« May 2008 | Main | July 2008 »

June 30, 2008

Surprise, surprise... U Spending Doesn't Match Student Priorities

A preview of coming attractions from the Daily has appeared.

Daily survey: U spending doesn't match student priorities

By Andrew Cummins

The Minnesota Daily's survey and research department conducted a survey in May regarding student attitudes towards University spending.

A majority of respondents surveyed said the school is working to achieve top-three research institution status at the expense of students.

Among other findings, 65 percent of students said the University's top priority should be fostering quality undergraduate education.

That answer, however, did not fall into the top three responses of what students perceive the University's spending priorities to be.

Check Wednesday's Daily for part one of a two-part series that will include full survey results and reaction from the University community.

We look forward to the gory details.

In the meantime here is something for OurLeaders to chew on. They've heard it before, but they can't hear it enough.

“Some would urge the University to pull back on its land-grant responsibilities.

But at what cost? To save so little and destroy so much? Any short-term gain to research or graduate and professional programs occasioned by cutbacks to the core will be self-defeating. The result will be a decreased level of public support for the entire University enterprise. The University is built on its undergraduate program. If the foundation cracks, the whole edifice is in jeopardy.

Mark Yudof, U of M Inaugural Address

Bob, Tom, what do you think?

June 29, 2008

The Old Scout Gives Some Advice to Obama, OurLeader MIght Also Find It Useful


The Old Scout Compliments Jesse [sic]

Garrison Keillor (the self-styled old scout) has a column that appears in the Strib and probably elsewhere. GK is a U of M graduate who has always been very supportive of the U. Mr. B. has fond memories of listening to him early in the morning many years ago - when GK was broadcasting up at St. Johns in Collegeville. Another fond memory is GK circulating around in a white linen suit and full beard, this must have been in the seventies. There was an event at Northrup, Arlo Guthrie and maybe his Dad, and at the break GK zipped around with the crowd parting for him. We are so polite in Minnesota and no one wanted to bug him.

So from the Strib (June 29, 2008):

"Play it close to the vest and people won't trust you. True in politics. True in life."

"The willingness to put yourself out there...is what good politicians have in common unlike us writers who are secretive brooders..."

"What's notable about Barack Obama is that he is both: He has the self-confidence, but also the smarts to put himself down on paper."

"Here in Minnesota we are contemplating the fact that Jesse Ventura scores 24 percent in the polls for a Senate race in Minnesota that he hasn't even entered."

"People have been making fun of Jesse for years, me included - how could you not?
The man is an entertainment."

"...what Jesse is saying [about the war] is -- this whole thing is an evil mess brought about by old lying chickenhawks who sent four thousand American men and women to die for a cause that the chickenhawks themselves would never have volunteered for or sent their own children. 'We marched in there, and we can march out' says Jesse."

"Damn, how can you not admire a man who hauls off and talks straight like that?"

"...he knows something about politics that is easily forgotten. You need to talk to the people out there: It's not enough to talk to yourself. Don't sit thinking big thoughts and expect everyone to get you. Don't let your soothsayers and armorers get between you and the people, Barack. Speak for yourself."

Mr. B., another old scout, suggests that OurLeader should also take Garrison's advice to heart. Speak for yourself and speak straight. Don't say one thing and do another. [Light rail] Don't prevaricate. [Is the top three a legitimate goal? Is this a land grant university? ]

Don't disappear and have your underlings do the dirty work. [The double dippers, ethical problems in the medical school, the Victoria's Secret fiasco.]

In the end this behavior only makes you look weak and ineffectual. Just like a bad politician, complete with fancy suit, expensive haircut, and designer eyewear.

Your predecessor was an overweight, balding, pancake-eater. But he was also a straight shooting Texan. Seems to have worked out pretty well for him, last I heard...

June 28, 2008

MnSCU Get It

From Higher Ed Roundup:

Minnesota Unveils Accountability ‘Dashboard'

Minnesota's state college and university system has unveiled a online “accountability dashboard,? an accountability system that will provide data, in a creative way, to the public on enrollment, tuition, and graduation rates at its 32 institutions. The database, which includes information on access, affordability, and quality, stems in part from a national effort by the National Association of System Heads to improve the education of low-income and minority students known as Access to Success. John McCormick, the system's chancellor, said he hopes the speedometer-type approach " will “jumpstart a culture of accountability? among its member institutions.

Perhaps OurLeaders could learn something about accountability and transparency from the MnSCU folks?

Their self evaluation of tution rates indicates that this area needs work, and MnSCU has a much lower rate of tuition increase for next year than we do. Perhaps if we made this our own priority we could obtain funding for this purpose from the state legislature? OurLeaders continue to treat tuition increases as an adjustable parameter that they will tweak upon learning how much state support we receive. Perhaps this is not the best strategy for obtaining state support?

