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August 29, 2008

Durenberger Post Confirmed - Sainfort Out, Moscovice In

merry go round.jpg

[Added later: the Strib has picked up on this. A link and commentary may be found on the Periodic Table.]

A previous post quoted Dave Durenberger's newsletter where he stated that Sainfort had resigned his administrative post. This is confirmed below. A Friday before Labor Day weekend is a wonderful time to make an announcement that should be embarrassing, indeed, to our administration.

Some of Dave's questions still stand:

"And what will it cost us to keep Sainfort-Jacko around the campus doing what?

According to news reports Sainfort was coming with a high potential for garnering research grants, the financial lifeblood of the school. Under the circumstances it's hard to imagine the supposed 12 million dollars of GA Tech grants, much of which was designed for the Children's Hospital capacity building project, flying to UMN with Sainfort. The cloud which did accompany him here is also likely to make it difficult to secure new grants of any size to justify his employment."

On Behalf Of John R. Finnegan, Jr.
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2008 9:12 AM
Subject: Ira Moscovice Named Head of the Division of Health Policy and Management

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Prof. Ira Moscovice as the new Head of the Division of Health Policy and Management (HPM), effective immediately. I am making this appointment after consulting with HPM faculty following Prof. Sainfort's resignation a few weeks ago. It is also an honor to appoint him as our newest Mayo Professor of Public Health, a mark of his scholarly achievements in his field.

Ira is well qualified and experienced for the challenges of leading the Division. He has served as Interim and Acting Division Head for much of the past three years. He has been a member of the SPH faculty for nearly 30 years, specializing in rural health care and the impact of health policy on disadvantaged populations. He is also Director of the Rural Health Research Center and teaches health policy courses to master's and doctoral students.

I am confident in his commitment to shaping the future of the Division and the School, and I am deeply grateful for his willingness to provide leadership in this new role. He will also serve as a member of the SPH Executive Team composed of division heads, associate and assistant deans.

Please congratulate Ira and extend your support to him in this challenging role.

John R. Finnegan, Jr.
Dean and Professor

In Fall '07, we were informed:

Sainfort Named Head of Health Policy and Management

(Nov. 1, 2007)--François Sainfort, Ph.D., has been named head of the Division of Health Policy and Management in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH). In recognition of his scholarly achievements, he also has been named a Mayo Professor of Public Health.

"Dr. Sainfort is highly regarded for his leadership skills and commitment to interdisciplinary research," says John Finnegan, Ph.D, dean of the School of Public Health. "His work in medical decision-making will add to the school's scope of expertise. His vision for attracting endowments and large, multi-investigator grants will bolster our reputation and create new opportunities for faculty and students."

How Others See Us - "comments on the institution-destroying cynicism at the University of Minnesota"

I arrived back from a mind-cleansing 'Up North' few days of no telephones, no tv, no internet, and no newspapers.

Sadly, more disappointing news has appeared about the U. Professor Margaret Soltan at George Washington University has an outstanding academic blog entitled University Diaries. Therein she quotes the latest from the Strib about the conflict in our goals of having a great football team - or even a respectable one - and our ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the universe.

From University Diaries:

The Star Tribune Editorializes

Its editorial board comments on the institution-destroying cynicism at the University of Minnesota:

“It’s impossible to read Wednesday’s Star Tribune story about the abysmal ACT scores recorded by incoming Gophers football players without coming to this conclusion:

The University of Minnesota is taking a win-at-all costs approach to rebuilding its gridiron program. Here’s a question for U President Robert Bruininks, Athletic Director Joel Maturi and head coach Tim Brewster: Can’t a great university do better than this?

The story by Dennis Brackin had been in the works long before prize quarterback recruit MarQueis Gray was recently dropped from the program while officials review his academic record. Unfortunately, Gray’s case is not an isolated problem; it’s a high-profile symptom of a sports program taking a huge risk by relying far too much on players who don’t appear ready for college.

