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February 27, 2009

Finalists for U of M regent have differing views of research centers

From the Rochester Post-Bulletin

By Heather J. Carlson Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN ST. PAUL -- Differences about research centers in communities outside the Twin Cities emerged Thursday between two finalists vying to represent southern Minnesota on the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents.

Lawmakers interviewed Dr. Patricia Simmons and Randy Simonson, candidates for the 1st Congressional District seat on the university's governing board.

Simmons, of Rochester, serves as the board's chairwoman and is completing a six-year term. Simmons is a physician and professor of pediatrics at Mayo Medical School. Simonson, of Worthington, Minn., is CEO of Newport Laboratories, a biotechnology company focused on agriculture.

Austin Rep. Jeanne Poppe, a Democrat, asked the candidates what role they see the university playing in maintaining and growing research centers like the Hormel Institute in Austin and the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, Minn.

Simmons said she is a strong supporter of these centers and sees them as important to the state's economy. She pointed to the connections being fostered between the Hormel Institute, Mayo Clinic, the university and its local extension office.

"They definitely feed on each other and I think the sustainability and growth is heightened because of that type of relationship. It's critical for the university to be all around the state," she said.

Simonson said he is concerned about redundancies in the university system and would like to take a closer look at some of these regional centers.

"I don't know about these facilities whether they are cost-effective. I would like to see a study of that," he said.

If elected, Simonson said he would like to see the university refocus on its original mission as a land-grant university. He said he wants to make sure the school remains affordable and he would not support a tuition increase. He said it is also important to look at ways the university can help boost the state's economy through its research and discoveries.

Simmons agreed that keeping higher education affordable is key. However, she said it is likely there will be a need to raise tuition this year because of cuts in state funding.

What's next?

A joint legislative committee meets Tuesday to select candidates to nominate for the four seats on the Board of Regents. A joint convention of the Legislature will decide which candidates to appoint.

February 26, 2009

Observations on the University Plan to Reorganize the Graduate School

The following essay was sent to me:

It is widely recognized that the manner in which the plan to reorganize the Graduate School was decided violated all the norms of wide-spread consultation and faculty involvement in major decisions in the University.

The precedent is alarming if it portends the future of the University as a highly centralized bureaucratic decision-making apparatus that excludes the faculty from any meaningful participation. But equally alarming are the consequences the reorganization will most probably have for graduate education and its ties to research that mark a high quality research university. It is important to explore the program and its origins carefully.

The Provost has stated that the plan was based upon a study of the organization of graduate education at Stanford, Chicago, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania. One must wonder why a public research university like Minnesota with aspirations to greatly improve its standing as a public research university would choose as models four private universities which are outliers even in the ranks of private universities.

Why not look at the outstanding public universities like Berkeley, UCLA, Wisconsin and Michigan as possible models? The organization of graduate education in these places stands in striking contrast to that of Stanford, MIT, Pennsylvania, and Chicago. All of these private and public great universities have exceptional graduate programs. Why the enormous difference in how they are organized to deliver graduate education?

Private research universities generally have from two to three – sometime four – times the number of post baccalaureate students as undergraduates. The culture of graduate education and research permeates the entire campus. The incentive system compatible with that culture leads naturally to behavior that strengthens and invigorates graduate (and professional) education and research. Chicago was founded as primarily a graduate university. Undergraduate fields grew from graduate programs. MIT after the Second World War greatly expanded graduate education compared to undergraduate. Neither place has inter-collegiate athletics which in public institutions is one of the features that provides a common rally point primarily for undergraduates.

Public universities were created primarily - if not exclusively - to provide education opportunities for citizens of their states. Boards of regents are primarily concerned with issues of under-graduate education. Regents who have advanced research degrees are rare. This is not said as a criticism. The political process that is involved in the selection of regents at most state universities tends to repel people with a research background but every faculty member must be grateful for people who will go through what is often an unpleasant process to be of service to the state and university. The basic self selection of Boards of Trustees in private research universities typically means that people with direct experience with graduate education and research are on these boards.

It is not only the boards that are different. Legislators hear much more from the parents of undergraduates than of graduate students. They may not be entirely happy with a graduate population that has a big component of foreign students, and may wonder why they should finance graduate education with local tax dollars. It is not surprising that the campuses of these public universities tend to be permeated by a culture of undergraduate education.

