's biggest impediments. Bell's boss is.

"I value my word and my honor above everything," Bell said later last week. "To the extent this calls into question my word and my honor, I am deeply frustrated."

Frustrated, but not bowed -- or bowing out. Bell sincerely believes that the Twin Cities needs the transit spine the Central Corridor will provide.

He is persistent, and his record shows he can be persuasive. He helped take the governor from mild hostility toward transit in 2002 to support for Northstar commuter rail and bus rapid transit on Interstate 35W today. He thinks he can bring Pawlenty around on the Central Corridor in time to file a final design application with the feds in September.

One of his predecessors, Curt Johnson, says that if anyone can do that, it's Bell.

"Peter has been just exemplary," said Johnson, who headed the Met Council for Gov. Arne Carlson from 1995 to 1998. "He had to build a bridge before he could stand on it," between "people who want the Council to go away and people who expect the Council to do something to shape the metro area as it grows."

Pawlenty's Central Corridor veto calls into question the strength of that bridge -- and more. Would a governor who really believes in transit's value turn this project into a political hostage and risk its standing with federal funders? Would one who really appreciates the work of his Met Council chairman undermine it?

It's notable that the transportation bill that was passed over Pawlenty's veto in February gives county commissioners, not the Met Council, control of the transit money raised by a new quarter-cent sales tax. After what Pawlenty did to the Central Corridor and Peter Bell last week, look for the Legislature to find other ways to vest regional governing authority in groups of elected county commissioners, rather than the gubernatorially controlled Met Council.


Peter Bell is a true public servant.
Politically we are at opposite ends of the spectrum - I am a left wing wacko and he is a conservative Republican. Reasonable compromise is possible between two such people of good will. Every once in a while we see each other - at the same church! He has done what he believes is best for the state in the light rail negotiations. I do not believe that to be the case for the administration of the University of Minnesota. Now is time for politicians, Republican and DFL to work together to do what is best for our citizens. It is also time for university administrators to show some leadership and do what is in the best interests of a land grant university that is not likely ever to be "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]."

The following statement from OurLeader must have been induced by eating too much lotus:

"I've heard some of the 'doubters' say things like, 'I'd settle for best in the Big Ten," he [Bruininks] said. "Students don't choose the University of Minnesota for (a) mediocre future."

So anyone who points out that we are near the bottom of the BigTen is a doubter? Anyone, who dares to suggest the more realistic goal of being one of the best schools in the BigTen, is aiming for mediocrity? Is the best school in the BigTen mediocre?

You seem to have done pretty well for graduating from Western Michigan and George Peabody College. OurProvost has done pretty well having graduated from Drake and Indiana. It seems to me that you folks are in no position to get all elitist on us.

Get real, Bob.

You've got an enormous pile of chips. Deal. The clock is ticking.

As the old saying goes: Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.


April 12, 2008

The U and Light Rail

BaloneyCartoon.gif

Shoot First
Ask Questions Later...


From the Star-Tribune

U regents still insist on light-rail detour

By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune

April 11, 2008

The University of Minnesota still wants to detour the proposed Central Corridor light rail line to the edge of campus, despite the Metropolitan Council's decision to send the train through one of its busiest streets.

On Friday, the university's Board of Regents reaffirmed a 2001 resolution that the "northern alignment" of the line is preferred over the current plans of running tracks at street level down Washington Avenue. That plan, the university says, would create traffic chaos and could cost the institution millions of dollars annually.

The university's preferred route would take the train north from Washington Avenue just east of the West Bank station. The train would cross the Mississippi River on a rebuilt Dinkytown bicycle bridge and through Dinkytown in the existing trench. The train would return to University Avenue just east of the under-construction TCF Bank Stadium.

"Without a tunnel under Washington Avenue, it doesn't work," Regent John Frobenius said. "It would simply create a dagger through the heart of the University of Minnesota."

-->[This is an irresponsible statement. See cartoon at top. There is plenty of evidence that this is simply not true. If the university ever does have to live with a pedestrian mall this statement will come back to haunt us.]