Under the federal Freedom of Information Act, Brackin made a records request for the entrance exam scores for incoming freshman football players at Big Ten schools. Eight schools complied (the exceptions: Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State). The data was disturbing. The Gophers incoming freshmen had the lowest composite ACT score among the eight schools: an embarrassing 17.2 on national signing day. The score for all incoming recruits may even be lower, because the figure did not include the academic records of Minnesota’s unusually large class of junior college signees, who often are even more academically challenged. Typically, those scoring less than 18 on the well-known ACT are not considered ready for college-level study…

For a decade or more, the U’s football graduation rates have been either the Big Ten’s worst or close to it. According to the latest NCAA stats tracking six-year graduation rates, Minnesota and Michigan State were the Big Ten’s basement dwellers; more than 50 percent of their players failed to get a degree.

… Undoubtedly, there is intense pressure on the Gophers to field a winning team. No one wants a repeat of last year’s 1-11 record. And those who pushed for the new on-campus stadium understandably hope the team’s talent justifies the new digs and excites a new generation of fans and ticket buyers. But betting the team’s future on so many at-risk players is unwise, especially at a university where high-profile academic fraud in the basketball program is still a painful memory.

In its quest to become a world-class university, the U is demanding ever-higher entrance requirements from regular students, and the ACT for all incoming freshman this year is expected to be above 26. Desperation for gridiron victories and bowl games does not justify lowering its standards for those who will take the field in maroon and gold.?

August 22, 2008

US News Rankings (2009) - National Universities

And I'll huff and puff, and I'll blow your house down.

Coming on the heels of our Forbes dissing, some good news. Or is it?

From the US News site:

In our self-selected peer group, we are again last:

1 UC-Berkeley 21
2 UCLA 25
3 MIchigan 26
4 Wisconsin 35
5 Illinois 40
6 U Washington 41
7 Texas 47
7 Penn State 47
9 Florida 49
10 Ohio State 56

11 University of Minnesota—Twin Cities 61

In the public universities of the BigTen we are sixth of ten.

26 Michigan
35 Wisconsin
40 Illinois

47 Penn State
56 Ohio State

61 Minnesota

66 Purdue
66 Iowa
71 Indiana
71 Michigan State

As far as all public universities in the country, we are tied for 21st with Clemson University:

21 University of California—Berkeley
23 University of Virginia
25 University of California—Los Angeles

26 University of Michigan
30 University of North Carolina

35 University of Wisconsin—Madison
35 University of California—San Diego
35 Georgia Institute of Technology
40 University of Illinois
41 University of Washington

44 University of California—Irvine
44 University of California—Santa Barbara
44 University of California—Davis
47 Penn State University—University Park
47 University of Texas—Austin

49 University of Florida
53 University of Maryland—College Park
56 Ohio State University—Columbus
58 University of Pittsburgh
58 University of Georgia

61 University of Minnesota—Twin Cities
61 Clemson University (SC)

Being one of the top schools in the BigTen is obviously going to be quite a challenge for us.

And as far as being "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]," I don't think so. The above list does not include places like Cambridge, Oxford, or the ETH-Zurich.


August 19, 2008

Sainfort and Jacko - Dave Durenberger Asks Some Pointed Questions


Former Minnesota Senator Dave Durenberger in his August 19 (2008) commentary writes:

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA ACADEMIC HEALTH CENTER maintains its silence on the allegations that two new professors have been double-dipping pay and expense reimbursement as employees of Georgia Tech and UMN. Francois Sainfort was recruited from Georgia Tech to head up the Division of Health Policy and Management in the AHC's School of Public Health. Sainfort and his wife, Julie Jacko, were signed to UMN employment contracts October 1, 2007 at $285,000 and $216,000 respectively or $99,000 over their GA Tech pay. Georgia Tech alleges they were still employed and paid there through the first of 2008.