And thus it is not surprising that public universities that decided to increase significantly their emphasis on graduate education and research needed a strong graduate dean who operated with a great deal of autonomy. The graduate school structure one sees today at Michigan, Wisconsin, Berkeley, UCLA, and Illinois emerged from that experience.

Graduate Schools and Deans at those places have high prestige, and they occupy important high and relatively autonomous places in the authority structure. The dean at UCLA is also a Vice Chancellor; at Wisconsin the Vice President for Research is also Dean of the Graduate School. (If one is concerned about how Graduate Schools and graduate education emerged in public universities, one could do no better than to read the chapter in Gray’s History of the University of Minnesota dealing with Guy Stanton Ford and his 27 years as Dean of the Graduate School. The chapter is called “The University Achieves its Maturity”. Many other public universities had similar experiences. One might wonder why the others continued that tradition and became some of the best research universities in the country, public or private and why Minnesota has been abandoning that tradition for some time, and is now going a good leap further from it.)

What is the difference between graduate and undergraduate education and why is there some incompatibility? Yaroslav Pelikin, a Dean at Yale, published a book in the early 1980’s on understanding graduate education. At the very beginning he says that one can not understand graduate education unless he or she recognizes that graduate teaching is not an extension of a professor’s undergraduate teaching. Rather it is an extension of his or her research. When the Provost describes the new organization for graduate education that he is putting in place, he sees a close parallel between the approach of the Associate Provost in his office for undergraduate education and the new Associate Provost. He is saying very clearly, “Let’s do graduate education the way we do undergraduate education.” This does not recognize that they have very different well-springs.

The proposed plan is based on an assumption that the way graduate education and its fundamental links to research have been pursued in the great public research universities is not appropriate for Minnesota. This plan is forcing graduate education into a basic under-graduate structure. The Provost is telling the graduate faculty that the kind of graduate school structure that has produced great graduates schools at Berkeley, Michigan, Wisconsin, UCLA and elsewhere—and which continues to support and improve graduate education--is inappropriate for Minnesota.

Instead, in eliminating the graduate school and its dean, he is bifurcating graduate functions, putting part of them into undergraduate colleges that simply have no traditions, knowledge, organization or incentives to foster graduate education, and the other part into the bureaucratic recesses of the Provost’s Office. The strong, relatively autonomous position of Graduate Dean which has served these institutions so well will not be emulated. The Associate Provost for Graduate Education is not a position that will attract a top-flight scholar who can be a focal point for strengthening scholarship, research and a dynamic, challenging graduate education, a person who can join with colleagues at a national level to help enhance the nation’s environment for graduate education. It will attract the consummate bureaucrat who has little independent standing and thus will be responsive primarily to the agenda of the Provost.

We must return to the question of why—why make this particular change and why do so immediately rather than after due consideration of meaningful deliberation and faculty input? The Provost would have us believe that he and others were concerned about increasing the rate of improvement in graduate programs which was below what was needed to become one of the top three public research universities in the world. He also believed that there were gross inefficiencies in the Graduate School operations that could be eliminated by reorganization. This would free up money for fellowships and other goodies.

This scenario is simply preposterous (in the etymological meaning of the word). If the Provost really wanted to improve the organization of the Graduate School to improve quality and wanted to look at some models of success, how could he conceivably overlook how the truly great and successful public research universities organize graduate education? If we rule out ignorance or stupidity, which we will do, there is only one reason. He already had in his mind a model of what he wanted to do, and simply went out and found some research universities that did not have strong graduate schools. That they happened to be private, that they happened to be so different from great public research universities was irrelevant. Who could fault following the example of MIT or Stanford? The fact that he ignored other great private universities like Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Princeton would not strike most people as being more than an odd coincidence.

What did the Provost want to do? Mind reading is not a great strength of University faculties, so let us explore some reasonable speculations. The Provost started with a plan. Given the increase in the centralization of functions in Central Administration over a number of years, it seems reasonable that he wanted to bring important parts of graduate education directly under his thumb. As the present Dean of the Graduate School is also an Associate Provost, something more was needed. Centralizing control in the Provost’s office is a motivation very compatible with what he did.

If the motivation is to centralize more control, no place better to look than at Stanford and MIT. Authority is highly centralized; there are no deans or other officers who have any significant degree of autonomy; there are no traditions of meaningful faculty governance; and wide spread consultation with faculty on important decisions is virtually absent. They are a perfect model if your intent is to centralize; they are a terrible model for high-quality graduate education at a public university.