[Oh, and by the way, you might ask: Who is John Frobenius? From the U of M website:

"John Frobenius is a retired hospital administrator and served most recently as co-president for the CentraCare Health System in St. Cloud. Previously, he was an executive vice president and chief operating officer for St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. Frobenius, who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota, has served on numerous boards, including the American Hospital Association, the Minnesota Health Care Partnership, and the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce,"

Might he have even a little bias in favor of the U of M hospitals in this matter?]

University Vice President Kathleen O'Brien said the current plan could cause a 10 percent drop in business at the school's Academic Health Center -- an area of campus that would be more difficult to reach if cars are eliminated from Washington Avenue. That could cost the school millions annually.

---> [See cartoon above. This is akin to a statement like: If quarks can go faster than the speed of light, then I want to study quarks. The current plan - which is what? - will NOT cause a drop of 10% in the AHC's business. Aren't they in bed with Fairview? Isn't the Children's Hospital going to be on the other side of the river? Isn't access to Riverside better from 94? Are you telling me that the University couldn't do things to mitigate the impact of a pedestrian mall? As usual, if the facts don't support your argument, make a lot of noise and point elsewhere.]

In addition, university President Robert Bruininks said the school believes it would have to move several science research labs near Washington Avenue because of train vibrations. "That will run into the millions and millions of dollars," he said. "It will exceed $10 million to move them."

---> [Excuse me, sir... And how much did the scoreboard cost for the new stadium, a scoreboard that will be used six times a year? Wasn't that about...ten million dollars? You've gotten in the last two bonding sessions about half a billion dollars. You just reeled in 65 million dollars for the Cancer Center and have a two + billion dollar endowment? Time to wake up, Bob, and have some Free Trade coffee or better yet, Coke. I understand that things go better with Coke.]

The school also claims that the "northern alignment" would save between $16 million and $18 million in construction costs and would shave more than a minute off of the ride time because it would encounter fewer stoplights.

----> [Every other study I've seen referenced claims the opposite. Maybe the U is using New Math?]

Metropolitan Council chairman Peter Bell was disappointed in the regents' actions and said the findings on cost are premature.

"You have a research institution that I think is jumping to a judgment before all the facts are in," said Bell, who is also a former U regent.

The entire Central Corridor plan faces funding challenges after Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed $70 million in state money that was slated to help pay for the project.

---> [And the U's take was how much? More than three hundred million dollars, wasn't it?]

Bell, however, said he believes there is a way for that funding to be restored before the end of the legislative session. The inability to find common ground with the university, won't help that happen, he said.

But it should be obvious by now that OurLeader would prefer no light rail at all to one at grade down Washington Avenue. This is another example of the U's attitude toward the public good, despite what you might read in advertising campaigns...

How much funding did the U receive for biomedical research buildings? Wasn't that almost three hundred million dollars? And how much was the Folwell request? The Bell (not Peter)? And of course the vetoed light rail funding was a fraction of the U's take.

The public good? If you believe that, I have a gravel pit I'd like to sell you. It's in MoreU Park.

Bob, Tom?

OurLeader, Busy Solving the U's Problems

Bobfinger.gif

"See, right there, he vetoed it.
Light rail problem, solved!"

April 10, 2008

The Central Corridor and The Public Good

Meanwhile, In An Alternate Universe:

Alternate Universe.jpg


The University of Minnesota Board of Regents will hold its monthly meeting this week at the McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street S.E., Minneapolis. The agenda includes a presentation on the Central Corridor Light-Rail Line that will include initial findings of a study of the northern alignment that would take the line off of Washington Avenue and run it north of campus.

"Our Twin Cities campus is one of the most transit-oriented communities in the entire state of Minnesota," said university President Robert Bruininks. "From the beginning, we have maintained that however this line is built, it needs to improve our transportation system as a whole. We're eager to see how this northern alignment alternative might alleviate the problems with the Washington Avenue route."

Ah, excuse me, sir...

Where was your voice of outrage over the governor's line item veto on the $70 million for light rail? Maybe you would rather have no light rail than one at grade? I guess it would be a little embarrassing, given the hundreds of millions of dollars that went for the biomedical research buildings? And of course that funding makes it very difficult to complain about things like the badly needed, essential in your own words, Folwell Hall renovation that you placed behind the Bell Museum.

The public good, indeed!