After the story broke locally in April, Sainfort was pressed by his new faculty to go on leave from the directorship (for which $20,000 of his annual comp was allotted). In August, he informed faculty that he was asking Dean of Public Health John Finnegan to replace him as division director, the job the UMN went looking to fill 2 years ago. He calls the Georgia Tech charges "unexpected and unfair."

Sainfort is an industrial engineer who went to Georgia Tech from Wisconsin a few years ago as associate dean of its College of Engineering, as William George Chair Professor, and as head of a new Health Systems Institute designed to build capacity for Atlanta Children's Hospital in the research arena. His wife Julie was also on the Georgia Tech faculty in information technology. The UMN's price to get a new division head in public health was to take both Sainforts, creating a dual position in Nursing and in Health Policy and Management for Julie, and giving Francois their Mayo chair and authority to hire additional faculty. AHC head Dr. Frank Cerra was quoted then as saying, "This is all part of the 'medical arms race' for research talent among universities."

Two questions the University of Minnesota might want to answer to help us understand how "The Medical Arms Race" in academic healthcare works.

First, was Sainfort actually leveraging the Minnesota job for money and a job for his spouse against other opportunities?

Officials at Georgia Tech report that sometime after Sainfort and Jacko inked their UMN contracts, Sainfort made the three person "short list" of finalists for dean of Duke University's College of Engineering and Duke came checking up on him at Georgia Tech.

Second, if Sainfort is not the Division Director of Health Policy and Management at the U, who is?

And what will it cost us to keep Sainfort-Jacko around the campus doing what?

According to news reports Sainfort was coming with a high potential for garnering research grants, the financial lifeblood of the school. Under the circumstances it's hard to imagine the supposed 12 million dollars of GA Tech grants, much of which was designed for the Children's Hospital capacity building project, flying to UMN with Sainfort. The cloud which did accompany him here is also likely to make it difficult to secure new grants of any size to justify his employment.

Aside from the immortal words of Mark Rotenberg:

"We will try to piece this together in regard to whether something serious has indeed happened here in regard to so-called double-dipping." (AP, 22 April 2008)

there has been no action on the matter by our administration.


However, we were recently assured by OurLeader that:

"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)

Bob, maybe it is finally time for


August 16, 2008

Credit Card Situation - Is the U of M Contractually Obligated to Push Credit Cards?


A previous post has appeared concerning the apparently cozy relationship between a credit card company and the U.

What stimulated this discussion was an article in Business Week that indicated that "in bag" promotions were being used by the U bookstores. I go to the bookstore (often) and have never seen such a credit card promotion.

I was eventually directed to our excellent University of Minnesota Bookstore Director, Bob Crabb, who seems like a stand up guy. He has given me permission to quote the following email:

Date: July 20, 2008 8:03:22 PM CDT
To: rcrabb@umn.edu
Subject: Fw: Quick Alert -- Friday, July 18, 2008

Here's the answer to the Chase inquiry. It seems the U does have an arrangement via Athletics.

----- Forwarded on 07/20/2008 08:02 PM -----
Daniel Wolter

BUSINESSWEEK: Businessweek has a lengthy look at university deals with credit card companies in their most recent issue. They include the U of M in that discussion. Unfortunately, the terms of the U of M contract read to be much more broad than is actually implemented in practice. Our contract with Chase is almost exclusively an Athletics arrangement, allowing Chase to market their card in Athletics venues, mailings to season ticket holders and in Web banner ads. The contract, however, makes it appear that the University is formally compelled to actively market Chase credit cards in all on-campus retail venues, which is not the case. This inconsistency was explained to Businessweek and they did include a brief mention of it, after explaining the broad terms of the contract. Please keep in mind that our agreement with Chase expires in 2009. The full article can be accessed by clicking here.

Daniel Wolter
Director, News Service
Office of University Relations
University of Minnesota

It is not clear to me what this statement by Mr. Wolter means.