Of course, no top administrator wants to increase his or her authority with obvious moves. Thus the new proposal emphasizes decentralization. Turn admissions over to departments, programs and deans. Disperse the fellowship funds to the deans. (Deans love slush funds to reward those who in the dean’s mind deserve rewards.) But controlling these funds provides no leverage to influence important decisions in the university. Don’t let them clutter up the Provost’s office.

On the other hand it appears as if the general research funds go into the Associate Provost’s office. Control of those funds provides a real lever of power. More important the McKnight Land Grant program with its $50,000,000 plus endowment goes directly to the Provost. The income from this would make any Provost’s mouth water. Provosts do not get evaluated on the basis of how well he or she runs a program that was devised by someone else, with money raised by someone else, which has little visibility outside the university, and whose big impact comes from the accumulated impact of hundreds of small decisions. Provosts get praised for setting up new research institutes, recruiting to the university famous scholars, and other big visible activities particularly if they resonate with the latest academic enthusiasm. A McKnight Land Grant program under the provost’s control would not survive ten years. This is not because provosts are dumb, or venial, or uncaring. It is because in a highly centralized system with no significant positions of autonomy that provide some checks, the incentives to do visible, dramatic things are overwhelming.

Is this just a paranoid’s delusion? The Provost created an Institute for the Environment reporting to his office and recruited a highly paid outstanding scholar to head it, but didn’t have the money to pay for it, so he skimmed hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the McKnight Land Grant Fund to help cover the costs. Over the next ten years there will be a number of chances to do important visible things for which there is not enough money.

But will this reorganization free up a great deal of money which will go into the support of Graduate education? It is hard to say. The plan is very fuzzy on important details. Some of the supposed savings will never manifest themselves. The misunderstandings of the way in which the Graduate School works are worrying. Applicants for admission do not have to apply to both programs and the Graduate School, although some programs want information which is not required and thus seek additional materials that often can be best be obtained as part of another admissions document. They have that right, but it by no means replaces the official application. Policy Review Councils were designed to bring together similar fields that were housed in different colleges. For example, the Social Science Council represents graduate programs that reside in five different budgetary colleges. What college would one fold that into?

But look at the broader picture. If there were systemic inefficiencies that derive from the way in which graduate schools are organized (rather than from some inadequacies of personnel) then one would expect Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan and Wisconsin would have reorganized the Graduate Schools or at least a reorganization would be in progress. There has been some reorganization in the past decades, but generally they have gone in the opposite direct from what the Provost is proposing. The Dean at UCLA became a Vice Chancellor, the divisional organization at Berkeley probably increased both the authority and the autonomy of the Dean, and Wisconsin has been pleased with its organization that has been very stable and successful over time. The savings proposed in the Provost’s plan are probably phantoms.

One fundamental puzzle remains. The University of Wisconsin is more similar to the University of Minnesota then any other university. Both were state universities before they became land grant colleges. They cover an almost identical range of disciplines. Their student bodies--both graduate and undergraduate--are quite similar. The cultures of the two states are very similar. It is simply beyond belief that Wisconsin was not investigated as a possible model. But the puzzle gets more complex. The Vice President for Research at the University of Minnesota is a product of Wisconsin. He learned his administrative trade under a Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School. He knows how a first class graduate school should be run. He knows how to realize the tight linkage between graduate education and research. If one wants to reorganize graduate education at Minnesota why not simply make the Vice President for Research be Dean of the Graduate School and have the Provost ask him to address the issues about graduate school organization and operations that concern him? The answer is clear. This would be a very easy, effective and efficient change. The president could do it with a stroke of his pen. It would, however, remove the Provost from control over graduate education and the funds administered by that school.

One concluding point: This paper represents an analysis by some members of the faculty who are deeply involved in graduate education and research and are frightened by the possible consequences of this plan – not only for their own work but for the university at large. But they are also concerned about President Bruininks. Bob has had a long and distinguished career at the university as Professor, Dean, Vice President and President. The University is much in debt to him. If this plan is adopted there will continue to be controversy. The Chronicle of Higher Education will cover it. The headline will be: “Minnesota Abolishes its Graduate School.” The controversy will be known and debated across the country. People will wonder why the President ignored the advice of those members of the faculty who know much more about graduate education and research than does the provost and acquiesced in the abolishment of the Graduate School. Why was a distinguished vice president for research who knows a great deal about graduate education never consulted? Bob Bruininks may go down in history as the President who built a football stadium and abolished the graduate school. With a stroke of his pen he can avoid that verdict.

