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November 29, 2008

Hiring Pause, Thinking Freeze

From the Periodic Table:

OurProvost recently sent out another one of his padding out the old resume pieces. Sometimes these are called dialogues or even conversations, but no one is fooled.

Spam production goes up in Minnesota during hard economic times, both in Austin and Minneapolis. Although the products are different there are similarities - both are canned and hard to digest. And neither one allows discussion with the customers about the contents. Or would that be stakeholders?

"As many of you realize, we live in a knowledge-based economy in which our fundamental mission as a University must be deployed in service of the broader transnational learning process." [OurProvost]

What the hell does that mean?

If you have a masochistic streak, I have activated the link above.

November 25, 2008

Portrait of the Professor As Child Maimer

OK, folks. This is the reason why we need to do something at our medical school about conflict of interest. In this case we want to be as unlike Harvard as possible.

From the website of the Carrie Nation of University Diarists - UD:

Consider then what must be the foulness of the air of hell. Imagine some foul and putrid corpse that has lain rotting and decomposing in the grave, a jelly-like mass of liquid corruption. Imagine such a corpse a prey to flames, devoured by the fire of burning brimstone and giving off dense choking fumes of nauseous loathsome decomposition. And then imagine this sickening stench, multiplied a millionfold and a millionfold again from the millions upon millions of fetid carcasses massed together in the reeking darkness, a huge and rotting human fungus. Imagine all this, and you will have some idea of the horror of the stench of hell.
Here we begin to approach the stench emanating from Harvard medical school, as its adored Joseph Biederman endures yet more exposure of his cruel greed.

Is UD’s language a tad nineteenth century? Well, it’s a Dickensian tale she has to tell… But she doesn’t like Dickens; she likes James Joyce, so she quotes him instead up there…

So, you know, here’s the latest, and it’s really gross.

When a Congressional investigation revealed in June that he had earned far more money from drug makers than he had reported to his university, Dr. Joseph Biederman, a world-renowned child psychiatrist, said that his “interests are solely in the advancement of medical treatment through rigorous and objective study.?

But e-mails and internal documents from Johnson & Johnson made public in a court filing reveal that Dr. Biederman pushed the company to fund a research center at Massachusetts General Hospital whose goal was “to move forward the commercial goals of J&J,? the documents state.

Dr. Biederman’s work helped to fuel a 40-fold increase from 1994 to 2003 in the diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder and a rapid rise in the use of powerful, risky and expensive antipsychotic medicines in children. Although many of his studies are small and often financed by drug makers, Dr. Biederman has had a vast influence on the field largely because of his position at one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the world.

The documents offer an unusual glimpse into the delicate relationship that drug makers have with influential doctors. In one November 1999 e-mail, John Bruins, a Johnson & Johnson marketing executive, begs his supervisors to approve a $3,000 check to Dr. Biederman in payment for a lecture he gave at the University of Connecticut.

“Dr. Biederman is not someone to jerk around,? Mr. Bruins wrote. “He is a very proud national figure in child psych and has a very short fuse.?

Mr. Bruins wrote that Dr. Biederman was furious after Johnson & Johnson rejected a request that Dr. Biederman had made to receive a $280,000 research grant. “I have never seen someone so angry,? Mr. Bruins wrote. “Since that time, our business became non-existant (sic) within his area of control.?


I could go on, but you get the idea. Please see UD's site if you want to see her commentary and have a strong stomach.

There is a conflict of interest policy under consideration at our medical school. It is far from perfect but is a start. It should be approved with all due haste and sent to the Board of Regents for their immediate approval. Further foot dragging on this matter is not acceptable.

November 24, 2008

The Daily Concurs, I Guess It's Ten Percent, Bob?

Don't hold your breath!

From the Daily:


Presidential pay cuts

PUBLISHED: 11/23/2008

Because the University is unlikely to get much of their requested funding from a state that’s facing a deficit, our leader’s foregoing a small portion of his $733,421 worth of salary and benefits would set a symbolic message to faculty and staff who may be unwilling to cut spending.

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks should cut his own salary by at least 10 percent to set a sacrificial example to the rest of the University community.

University leaders around the country have already begun to set the standard at their institutions. The president at Washington State University, Elson Floyd, voluntarily cut his salary by $100,000 due to budget problems. The list goes on, but one thing is clear: University and college leaders understand the significance of their sacrifices and our president should follow in their stead.

November 23, 2008

Go Thou and Do Likewise, Bob, Part II

The NYT notes Mark Wrighton's giveback as well as that of others. Perhaps Bob should also demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice?

From the artilcle:

November 23, 2008

Presidents of Colleges Give Back Some Pay


In the week since The Chronicle of Higher Education published its annual survey of university presidents’ pay — a week in which the nation’s economic troubles worsened — several of the highest-paid presidents said that they would give back part of their pay or forgo their raises.