Is the statement by Business Week:

Some campus card deals spell out in detail how schools will help market to their students. The University of Minnesota promises to push a school-branded JPMorgan Chase (JPM) card "in all University retail and athletic venues." The university says it will employ "in-store signage" and "in-bag credit card applications" at campus stores. The school gets $1 for each new cardholder and $3 annually for each active card user, in addition to 0.5% of every purchase made with the cards.

true or not? Is the above quote accurate? And if it is, why?

Whether we are doing it or not isn't the point. Have we signed a contract saying that we would do this?

One thing that is clear, however, is Mr. Crabb's position which he stated in the comments section of the original post:

The article is not true - at least as far as it applies to the University of Minnesota Bookstores. The Athletics Department apparently has a deal with JPMorgan Chase. The Bookstores were never consulted and are not a party to it. Had we been asked to participate, I would certainly have declined. Student credit card debt is a major concern of the Bookstores and of the University. We have not allowed card solicitation in the stores, or in our shopping bags, for the past several years.

Bob Crabb
University of Minnesota Bookstores

So what's the real story here? Tom? Bob? Mr. Wolter?

Heart Attack? Call the U or Call 911?

A community service or ambulance chasing?

From the Strib:

Hot line for chest pain: A dangerous idea?


August 15, 2008

Everyone knows that if you think you're having a heart attack, you should call 911.

But what if you're not sure?

More than half of those having heart attacks die because they don't recognize the symptoms, or because they put off calling 911 until it's too late. Now the University of Minnesota Medical Center is promoting a different approach: a chest pain hot line answered 24/7 by a nurse whose charge is to help patients sort through the symptoms.

They maintain it's not intended as an alternative for 911 -- just a way to reach those who aren't sure what to do.

But other Twin Cities heart experts said the approach could seriously backfire by diluting the hard-won public health message to call 911, and creating potentially dangerous delays in treatment.

Some say the hot line, which is being promoted via radio ads, billboards and direct mail, is nothing more than a marketing tool to recruit patients to the university's heart clinic.

Doctors and nurses who launched the hot line on July 1 said that they do refer callers to their clinic and the university's emergency room. But they aren't urging people to call it instead of 911.

The hot line's targets are people confused about symptoms who may or may not be having a heart attack, said Dr. Gladwin Das, director of interventional cardiology at the University of Minnesota's heart clinic.

"Our slogan is minutes matter," he said. "And delays are deadly."

On that, all cardiologists agree. Each year more than a million Americans suffer heart attacks when their cardiac arteries become blocked by blood clots. If the clot is cleared within an hour after symptoms begin, the damage to heart muscle is minimal, and patients can make complete recoveries. Cardiologists sometimes refer to that window of opportunity as "the golden hour."

That's why most emergency ambulances in the Twin Cities now carry equipment that can immediately diagnose whether a heart attack is occurring, and the emergency medical technicians are trained to provide immediate treatment. They also radio ahead to hospitals so patients can be whisked to a catheterization lab where blocked arteries are cleared.

All of that has made Minnesota a national leader in emergency care systems that have greatly reduced the average time it takes to get heart attack patients to treatment.

"Every time we see a patient that was delayed we always agonize a little bit," said Das. That's what inspired the hot line, he said.

The four nurses answering the line are trained in cardiac care and work for the university hospital's heart clinic. The 800 number rings on a cell phone that they carry when they are on call.

Since the university's Chest-Pain Center advertising campaign began a few weeks ago, it's been ringing a lot, said Kelly Schechter, one of the nurses. Many calls are from people who want to talk about their likely risk for heart disease. But those calling because of chest pain are usually the ones "who would not have sought out medical attention" if they hadn't known about the hot line, she said.

One woman who called this week said she had been seen by a doctor for chronic heartburn, which can sometimes have the same symptoms as a heart attack. But she worried when the pain became more frequent, and was radiating to her shoulder and arm -- a classic heart attack symptom. The nurse on duty told her to call 911, and she came into the university's emergency room. Shechter said she did not know the outcome of her case.