Further Evidence That OurAdministration Has Acted Contrary to University Policy in Stomping the Graduate School

From the University of Minnesota's Policy on Re-organization

Approved by the: University Senate - May 20, 1999
Administration - June 16, 1999
Board of Regents - no action required



Because the structure and organization of the University's academic units can have a profound effect on the financing and delivery of educational programs, the Senate adopts the following policy with respect to reorganization of academic units. In general, both the Senate and its committees should be involved in any organizational or structural decision affecting an academic unit made at the level of the campus or college or across colleges. The provisions of this policy calling for reporting information are also intended to provide the Senate a broad overview of the changes in academic programs that are occurring in the various colleges and campuses.

It is the position of the Senate that program changes within colleges should be subject to appropriate consultation with faculty and students from the beginning of planning for such changes. The primary focus of consultation should be the impact that the changes will have on the delivery of education to students. If actions leading to change are conducted in a reasonable manner, with consultation, the Senate has no interest in second-guessing academic decisions made by the colleges.

For the purposes of this policy, "academic unit" is defined as any unit which offers programs leading to a degree.

I. Reorganization of Campuses and Collegiate Units

1. The campus assembly (or analogous body) of an affected campus or college unit shall review and make recommendations on the establishment of new collegiate units, the merger or elimination of existing collegiate units, or the addition to an existing campus/college of a major new mission with college- or campus-wide impact or ramification.

2. The Executive Vice President shall consult with the Senate Consultative Committee as to whether additional consultation with University Senate committee(s) is appropriate, and the timetable for such consultation.

3. These reorganizations shall be reported to the University Senate for information.

II. Reorganization Within and Across Colleges and Campuses

1. Proposals to establish, eliminate, split, or merge collegiate academic departments as well as intercollegiate transfers of departments shall be reviewed by appropriate college governance committees and reported to the Committee on Educational Policy for information

2. All proposals for the addition or deletion of undergraduate majors or degree programs shall be reported for information to the Committee on Educational Policy as part of decisions made by the administration or Board of Regents. Such proposals must incorporate an analysis of policy and budget implications. Changes within colleges and campuses shall be reviewed by the appropriate internal faculty governance process.

3. The Committee on Educational Policy shall report annually to the Senate, at the first meeting of the academic year, on the changes it reviewed under Section II(1) of this policy.

4. For each campus, it is expected that discussion of curricular issues (including conflict and duplication of courses) will be carried out in the appropriate campus governance committee(s), and that recommendations made to campus academic officers will also be reported to the Committee on Educational Policy.

5. Addition and deletion of programs in the Graduate School will be reported annually for information to the Committee on Educational Policy.

III. Administrative Reorganization

1. The organization and selection of officers is appropriately at the discretion of the appointing authority. The president should have considerable discretion in setting the structure of the central administration of the University and to select and direct the officers who report to him or her; other senior academic officers (e.g., vice presidents, provosts, chancellors, deans) should have similar discretion.

2. When the president contemplates (a) the establishment or elimination of senior administrative position(s) of high rank (e.g., vice president, provost, chancellor), or (b) a major reorganization of the central administration, he or she shall present a proposal to the Senate Consultative Committee (or separately to the Faculty Consultative Committee and Student Consultative Committee) for information and discussion. Approval of the committee(s) for such proposals is not required.

When a campus executive officer (chancellor or provost) contemplates the establishment or elimination of senior administrative positions for a campus, the provost or chancellor shall present a proposal to the appropriate consultative body (assembly executive committee or its faculty-student equivalent) for information and discussion. Approval of that consultative body for the proposals is not required.

* * * *


The Senate Committee on Educational Policy has been reviewing existing policies for the last several years; this proposal represents one more presentation of a consolidated and clarified policy, this one relating to the reorganization of the University at various levels. This particular policy has been under review for almost two years, has been circulated to the deans for their comment, and has also been endorsed by the Senate Committee on Finance and Planning. It replaces all existing policies.