Well now, Bob, you've got a new stadium and four new biomedical research buildings - that's about half a billion dollars. And this is from a state under great economic pressure. Makes it a little difficult to complain about lack of public support, doesn't it? Time to produce. You can be sure that people will be watching. You have promises to keep - thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in NIH funding - and miles to go, before...

April 9, 2008

Light Rail

4trophsmall.jpg


Who Killed Cock Robin?

"Who killed light rail?" "I," said the Guv,

"With my little lunch pail, I killed light rail."


"Who saw it die?" "I," said OurLeader,

"With my four expensive trophies, I saw it die.

A post on this topic as well as a report from the Pioneer Press on the governor's line item vetoes of the bonding bill are reported on The Periodic Table.

April 7, 2008

Shootout At The OK Corral

Or, Pawlenty Uses the Pen for Line Items,
Rather Than Complete Veto

From Minnesota Public Radio:

Pawlenty trims some projects, then signs bonding bill April 7, 2008

St. Paul, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Tim Pawlenty has signed a borrow-to-build plan after cutting out projects to reduce the price tag.

Pawlenty decided Monday to use his line-item veto authority rather than taking down an entire $925 million bonding bill. He's letting $717 million worth of projects stand.

The Republican governor had said he wouldn't accept a bill that adds more than $825 million to the state's general debt load.

The total value of all of the construction projects could be higher because federal or local dollars are often required to match state contributions.

The bill pays for renovations and new construction at colleges, prisons, wastewater treatment facilities, regional civic centers and the like.

From the Pioneer Press:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty today cut down the Legislature's $925 million public works measure to $717 million by vetoing a series of projects.

He said he was "very disappointed" at the size of the Legislature's bill, which, he said, "reflects misplaced priorities."

Specifically, he cut out:

$70 million for the Central Corridor light rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul

$11 million for the St. Paul's Como Zoo.

$5 million for St. Paul's Asian Pacific Cultural Center.

Two University of Minnesota projects — $24 million for a new Bell Museum of Natural History and $2 million for classroom renovations in Crookston, Duluth, Morris and the Twin Cities

$16 million for the Red Lake school district

$4 million in planning money for a high-speed rail line between St. Paul and Chicago and other projects.


Let the weeping and gnashing of teeth begin...

BigU's Tech Transfer Problem

goldengoose.jpg

Or What Happens When the Goose Stops Laying Golden Eggs?

From the Star-Tribune:

The anti-AIDS drug Ziagen has been good to the University of Minnesota. Maybe a little too good.

The drug generates 95 percent of the school's annual licensing income. To make matters worse, Ziagen's patents expire overseas next year and in the United States in 2013. That leaves the U scrambling to replace the more than $50 million in annual royalty payments that Ziagen now generates.

At a time when the state's economy is slowing and its medical device sector is maturing, the U's long commercialization slump has attracted the urgent attention of lawmakers, venture capitalists and others concerned about where Minnesota's next Medtronic or St. Jude will come from.

But compared with leading national universities and its regional peers, the U's commercialization efforts lag significantly. From 1984 to 2004, the university spun off 101 companies but only three went public, according to a study conducted by MBA students at the University's Carlson School of Management.

That translates to a 3 percent success rate, compared with 8 percent for public universities and 14 percent for "premier" universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford, the study says.

In 2006, it spent $595 million on research, placing ninth among all public universities. But the school generated only $56 million in license income that year, most of it from Ziagen, according to an annual survey by the Association of University Technology Managers. In a field where commercialization lead times are measured in years, the U's challenge is immense.

But some venture capitalists view the University of Minnesota as a liability rather than an asset to the state.

The university "provides all sorts of disincentives to new technology," John Alexander, president of Twin Cities Angels, a local investor group, recently told the state's House Committee on Biosciences and Emerging Technology.

The school is more interested in protecting its intellectual property than collaborating with the business community, he said: "It is a pleasure working with MIT; the same can't be said of Minnesota. I think that's the widely held consensus of the business and venture capital community."

Alexander, who is also chief executive of Plymouth-based Chameleon Scientific, suggested that the university's near monopoly on high-tech research in the region is stifling innovation. The state should think about dividing the school or creating a second research university, he said.

In 1995, a federal grand jury indicted Dr. John Najarian, a renowned transplant surgeon, on charges of fraud, theft and tax evasion relating to the illegal sale of ALG, an experimental anti-rejection drug.