Of the people who show up at emergency rooms complaining of chest pain, one in 10 will be having a heart attack, said Dr. David Cooke, president of the American Heart Association's Midwest affiliate and a Chicago-area cardiologist.

"But it's very hard to diagnose over the phone" he said. The American Heart Association advocates calling 911, he said, because it's been proven to work. Other experts agreed.

"We do see a lot of people in the ER, and it turns out not to be a heart attack," said Dr. Charles Lick, medical director of Allina Hospitals and Clinics' ambulance service. "But if you are having the big one you want to figure it out right away."

Several cardiologists said even well-trained nurses can make mistakes and give people wrong advice.

"Chest pain is not something you triage over the phone,"
said Dr. Kevin Graham, an Abbott Northwestern cardiologist. "You triage them to the ER."

It's clearly a "competitive strategy" to recruit patients, said Dr. Keith Lurie, director of the cardiac resuscitation clinic at St. Cloud Hospital.

August 14, 2008

America's Best Colleges 2008 (Forbes) - We're #524


From Forbes:

America's Best Colleges America's Best Colleges 2008 Michael Noer and Richard Vedder 08.13.08, 6:00 PM ET

Competition is good.

Choosing a four-year undergraduate college is one of the biggest decisions a typical American family can make. And for too many years, information about the quality of American higher education has been monopolized by one publication, U.S. News & World Report.

We offer an alternative.

In conjunction with Dr. Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University, and the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, Forbes.com inaugurates its first ranking of America's Best Colleges, an annual list. In this report, the CCAP ranks 569 undergraduate institutions based on the quality of the education they provide, and how much their students achieve.

CCAP's methodology attempts to put itself in a student's shoes. How good will my professors be? Will the school help me achieve notable career success? If I have to borrow to pay for college, how deeply will I go into debt? What are the chances I will graduate in four years? Are students and faculty recognized nationally, or even globally?

To answer these questions, the staff at CCAP (mostly college students themselves) gathered data from a variety of sources. They based 25% of the rankings on 7 million student evaluations of courses and instructors, as recorded on the Web site RateMyProfessors.com. Another 25% depends on how many of the school's alumni, adjusted for enrollment, are listed among the notable people in Who's Who in America.

The other half of the ranking is based equally on three factors: the average amount of student debt at graduation held by those who borrowed; the percentage of students graduating in four years; and the number of students or faculty, adjusted for enrollment, who have won nationally competitive awards like Rhodes Scholarships or Nobel Prizes.

Generally speaking, big state schools performed poorly: the University of Wisconsin, Madison, ranked 335th; the University of Texas, Austin, 215th; and the University of Minnesota 524th. California public schools scored relatively well, with the flagship Berkley campus coming in 73rd place.

How do the BigTen schools rank?

11 Northwestern

155 Illinois

161 Michigan

214 Indiana

272 Penn State

292 Ohio State

327 Michigan State

331 Iowa

335 Wisconsin

487 Purdue

524 Minnesota

Are we ready to stop rowing in tar? Bob? Tom?


As Hook and Smee learned, fear the clock.

Trouble in River City

President Mason Extends Sexual Harassment Training to Faculty and Staff
From the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

Mason to require sex harassment training

By Brian Morelli
Iowa City Press-Citizen

In the aftermath of an alleged good grades for sexual favors scandal, University of Iowa President Sally Mason wants all UI faculty and staff to receive sexual harassment training.

Mason spoke out on Tuesday in a letter to faculty, staff and students saying conduct detailed in the allegations against UI political science professor Arthur Miller will not be tolerated.

Miller is accused of urging four female students to perform sexual favors, such as to show their breasts or allow him to fondle them, between May 8 and May 13. He has been criminally charged with four counts of bribery, a class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Miller, 66, who does not teach during the summer, will be put on paid leave on Aug. 25, the first day of fall semester, as UI continues its own investigation. He has been at UI since 1985 and earns $123,500 annually.