Pat Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said he had never heard of such a wave of givebacks.

“When you see a cluster like this,? he said, “it seems like sort of belated recognition that this presidential pay thing has gotten out of hand. People are getting tuition increases, some faculty are facing layoffs, it just doesn’t look too good for presidents, no matter how capable they are, to be getting so much money. Americans have had a touching faith in higher education; it’s losing its good image with the public.?

The chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, Mark S. Wrighton, announced on Thursday that he would take a 5 percent cut from his base salary on Jan. 1 and another 5 percent reduction on July 1.

Mr. Wrighton, who announced his decision in an e-mail message to the university community, also pointed out that the university’s endowment had declined about 25 percent since July 1, that some capital projects were being delayed and that faculty salary increases would be lower than in past years.

Mr. Wrighton said he had a base salary of about $560,000 and a total compensation package of about $780,000. He also earns about $360,000 from serving on two corporate boards.

“This was well under way before The Chronicle came out,? Mr. Wrighton said. “I’m generously compensated, I know that. We’re in very difficult financial times. I’m in a position that is not at risk, but the rest of the university community, especially in administration and support, must be wondering if their jobs are secure. I wanted to let the community know that I’m sensitive to the situation.?

In Washington state, where there is talk of deep cuts in financing of higher education, the two highest-paid university presidents announced givebacks last week, as well.

Mark Emmert, the president of the University of Washington — and the nation’s second-highest-paid public university president, according to the Chronicle survey — forwent a raise this year.

The president of Washington State University, Elson S. Floyd, who made $600,000 in his first year at the university and received a $125,000 raise over the summer, said he would take a voluntary $100,000 pay cut in response to budget problems.

November 21, 2008

Go Thou and Do Likewise, Bob?

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

November 21, 2008 Presidents of Washington U. in St. Louis and U. of Pennsylvania Are Giving Back

Two university presidents who are among the highest-paid campus leaders in the United States announced this week that they would be dipping into their bank accounts to benefit their institutions.

Citing tight finances, Mark S. Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, said today that he would cut his own salary next year by 10 percent.

In an e-mail message distributed to the campus, Mr. Wrighton said that while the university has strong overall financial health, its endowment has taken a 25-percent hit since July. The university’s holdings were worth $5.7-billion last year. Mr. Wrighton said he anticipated a “significant reduction? in the spending rate from the endowment in the next fiscal year.

The salary trim will be made in two 5-percent cuts, effective in January and July of 2009. According to The Chronicle’s new study of executive compensation, published on Monday, Mr. Wrighton’s total compensation in 2006-7 was $738,242.

Note that OurLeader's reported compensation for 2007-2008 was $733,421. I have suggested elsewhere that a cut of five percent would be appropriate for OurLeader. This suggestion has been cited in both the Chronicle and the Star-Tribune.

How about it, Bob? Let's demonstrate a little of that Gopher spirit some place other than in front of Twin City Federal Stadium!

Bob Bites The Silver Bullet, Part Two


See, right there - $733,421

And I'm worth it!

An earlier post has appeared on this topic. The news has now trickled down to the Strib and an annotated version of the article can be found on the Periodic Table.

November 19, 2008

MNSCU Gets It - OurLeader Does Not


From the Strib:

Back in September, it seemed a reasonable request: a 9.3 percent increase in state money to cover salaries, add research centers and expand buildings in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Two months and an economic crisis later, the system's Board of Trustees is poised to knock that percentage down.

"I don't think we have a prayer of carrying this budget successfully," said trustee James Van Houten. "And I think to the extent that we look unrealistic, we'll even be less influential when the actual negotiations take place."

"You can argue the politics, but I'd rather go up and say, 'You know what? We've taken a close look at our stuff. Pick a number. Keep us even. And we'll work,'" said David Olson, MnSCU's board chair. "Other groups are going to go up there and say, 'We'd like 9 percent or 10 percent.' I think people are going to look at them and say, 'you're crazy.'"

Hmm... and who might those crazy other groups be, Bob?

The request assumed tuition bumps averaging 4 percent for the system's seven universities and 3 percent for its two-year colleges for a total of $68 million in revenue over two years. Each percentage increase in tuition yields $6.5 million a year, said Laura King, MNSCU's vice chancellor and chief financial officer.

The system's chancellor, James McCormick, warned against setting tuition increases as part of that request.

"There's too much uncertainty," he said. If students hear it will be a particular percentage, "they get locked into that and then it looks like we didn't stick to what we said we were going to do."

The student association for the universities in the system has its own proposal: Ask the state to provide all funding for inflation: $133 million, without assuming a tuition increase.

"If adequate funding is not received, discussions regarding how to balance campus budgets, which may include reallocation, cuts and tuition increases can then be made," Christopher Frederick, state chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association wrote in a letter to the board.