I am afraid that "ambitious aspirations to become one of the top three research universities in the word [sic]" is not going to sell very well in the next few years...

June 27, 2008

UD Quotes Our Old Friend, Art Caplan


Art Caplan is a medical bioethicist formerly on the faculty at Minnesota. He now works at Penn. As one of my fellow faculty members once said: "He never met a microphone he didn't like." But Art usually does not mince words and this is a good thing.

Margaret Soltan, a professor of English at George Washington, posts on Art's observations in the post: Psychotic Greed, The Left Coast. Here she excoriates another doctor on the dole, Alan Schatzberg of Stanford.

Update: Some more reactions to Schatzberg.

Arthur Caplan, medical ethicist: “The continuing number of problematic cases regarding investigator disclosures makes it clear that universities, academic health centers and professional societies must set clear conflict-of-interest standards for all to follow - or Congress is likely to do so.?

Understand what Caplan’s saying here. The greed and cynicism of some of our most prominent professors, coupled with the indifference or cluelessness of our universities in regard to their sometimes scientifically questionable or even fraudulent activities, may mean that the autonomy of our universities — in UD’s opinion, the central reason American universities are the best in the world — will be seriously compromised. The “problematic cases? to which Caplan refers are about the American university’s invasion by mercenaries, for whom the ethos of scholarship is a joke. As flagrant campus corruption attracts more and more attention from the government, elected officials will legislate the good practices universities can’t seem to manage themselves.

For the reality is that universities can set all the conflict of interest standards they like, but a university is not a policing agency. It will always tend to respect, trust, and support its professors in their research, and it will seldom have the investigative capacity to find financial or research wrongdoing, or the judicial capacity to punish it in a serious way. If universities can no longer trust their professors to do honest science and to remain intellectually and morally independent of drug companies, the universities have a couple of choices open to them:

1.] They can hire a permanent team of financial investigators of the sort Grassley has on his staff, and this team can regularly investigate faculty who receive grants and who have financial interests in various companies. Professors would be called in for questioning, their tax documents might be scrutinized, their business associates interviewed. In short, the university can make itself over into a policing agency.

2.] The university can relax and accept the fact that because ? drug makers have displaced the U.S. National Institutes of Health as the primary source of research financing,? many of its professors in the sciences are not professors at all, but contract employees of drug companies. Hell, some of its professors are drug companies, like Schatzberg. Leave research integrity to the National Institutes of Health; our campus is about enhancing the profits of drug companies and enriching our researchers.

June 26, 2008

Goldy's Secret

From the StarTribune

Goldy to Victoria's Secret: Take off

June 25, 2008

Don't expect to see Goldy Gopher on Victoria's Secret merchandise anytime soon.

University of Minnesota officials have notified its licensing agency that they do not want their mascot associated with Victoria's Secret PINK Collegiate Collection.

"We are not making a judgment in regards to Victoria's Secret,"
said University spokesman Dan Wolter. "We just don't feel it is in our institution's best interest right now."

Wolter said there was not enough discussion about how the company's image could affect the University's reputation and that upon review, "it was simply determined we should opt out of it."

The university was listed as one of 33 schools part of the company's apparel line in a news release sent out last week by Victoria's Secret.

According to Wolter, the University has used the Collegiate Licensing Company as its middle man for the past two years and did not deal directly with Victoria's Secret.

"It's not about the products Victoria's Secret is selling," Wolter said.

Wolter said the University did not receive overwhelming negative feedback, but a "few key people" took issue with the agreement.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the following institutions (* = in our self-declared peer group) have signed up:

University of Alabama

Arizona State University

University of Arkansas
Auburn University

UC Berkeley*

Boston College

Clemson University

University of Colorado

Florida State University

University of Florida*

University of Georgia


University of Illinois*

University of Kansas

University of Kentucky



University of Maryland

University of Miami

University of Michigan*

University of Nebraska

University of North Carolina

University of Oklahoma

University of Oregon

Penn State University*


University of South Carolina

University of Tennessee

Texas A&M

University of Texas*

University of Washington*

University of Wisconsin*

Apparently these institutions are not worried about damaging their reputation by licensing agreements with VS, Mr. Wolter. Why, exactly, are we? Years ago there was a book written about Gopher Prairie. Are we going back to the good old days here?

Keen-eyed folks will note that the only one of our peer group who has not signed up with Victoria is tOSU. Ironically this is because someone on the Board of Regents at tOSU has a financial connection to VS and thus tOSU did not license VS because of an apparent conflict of interest.