Here is the full text of Mason's e-mail to employees:

Dear Colleagues:

Today, I feel compelled to speak publicly about the criminal charges filed against a UI faculty member for bribery involving the alleged assignment of grades for sexual favors.

While every person is entitled to the presumption of innocence, I want to state strongly and unequivocally that such conduct will not be tolerated. It is profoundly damaging to the students and to the educational process.

I applaud the courage of the student victims in coming forward to report this conduct to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and to the UI Police Department.

Currently all supervisory personnel are required to undergo sexual harassment training. I have asked Provost Loh to work with our faculty and staff governing bodies to extend the required training to all faculty and staff.


Sally Mason

People at the U of I don't seem to be too happy about this new requirement.

I remember when I was subjected to such training at 3M in the eighties and can understand why people are not happy with this training. On the other hand at 3M sexual harassment was NOT tolerated, When I reported an incident that I witnessed to a supervisor, he literally ran out of my office to go and do something about it - immediately.

Sadly, ethical behavior is not always the norm at universities. Some of the things that I have witnessed over the years at the U of M would never have been tolerated at 3M.

August 12, 2008

Friends - Nicole Branagh and Wiz Bachman McCutcheon

See the previous post below for the backstory.

From the Pioneer Press:

When Nicole learned of Bachman tragedy, 'I couldn't stand up'

BEIJING — Nicole Branagh expected her close friend to see her Olympic debut Saturday evening.

"I left tickets for her, and her parents at the (hotel)," the former University of Minnesota Gopher said. "I had been communicating with her throughout the day."

But Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman McCutcheon and her parents never made it to the Chaoyang Park Beach Volleyball Ground.

Earlier in the day, a man wielding a knife attacked them, killing her father Todd and seriously injuring her mother Barbara at a 13th-century landmark.

Branagh didn't learn of the tragedy until after she and partner Elaine Youngs defeated a Netherlands duo in straight sets. She immediately burst into tears.

"I couldn't stand up," said Branagh. "It was very emotional."

Asked how she would have reacted had she been informed before the match, Branagh quickly said, "I don't think I could have played, to be honest."

McCutcheon and Branagh, along with U.S. Olympic indoor volleyball player Lindsey Berg, have helped provide a strong Minnesota connection to a sport known for its West Coast talent. Berg and Branagh played at the University of Minnesota, and Bachman was raised in Lakeville.

The three played on the national indoor team in 2003, winning the Pan American Cup and taking bronze at two other major events, and they played on the Minnesota Chill in 2002, leading the team to a title in the now- defunct United States Professional Volleyball League.

They remain friends, although McCutcheon and Branagh played together for one more year on the national team and even roomed together for a full year and two summers. Branagh was a bridesmaid when Wiz and Hugh McCutcheon married a couple of years ago in the Twin Cities.

Branagh said she is "devastated," and she is mentally and emotionally "exhausted." She and Youngs are 2-0, after winning Monday.

"I can't imagine what that family is going through," Branagh said, fighting her emotions. "I'm just numb."

"Yesterday and today were very hard. I just did the best I could, to focus on my match."


Nicole Branagh dives to make a play on the ball. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) [Monday's match against Germany.]

August 9, 2008

News from Beijing

The Pioneer Press reports:

Bachman's CEO stabbed, killed in Beijing

BEIJING — A Chinese man stabbed the CEO of Bachman's Inc. and his wife at a tourist attraction in central Beijing Saturday.

Bachman's is THE place to go for gardening, plants, trees, or flowers in Minneapolis. The Bachmans were accompanying their daughter, a former volleyball great, and her husband, the men's volleyball coach. Mrs. Bachman was apparently injured in the attack. Elizabeth 'Wiz' Bachman was not harmed, at least physically..

Jay Weiner has more details on Minnpost.

On a more positive note a former Gopher volleyball player was successful in her opening match. By an odd coincidence I saw the tail end of this match at the Y while on the treadmill. It was very tense, close, and exciting..