Although the Food and Drug Administration never approved ALG, the school's surgery department, which Najarian chaired, sold $80 million worth of ALG throughout the 1970s and 1980s, with much of that money benefiting the U.

A jury acquitted Najarian the following year, but the damage was done. The school paid $32 million in fines, and the National Institutes of Health placed severe restrictions on the university's freedom to use research money.

After the scandal, the school instituted new accounting controls but ultimately shied away from technology transfer, said Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, chairman of the House Committee on Biosciences and Emerging Technology.

"The U erred on the side of caution," Mahoney said. "Now it has become institutionalized."

Some blame university policies that jealously guard intellectual property, making deals unattractive to firms interested in licensing technology or collaborating on research.

"It was difficult to get access to intellectual property," said Dale Wahlstrom, a former Medtronic executive who is now chief executive of the BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota. "It was a one-sided discussion. If they couldn't get the optimal deal, they wouldn't do anything."

For example, companies that want to use the school's animal research labs to test products like medical devices must cede at least some ownership of the technology to the university. As a result, companies have fled to private facilities in Coon Rapids and Wisconsin, Mike Berman, a prominent medical device entrepreneur, recently told the House Committee on Biosciences and Emerging Technology.


The Bonzo Summary [BS09] Is Now Available

TomAndBob.jpg

Where Do We Stand At BigU?

The US News 2009 Edition of America's Best Graduate Schools has appeared. [The numbering scheme is a little odd, because the report issues in 2008 for data that was presumably collected in 2007. But we will stick with the US News numbering scheme.]

These are the rankings that university administrators love to dismiss as meaningless - except of course, if their school does well, then the rankings are very informative or even valuable research.

The Annual BonzoSummary keeps track of how BigU progresses along the road to greatness as we are transformed into GreatBigU. This will serve to monitor our progress toward becoming one of the three top public research universities in the world.

April 5, 2008

Where Do Students Really Want to Go?

Big Ten Yield


UD has an interesting story about the use of psychics by NYU to increase their yield
- the percentage of applicants accepted by a university who end up enrolling in the fall. Please note the date of this post.

US News has an admit table in their 2008 version that reflects data from 2006. Thus things may have changed slightly, but general trends are obvious. The yield is a contributor to overall rankings, so colleges and universities will do anything [including the use of psychics] to get this up.

Let's first look at how the BigTen schools do. Contrary to what you might hear from OurLeaders, these are our actual competition. If we don't do well here, you can forget about "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three research universities in the world." In fact, if we don't start worrying about the other BigTen schools they are going to (continue to ?) clean our clock.

USNews Rank/ Acceptance/ Yield

57 Ohio State 68% 51%

38 Illinois 65% 50%

71 Michigan State 73% 44%

25 Michigan 47% 44%

38 Wisconsin 58% 42%

48 Penns State 58% 40%

75 Indiana 80% 38%

71 Minnesota 57% 38%

64 Iowa 83% 36%

64 Purdue 85% 35%

14 Northwestern 30% 38%

And then let's look at the top 25. It is a strange mixture of the usual suspects - if you get admitted there, you go - and places like BYU, Yeshiva, Notre Dame and Georgetown, together with a large number of strong public institutions.

Top Twenty Five by Yield - ( >25 due to tie at bottom)

USNews Rank/ Acceptance/ Yield

79 Brigham Young 70% 79%
2 Harvard University 9% 79%
1 Princeton University 10% 69%
4 Stanford University 11% 67%
7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 13% 66%
91 University of Nebraska—Lincoln 73% 66%
5 University of Pennsylvania 18% 66%
52 Yeshiva University 79% 66%
49 University of Florida 48% 63%
62 Texas A&M University—College Station 77% 59%
14 Brown University 14% 58%
9 Columbia University 12% 58%
19 University of Notre Dame 27% 58%
28 University of North Carolina 34% 57%
44 University of Texas—Austin 49% 56%
59 University of Georgia 58% 55%
85 University of Kansas 77% 53%
57 Ohio State University 68% 51%
23 University of Virginia 37% 51%
91 University of Alabama 70% 50%

11 Dartmouth College 16% 50%
38 University of Illinois 65% 50%
85 North Carolina State University 61% 48%
42 University of Washington 68% 48%

12 Cornell University 25% 47%
23 Georgetown University 22% 47%
91 University of Missouri 78% 47%
96 University of Tennessee 74% 47%

It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a department of institutional research to figure out what is going on here. It is noteworthy that many public institutions that have quite respectable yields are not necessarily great research powerhouses.