My guess is that, as with the Brew's crew t-shirt flap, the U will roll over once the publicity has died down.

June 23, 2008

What the "h"?

Or, What Are We Buying When We Buy Big Wheels?


A friend recently pointed out the so-called "h" index of our latest high profile acquisitions. [These would be Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko.] Although I knew about this newest effort to track how valuable and productive we are, it had not occured to me to check out the newcomers...

Although all of these indices of productivity have flaws, it is interesting to see the results.

The h-index (Jorge Hirsch, 2005) is defined as:

The index is based on the distribution of citations received by a given researcher's publications. Hirsch writes:

A scientist has index h if h of his Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np - h) papers have at most h citations each.

In other words, a scholar with an index of h has published h papers each of which has been cited by others at least h times.[1] Thus, the h-index reflects both the number of publications and the number of citations per publication.

QUIZ TIME - Rank by h

a) U of M member of the National Academy of Science

b) Good biochemistry faculty member

c) New Star Hire II

d) Mr. Bonzo

e) A Regents professor

f) New Star Hire I

g) Current star medical school faculty member

Answer: (e), (a), (g), (d), (b), (c), (f)


94 (e)

72 (a)

63 (g)

22 (d)

18 (b)

12 (c)

8 (f)

I won't embarrass anyone by listing exact salaries which are just about as ridiculous. Let's just say that between the two of them our new hires pull down about $500K per year. None of the other U of M faculty in the list makes as much as $250K, and most considerably less.

At these prices, and h indices, I wonder if we have the money to fulfill our ambitious aspirations of becoming one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]?

Bob, Tom?

June 22, 2008

Acting According to the Highest Ethical Principles

"I think we need to put ourselves in the position of acting according to the highest ethical principles. I believe our people do that now and I believe our people will be doing that in the future as well." President Bruininks (Daily: 6-18-08)

"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.

"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."
Francois Sainfort February Email

But the couple had already begun working full-time for the University of Minnesota at that time, according to documents. Mark Rotenberg, the general counsel for the U of M, said the couple's compensation and contracts at Minnesota began Oct. 1.


Are these folks still on the payroll?


June 21, 2008

UMore Park, Proceed With Caution

From Netlets (StarTribune)

Last update: June 20, 2008 - 4:43 PM

The June 12 Star Tribune contained two contrasting articles about the University of Minnesota's use of its resources.

The lead editorial celebrated the foresight of the founders and the stewardship of Peter Olin in the development of the Landscape Arboretum, a crown jewel of the university and the state.

Another article raised serious questions requiring close public scrutiny of the university's plans for its other gem, UMore Park. When "the university says it's committed to building a community of the future on the Twin Cities rural fringe," it implies the planners view their radical alterations of UMore Park as a done deal. The fact they've already traded off land to help finance a stadium suggests they view the unique property President Robert Bruininks calls "insufficiently used as a research station" as a piggy bank to loot for pet projects and résumé padding.

The university should instead strive to enhance the value of UMore as a visionary research station in the increasingly critical realm of generating productive and responsible advances in agriculture. Development of a resource like UMore should follow the model of the Arboretum, where something great increases in value. The university president and regents must not be allowed to sponsor gravel groveling, speculative development and suburban sprawl at the expense of altering, undercutting, dismembering or selling off the priceless asset and public trust that is UMore Park.


June 13, 2008

UMore Park, Another Fiasco in the Making?


Ann Forsyth is a former U of M faculty member who was the Director of the U's Metropolitan Design Center before she left the U to become Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University. It would appear that this move is a step up and she has quite impressive credentials on her Cornell website.

Thus one might think that the opinion of a former U of M faculty member, who actually did some work on UMore Park planning, is worth considering.

Here is some of what she had to say:

"There are these huge contradictions about it, and there are these unrealistic ideas that it can both make money in the short run and be a model community," Forsyth said.

"It's expensive because you're putting all of this new innovative infrastructure in up-front and you don't recoup it in the long run," Forsyth said. "That kind of counteracts the quick money side of it."

Forsyth said a model community would be much more practical near the university's St. Paul campus rather than in Dakota County.

"It would have to be a fantastic development to counteract its location," she said. "There is no way you're not going to have a number of traffic concerns coming out of it. Unless it is highly designed and then it becomes very expensive."

But what would a former U of M faculty member with expertise in the matter at hand know?

Some BrightBulbs at the U apparently think otherwise.