Former Gopher Branagh, partner win opening volleyball match

BEIJING — Former Gopher standout Nicole Branagh and partner Elaine Youngs defeated a team from the Netherlands in their Olympic Opener. The Americans won 2-0, edging their opponents 21-19 and 27-25.


Go Nicole!

"The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota."

Shanghai Ratings (2008) Are Out - Have Fun!


Shanghai Rankings 2008

Although these ratings have been traditionally published on the Web on the 15th of August, something is already up and universities have already started to brag - those that went up in the rankings, at least.

A quick look indicates that according to this source we are the 17th highest ranked public university in the world. Hopefully, this Fall we can engage in a university-wide conversation about where we stand at the University and where we would like to go.

Tom, Bob?

In the meantime:

3 Univ California - Berkeley
4 Univ Cambridge
10 Univ Oxford
13 Univ California - Los Angeles
14 Univ California - San Diego
16 Univ Washington - Seattle
17 Univ Wisconsin - Madison
18 Univ California - San Francisco
19 Tokyo Univ
21 Univ Michigan - Ann Arbor
22 Univ Coll London
23 Kyoto Univ
24 Swiss Fed Inst Tech - Zurich
24 Univ Toronto
26 Univ Illinois - Urbana Champaign
27 Imperial Coll London

28 Univ Minnesota - Twin Cities

Another interesting statistic that someone has gleaned is the progress rate over the last five years of certain institutions, namely those that made the greatest improvements. We might worry a little about our competition (currently) further down the pecking order.


Change 03 08 Inst.

60 154 94 Arizona State Univ Tempe

38 75 37 Univ Maryland College Park

38 130 92 Indiana Univ Bloomington

19 81 62 Ohio State Univ Columbus

Oh, and by the way, Tom...

According to this source, at least, about half of the institutions in the top 100 on the list are in the US, NOT 90 percent. I am not sure where you got this figure?

Why is it important to use the word "world" in the University's new goal?

Ninety out of the top hundred universities in the world are in the U.S. We are fortunate in having the premier higher education system in the world.

"The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota."

PZ Does a Book Review in Nature


My esteemed, though impolitic, colleague PZ Meyers has a book review in Nature, one of the pre-eminent general science journals in the world. This is the sort of place where an ambitious institution aspiring to greatness (top three yadda, yadda) would like to see contributions appear from their faculty.

The book review is posted in full in the belief that this is fair use, since it appears not to be available otherwise except for paid subscription.

This review is a good example of PZ's style and why he is the man creationists, and others, love to hate.

From Nature 454, 581-582 (31 July 2008):

PZ Myers is associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris, 600 East 4th Street, Morris, Minnesota 56267, USA, and author of the blog Pharyngula. Email: pzmyers@gmail.com

The creationist controversy

PZ Myers

BOOK REVIEWED-Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul

by Kenneth R. Miller

Viking: 2008. 256 pp. $25.95

The United States has a big problem: although we maintain a strong scientific establishment, competitive with the rest of the world in many fields, we also have some of the most backwards proponents of superstitious nonsense in both our electorate and at the highest levels of politics. It is an embarrassment to host laboratories that are at the forefront of scientific research in the same country where presidential candidates are discussing whether Earth is really 6,000 years old as some Bible scholars say, or whether they believe in evolution.

Science and evolution have an advocate in Kenneth Miller, one of North America's eminent knights-errant, a scientist who is active in defending evolutionary theory in the conflict between evolution and creationism. He has been at the centre of many recent debates about science education, most prominently testifying against intelligent design creationism in Pennsylvania's Dover trial, which decided that intelligent design was a religious concept that should not be taught in public schools. He is also a popular speaker, offering the public a grass-roots defence of good science education. Miller's new book Only a Theory is a tour of creationist misconceptions about evolution, such as the one referred to in the book's subtitle — a creationist predicted an inevitable victory in the Dover trial because evolution is "only a theory". The book is also a celebration of the power of evolutionary theory to explain our existence.