According to USNews:

If a school has a high yield (a large proportion of those admitted enroll), it means that the school is most likely very popular with a top reputation and that the students are highly motivated to go there. A very low yield means that the school could be a “safety? or second choice for many of those who apply.
Think about it, Bob, Tom?

Morris Chancellor Speaks To Congress

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Chancellor Jacquie Johnson addressed reducing greenhouse gas emissions on U.S. college and university campuses


"We don't have deep pockets or abundant resources--just imagination, vision, and resolve. Moreover, we are spending close to home; we are re-investing dollars in rural America."

At least someone knows how to play with the cards she's got...

Because of her commitment to this effort, Morris chancellor Jacquie Johnson was one of three educators to speak in Washington at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the importance of college and university research on clean energy and the activities of college students in fighting greenhouse gases. Chaired by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the April 3 hearing also included Richard Levin, president of Yale University, and Robert Birgeneau, chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.
"We believe that the work happening on our campus provides a prototype for transforming the future of rural America in a way reminiscent of the Rural Electrification Act of the 1930's. We believe that this on-site renewable electric and thermal generation system not only provides a model for other colleges and universities, small communities, and neighborhoods in the United States, but that it also has great relevance for developing countries--truly a model of global significance."

Apparently there is much of importance to be done outside the realm of "ambitious aspirations to become one of the top three research universities in the world [sic]."

Tom, Bob?

April 2, 2008

Squeeze out a few more Minnesota students for an additional $4000 a year?

Brilliant!


“..managerial strategies designed to pad a school's prestige rather than serve students are craven."

OurProvost made another sortie into faculty territory lately, obviously dazzling those present with his brilliance:


Professor Windsor asked if anyone has done any modeling of the optimum balance between resident/reciprocity and non-resident tuition. Most tuition income to the University at present is from residents or reciprocity students.

They have, Provost Sullivan said, and that is why non-resident tuition is being eliminated. As of the new academic year, a non-resident/non-reciprocity student may attend the University for resident tuition plus $2000 per semester; it is believed that plan will generate increased tuition revenues.

Applications are up, to over 28,000 and the incoming class next fall is the strongest the University has ever seen.

Professor Wambach said that change in tuition structure was brilliant and reflects what students were paying anyway because of tuition discounting.

Faculty Consultative Committee, March 28, 2008

Someone Had To Say It...

Rankings Are Evil

A highly perceptive and important post has appeared on MoneyLaw:

"Slamming the door: Restricting access to elite education and why it might not matter"
"I'll mince no words. Law school rankings are evil because they distort the real meaning of legal education. Likewise, managerial strategies designed to pad a school's prestige rather than serve students are craven."

(The author is a former University of Minnesota law school faculty member.)

April 1, 2008

Walking The Talk

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New Iowa Provost Donates Full-Tuition Scholarships

From the Daily Iowan:

Less than a week after Wallace Loh was named the new UI provost and executive vice president, he has already shown his generous side.

Loh announced Monday that he and wife Barbara Loh have committed to donating five four-year full-tuition scholarships to the UI.

"We hope that this will be the first installment in a way of giving back to Iowa," Loh said.

The scholarships have no name, but Loh said they will be added to the provost scholarships offered through the Provost's Office. Loh also said that few restrictions apply in order for a student to be eligible to receive one.

"There are no limitations other than the fact that they be Iowa residents, and it is on the basis of need," he said.

UI President Sally Mason was thrilled by Loh and his wife's generous donation.

"It's a huge gift, a wonderful gift," she said.

Mason said she was surprised by such a generous contribution from a new person.

"It's basically him demonstrating not only his love for Iowa but his commitment to affordability and accessibility - the way we have been talking," Mason said.

Born in China and raised in Peru, Loh speaks Spanish, Chinese and French in addition to English. He has a doctorate in psychology from the University of Michigan and a degree from Yale Law School.

Congratulations to our Iowa neighbors on their good fortune.