A well known aesthetician and urban transportation expert says:

"Bruininks said he didn't know of a university in the United States that was doing something [MoreU Park] as 'courageous and innovative.'" Daily, 6/13/08

And a regent, former Gopher hockey captain, and motivational speaker says:

"Regent David Metzen said he thought the future of the project is the most important decision to face the University in the last 15 years." (Daily - 6/13/08)

(And here I thought it was the football stadium or perhaps becoming one of the top three, yadda, yadda, yadda...)

June 12, 2008

U changes directions on light-rail trains

OurLeader (Finally) Bows To The Inevitable
Thank You, Bob...

From the Star Tribune:

The University of Minnesota will set aside its long-held objections and support the running of light-rail trains on Washington Avenue, University President Robert Bruininks said Wednesday.

"The university does not want to be in the position of bringing this project to a grinding halt or jeopardizing its possible future," said Bruininks, who will urge the Board of Regents to approve the route in meetings today and Friday.

June 10, 2008

Apparently OurLeader Has Recovered From His Recent Health Problems

Back in the Saddle again
Or, Good News, Bad News

Apparently OurLeader has recovered from his recent health problems.

That is the good news.

He is now back in town coincident with the appearance of an opinion piece in MinnPost. From the text it appears that he has not learned very much from his recent experience with the Central Corridor problem, aka light rail, at grade, down Washington Avenue, through the U of M campus.

That is the bad news.

For further information and commentary about his recent opinion piece on MinnPost, please see some selections as well as my commentary.

Welcome back, Bob.

Advocacy is fine. But leadership and true concern for the public good of the state of Minnesota would be even better. What I'd like to hear from you sometime - as would most citizens, according to your own polls - are statements along these lines:

"We have fought the good fight, because we believed in it. But the community has spoken unanimously and the money is simply not available to achieve our dream in this matter. We are truly grateful to the citizens of the state for all that they have given us recently and pledge unequivocally to do everything we can to make light rail on Washington Avenue a success of which we can all be proud."


"True to our land grant mission the primary responsibility of the university is education of the citizens of Minnesota. With their help, we pledge to stabilize tuition and to be one of the top three public institutions in the Big Ten. Students at the University of Minnesota will be provided an educational opportunity that will allow them to compete with anyone. "

June 9, 2008

On the Value of Bringing In an Outsider

To Run a Bloated and Dysfunctional University System

Some words from California about Mark Yudof, former University of Minnesota president:

The first outsider brought in to run the nation's premier public university in more than a century, Yudof was hired to shake up and refocus a bureaucracy some portray as bloated and dysfunctional.

Perhaps no one is more eagerly anticipating Yudof's arrival than Richard Blum, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, and the driving force who personally recruited the University of Texas chancellor.

“He's a proven manager,? Blum said in a recent interview. “He is, in my view, probably the best person in the country we could have hired with a proven ability to manage a multi-campus system. He did it both in Minnesota and in Texas, and I think we're extremely fortunate to get him.?

At the same time, he is expected to give the UC a forceful, experienced presence in budget and other negotiations with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers.

Blum said that, in his more than four years as a regent, “little measurable progress? had been made in response to chronic complaints about faculty salaries, class sizes and capital project delays.

“I believe the fundamental problem is an overgrown UC administrative infrastructure that substitutes motion for progress,? Blum said.

Michael Brown, chairman of the UC Academic Senate, said Yudof brings “a commitment to academic excellence and diversity, and a deep appreciation of shared governance. I believe the faculty will be pleased with the appointment.?

Louise Hendrickson, president of the UC Students Association, said students have high expections for Yudof. In particular, Hendrickson said, students hope he can persuade the Legislature to start restoring past UC budget cuts.

The relentless run-up in fees has made it increasingly difficult for existing students, Hendrickson said, and “is pushing away other people who should be at the university.?

Robert Meister, president of the Council of UC Faculty Associations, said Yudof “is widely regarded as someone who fought for the importance of public higher education and publicly funded higher education in both Minnesota and Texas in a way that Dynes did not.?

Most big-time universities today seem to hire outsiders for the job of president or chancellor. Witness recent events at Cornell, Wisconsin, and Iowa. It is hard to believe that someone entrenched in the bureaucracy of a university for thirty years, or ten, is the best candidate in the world to lead that institution.

Hopefully we will seriously explore the outsider option the next time there is a search for a president or provost at the University of Minnesota.

June 8, 2008

College tuition controls the right and smart thing to do

Tom Rukavina is chairman of the House of Representatives Higher Education and Work Force Development Committee.

He writes in the Duluth News Tribune today:

The 2007-08 legislative session was marked by several achievements that moved Minnesota forward. Looking back, I’m confident one of the biggest accomplishments was the fight to make college more affordable for every Minnesota student.