Trustee David Paskach supported that idea, "recognizing that next year and the year after could be some of the worst times to ask the students to pay more," he said.

"This may not be a time to raise tuition either."


In October, the University of Minnesota finalized its budget request that included a $141 million increase over two years to the nearly $1.5 billion the state currently gives. It also called for raising tuition by 9 percent and faculty and staff pay by 6 percent over the same period. At the time, President Robert Bruininks acknowledged it could be a tough sell.

Yes, Bob, it is going to be a tough sell. And not facing reality is going to hurt us in the long run. Trees don't grow to the sky. Ambitious aspirations have to be tempered by reality.

Lead, follow, or...

November 17, 2008

Bob Bites the Silver Bullet

[Note added 19 November. This post has been cited in Higher Ed.]

I was feeling a little sorry for OurLeader when I read in the Daily last Friday that:

Bruininks announces salary freeze

BY Michael Langseth
PUBLISHED: 11/16/2008

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks announced a salary freeze for the University’s senior executives, including himself, at the Board of Regents meeting Friday.

However, it develops that my sympathy for OurLeader was misplaced, at least judging by an article in the Wall Street Journal today that places him in the upper echelon as far as pay goes for university presidents at public universities.

Lucrative Posts

Public university presidents with the highest compensations, including salary, bonuses and various benefits, 2007-2008


Also from the WSJ:

The latest survey on college presidents' pay showed most of their salaries continue to climb, as families struggle to cover tuition bills and congressional leaders scrutinize higher-education finances.

Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a think tank based in San Jose, Calif., said that over the longer term, college presidents have been "disproportionately rewarded" compared with faculty and other employees. "I think these people should be fairly compensated," he said, "but I think we have gone a little bit overboard."

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance committee, said pay raises for college presidents, like tuition increases, regularly outpace inflation.

I think that I will save my sympathy for U of M clerical workers. If you really want to serve as an inspiration for belt-tightening around here, Bob, maybe you should take a salary cut* of say, five percent? That's about what the average clerical worker here makes in a whole year, isn't it?

*UD approves of this suggestion in her post, appropriately entitled "Damage Control."

November 13, 2008

Trouble in River City

There appears to be a very serious problem at the University of Minnesota Fairview Hospital. It has to do with changing the status of children in line for a heart transplant. Does not look good.

One of the local television stations, Kare 11, has had three consecutive pieces on the matter. Art Caplan makes an appearance and is critical.

It is a complicated business, but for those with an interest in our medical school and our reputation, I would encourage you to have a look at the following links. Pay particular attention to the comments. A full post on the matter will follow.

U of M Children's Hospital Investigation

U of M Investigation, part II

University Children's Hospital Investigation - Part III

Bill Gleason

November 11, 2008

Facing Reality - Better late than never...


An earlier post on this topic appeared on October 18.

There the inane claim of OurLeader that the U should get a 10 percent increase in funding was noted as well as some comments about this kind of thinking by our fellow citizens:

"Sorry but you are drunk if you think the U is getting $141 million in the upcoming legislative session. Unemployment is higher than it has been in twenty years. That translates into lower revenues for the state from income and sales taxes. Perhaps the University President missed the global economic meltdown. Time to live in the real world."

"This is absolutely outrageous that anyone has the chutzpa and gall to come asking the citizens of this state AND the students to fork over more of their money, especially in this climate."

"It is a complete outrage with the economic situation we find ourselves in as a country and it is already really tough for us to help our child attend the U - this madness has to stop. Is it not part of the U's mission to educate?"

"My advice to my legislators is going to be to say "No". The U needs to cut costs and play in the current economic situation with the rest of the state. And, if tuition is still raised...the U should be penalized by the legislature within the U's existing state budget allocations."

There's plenty more where that came from..

But Rip van Bruininks has awakened long enough to send out a notice about the pause that will refresh (would that be Coke or Pepsi?):

Systemwide hiring pause to be implemented

A message to University faculty and staff:

November 11, 2008

I am announcing a systemwide hiring pause, a requirement that, before being filled, all open positions must be reviewed and deemed essential. That is, positions must cover work that is essential to University operations, including critical health and safety functions, or those functions that ensure that the University meets its academic and fiduciary responsibilities.

If a position is determined to be essential, University approval will be required before filling it. I have asked that, absent approval, the hire be delayed and have urged consideration of other strategies that will address performance of the work.

This action complements an announcement I made earlier to University leadership to implement a mandatory approval of hires replacing Retirement Incentive Options (RIO) participants. These two actions are important steps that allow us greater flexibility to utilize RIO and other normal attrition to better align our workforce and streamline our operations.

We will learn more about the state's revenue forecast in early December. Most sources are projecting a dramatic decline in state revenues. We anticipate additional clarity on the University's financial support from the state when the governor announces his recommendations on state spending in mid to late January 2009.

Robert H. Bruininks