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The Elephant In the Living Room - Or Mind the Gap

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source: The Demand for Creative Approaches As We Compete for Our Future
F.B. Cerra (June, 2008)

Or, Be Careful What You Wish For

The Strib reports on yesterday's regents meeting where they were told that state money would be a boon for biomedical research.

I watched some of this meeting on live video. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn how things work here at the U.

Props to Venora Hung, a student regent
- law school - who showed some independence and asked good questions. She was the only one who voted against the light rail memorandum of understanding. I don't think the U had much choice on this, realistically, but I admire her for not going along with the crowd and for doing what she thought was right. Even one of the regents, who had complained that light rail down Washington Avenue was like a dagger at the throat of the AHC, voted aye. So much for voting your conscience...

From the Strib:

Dr. Frank Cerra, senior vice president of health sciences, said that the $300 million Minnesota Biomedical Research Program, including $220 million approved by the Legislature this year, will attract more than $100 million in new research funding annually.

The state money, however, is only part of the equation. The university not only has to come up with 25 percent of the funding for the buildings, but it also has to find a way to finance the recruitment and salaries of the faculty members and researchers employed there.

Cerra said $65 million that the university recently received from the Masons for cancer research is the first of several philanthropic gifts in the works. In addition, Cerra said, money from the partnership between the university's hospital and Fairview Hospitals will be used. Other sources will include partnerships with industry, the re-allocation of funds within the Academic Health Center and additional state support.

The University administration has not been entirely frank about the ultimate cost implications of this building spree. When the state legislature and the rest of the university, north of Washington Avenue, finally realize the additional resource commitment, there will be much unhappiness. I am afraid that, given the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves, this use of scarce resources was not in the best interests of the university or the state.

I hope I'm wrong.

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