Minnesota tuition began spiking in 2003 when the governor made $380 million in cuts to the University of Minnesota and to MnSCU (Minnesota State Colleges and Universities). After five years of crushing, double-digit tuition increases, the gap was closed with a 12.9 percent base funding increase last year.

However, a large cloud loomed entering the 2008 session because Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed $51 million in higher-education cuts for 2008-09 to close the state’s budget deficit.

We made a significantly smaller cut of $21.8 million, totaling less than half of what the governor had proposed. More important, we added language to the final bill to make sure the University of Minnesota and MnSCU couldn’t push the burden of cuts onto students through higher tuition or reductions of services. Their cuts largely must be made in administration and non-student affected areas.

As a result of these efforts, MnSCU recently announced plans for its lowest tuition increases this decade. State community and technical colleges and state universities can expect a 2 percent and 3 percent increase next year. After five years of increases nearly five times that, this is a significant step forward for Minnesota colleges and universities.

The University of Minnesota will set its tuition increases later this month, but due to legislative actions, it is not expected to increase tuition any more than originally planned.

Minnesota’s college students weren’t the only big winners this year.

The long-term economic interests of our state won as well.
By staying committed to providing students with the best opportunity to get the education they deserve, we are preparing them to become valuable members of a world-class Minnesota work force. And that keeps our state healthy and prosperous for years to come.

June 7, 2008

U of M Administration Continues to Ignore Issue of Student Debt

While Doing Spadework for Next Tuition Increase


We note that the propaganda machine (aka Driven to Discover) has been funded for an additional $400K. (See p. 25 of this link.) And of course the campaign to circumvent light rail on Washington Avenue has cost, how much?

There never seems to be a shortage of money when OurLeaders need to do a little PR or anti-PR, as the case may be.

So yesterday we receive yet another of those smug, self-congratulatory, and misleading messages from the University of Minnesota News [sic] Service:

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL ( 6/6/2008 ) -- Scholarship and grant assistance to University of Minnesota students on all campuses will reach a new high-water mark next year at more than $200 million.

Yes, and, wonder of wonders, tuition and fees have also reached a new all-time high, my friends.

The projected amount is roughly double the $104 million in grant and scholarship assistance students received in 2000-01.

And how much did tuition and fees go up since 2000-2001?


More than double!

According to university President Robert Bruininks, these numbers reflect a deep commitment [sic] to ensuring affordable access to a university education.

"Although tuition is usually the topic of greatest interest in the university's annual budget plan, a careful analysis of financial aid resources is always an important part of the budget process," Bruininks said. "As the level of grant and scholarship assistance indicates, the University of Minnesota is very committed to ensuring that it remains affordable for students from all income levels at all student levels."

Bruininks likes what he sees in these numbers, but said there is more work to do.

"Now that founders has been implemented for low-income students, our next priority is to provide more need-based grant and scholarship support to students from higher income levels," Bruininks said. "We must also continue to control costs, improve productivity and provide incentives and support for timely graduation. All of these things can make a dramatic difference in keeping higher education affordable for all students."

How about capping tuition increase to the rate of inflation, Bob? How about explaining why the debt load of Minnesota graduates is the highest in the BigTen (exception, Northwestern, a private school)?

And doing something about it...

(I thank a reader for one of the links that stimulated this post.)

June 5, 2008

Minnesota Ranks at Bottom for Black Graduation Rate


This situation is a disgrace.

Instead of worrying about becoming one of the top three public research universities on the planet, maybe OurLeader should lead an effort to help solve this terrible problem. This would be a very important contribution for a land grant university to make.

"Dedicated to the Instruction of Youth and the Welfare of the State"

Bob, Tom, how about it?

From the Minnesota Public Radio website:

A new study of nationwide graduation rates shows Minnesota now ranks last among the states for the percent of black students that get high school diplomas.

St. Paul, Minn. — Diplomas Count is the name of an annual report issued by Education Week, the nation's leading education news journal. It has been analyzing graduation rates state by state since 2002.

This year's report ranks Minnesota at the bottom of the 37 states that have consistently reported graduation rates for black students. The rate declined by nearly 10 percent between 2002 and 2005, the last year for which data is available.

Christopher Swanson, research director for the project, said the trend is counter to improving graduation rates in general.

June 3, 2008

U of M Gets D for Medical School Conflict of Interest Policies


From University Diaries:

“Most of the medical school bureaucracies are getting too much money and other forms of largess from the drug industry to initiate…

… these healthy, long overdue policies on their own,? says Sidney Wolfe of Public Citizen.

The American Medical Student Association Scorecard may be found at:

AMSA Pharm Free Scorecard (2008)

There will be more on this topic shortly...