Miller is a fine writer who sharply addresses the details of the arguments about intelligent design creationism. When tackling old chestnuts such as the "only a theory" complaint, or Michael Behe's argument for a maximum limit for the number of genetic mutations, or William Dembski's rehash of William Paley's watchmaker argument for complexity, Miller discusses the contemporary biological explanations while refuting the errors.

The creationist controversy

Miller is sympathetic to the creationists' perspective but opposes them uncompromisingly. The book does not try to place the blame for creationism on ignorance, stupidity or malice, but suggests that the ideas are rooted in traditions and values that biologists share. He admires the clever rhetorical trick of appropriating the term 'design' for creationism, thereby implying that scientists favour the opposite and believe that human life is meaningless and without purpose. He recognizes that the concept of intelligent design creationism taps effectively into human desires and prejudices. Miller does not confuse sympathy for the intent of creationists with sympathy for its effects. The conflict has wider consequences than the teaching of one discipline in US public schools — the creationists aim to revise what science means, discarding rationalism, naturalism, materialism and other Enlightenment values to incorporate the supernatural and loosen the rigour of all sciences.

Only a Theory deals poorly with one central aspect of this battle: why this problem is so much greater in the United States than elsewhere. Miller's rationalizations are sometimes painful to read. Europe's relative freedom from the scourge of creationism is explained with a condescending anecdote: a British colleague offers that any outbreak of such nonsense is rapidly quashed by "dispatch[ing] a couple of dons from Oxford or Cambridge" to overawe the locals with their prestigious degrees, to which the populace will defer. The popularity of creationism in the United States is ascribed to independence and rebelliousness rather than religiosity, which, as someone who has dealt with many creationists, I find disingenuous. The hallmark of almost any creationist argument is the tireless bleating of the same points we have rebutted since the trial of teacher John Scopes in Tennessee in 1925, which tested the law on teaching Darwinian evolutionary theory; the only twists come from new creationist authorities that enter the fray. An equivalent US variant of Miller's British anecdote is that the enemies of science need only dispatch Dembski or Behe from the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington, to stir up more doctrinaire creationism among school boards and in elections and churches. To call US citizens more independent-minded than European citizens flatters the creationists too much and demeans Europeans.

If Miller is on shaky ground in his explanations of the origins of creationism, he is rock-solid on where the creationists want to take us: "To the intelligent design movement, the rationalism of the Age of Enlightenment, which gave rise to science as we know it, is the true enemy ... science will be first redefined, and then the 'bankrupt ideologies' of scientific rationalism can be overthrown once and for all." Although his own religious leanings blind him to conflict between faith and science, they also give him insight into both sides of the struggle. Only a Theory is a useful overview of a perilous political attack on the nature of science.

August 7, 2008

How to cut the cost of higher education by 70, 80, or 90 percent...

(With incidental dissing of the Econ department and a jab at the high cost of attending the U)

From ABC news:

OurGovernor, Tim Pawlenty, says:

"Why would you drive from Stillwater, Minnesota, in January an hour in rush hour to get over to the University of Minnesota campus, park in a remote parking lot, strap on your back pack, haul across campus in challenging weather conditions, get into a lecture hall, unpack, sit in a chair and have a sometimes gifted -- sometimes not -- assistant professor, lecture you on Economics 101 when you can’t even pay for it?"

"Why would you not get out of bed, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit on your sofa, and dial it up on digital storage from any university in the world?" he asked. "The marginal cost of educating a student in a class like that, once it’s up and running, is zero."

"For many of these classes," he emphasized, "we could cut the cost of higher education by 70, 80, or 90 percent."

Bob, Tom, would you like to answer the man's questions? I think we may have a problem here if this is what OurGovernor has to say about the University of Minnesota, don't you agree?


"And to think, I could be home right now watching an econ lecture from Harvard and drinking Peace Coffee. But I am jogging over from Stillwater to the U because the econ department has hired a record number of new faculty members and they are awesome lecturers. I am driven to discover."