The following are EXISTING policies on reorganization (with dates of adoption in parentheses):

1) That SCEP will study proposals for transfer of programs from one unit to another, and report its findings to the Senate for recommendations to be made. (1956)

2) That the Senate may specify the educational impact of inter-college transfers in recommendations to the President; that the administration (and college administrations) will scrutinize proposed course or staff additions in light of total University functions. (1956)

3) Proposals for new college units must be made to SCEP, and if approved, also approved by the Senate, by the State Higher Ed Board, and by the Regents. (1970)

4) All matters of collegiate reorganization, including addition/deletion of majors, must be reported to SCEP for discussion; SCEP will forward it recommendation to the Senate; then on to the Regents (this was repealing the existing procedure of reporting such things through the Senior VP to the HECC prior to the Regents). Proposals would now go to SCEP and HECC simultaneously.

Creation of new colleges, and the addition/deletion of missions on existing campuses, must be recommended by the affected campus Assembly, and reported for information/discussion to the Senate through SCEP and SCRP.

SCC should be consulted about proposals for new campuses, and direct issues to appropriate other committees for discussion. (1971)

A Light At The End oF The Tunnel?

From the Star-Tribune

One of the Legislature's biennial mini-dramas commences Thursday with a joint meeting of the House and Senate's higher education finance committees. It's time to elect four members of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents. The joint committee's charge is to recommend candidates to a joint convention of the Legislature next month.

I asked a former regent, who asked not to be named, what he would advise the Legislature about the board's talent needs this year. He noted that it's likely that the next board will likely shoulder the biggest responsibility a governing board faces -- the hiring of a new CEO. President Robert Bruininks, 67, has not announced a retirement date, but he's believed to be past the midpoint of his tenure at the university's helm.

"Look for regents who have experience governing complex institutions, and know something about hiring executives," my source said. "And look for people who are capable of serving as chair of the board."

During a presidential transition, the regents' chair plays a prominent role. He or she need to be capable of inspiring public trust, especially if an initial search goes awry.


University of Minnesota severs relationship with Russell Brands

There! Now, that didn't hurt, did it?

Contact: Daniel Wolter, University News Service, (612) 625-8510

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL ( 2/25/2009 ) -- The University of Minnesota is ending its relationship with Russell Brands, a major Atlanta-based apparel manufacturer that makes U of M-logoed products.

A number of colleges and universities in the U.S. recently have taken similar action after questions arose surrounding the company's decision to close its factory in Choloma, Honduras. Workers' rights groups have alleged that the closure took place in response to union-organizing activity, and they cite additional claims that factory management repeatedly sought to suppress freedoms of association there.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg led an administrative team that reviewed detailed reports from independent monitoring organizations, the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and the Fair Labor Association, and also asked Russell for a direct response to the allegations.

"The University of Minnesota has a long history of insisting upon fair treatment for workers in factories making University of Minnesota apparel around the world," said Rotenberg. "Our decision to terminate our licensing agreement with Russell is not taken lightly, but is essential to affirm the basic values of this institution. Russell simply has not lived up to the legal standards we have for those companies that manufacture using the U of M mark."

Rotenberg said the University is instructing the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), which manages the University's licensing and trademark agreements, to end the University's ties with Russell effective March 31, 2009.

The university requires that manufacturers of U of M logoed products adhere to its labor code of conduct. The code addresses workers' wages; working hours; overtime compensation; child labor; forced labor; health and safety; nondiscrimination; harassment or abuse; women's rights; freedom of association; and public disclosure of factory locations.

The University's licensing relationship with Russell resulted in $26,471 in University revenue in 2007.

February 25, 2009

Reconfiguration of the Graduate School Without Appropriate Consultation is a Violation of University Policy

I believe that OurCEO has seriously overstepped his authority in the re-organization of the Graduate School.

From Establishing Administrative Policies:

Effective: June 1995
Last Updated: February 2008

Responsible University Officer:

* University President

Policy Owner:

* President


The University of Minnesota (University) establishes administrative policies to align operations, set behavioral expectations across the University system, and communicate policy roles and responsibilities.

Administrative policies may be established if they:

support the University’s mission and strategic positioning goals;

apply institution-wide;

impact a substantial number of the University population;

promote consistency, efficiency, and effectiveness and/or mitigate or manage significant institutional risk; and

derive from the authority of Board of Regents Policies, including specific delegated authority to manage the institution, or comply with federal or state laws, rules, or regulations.

Policy Framework. The President is responsible for establishing administrative policies by means of a comprehensive and strategic framework that provides:

a means for determining the need for administrative policy;

a consistent, transparent, and inclusive development process;

an identified authority for approving administrative policy;

a mechanism for regular review of policy need, compliance, and effectiveness; and

a consistent policy format and accessible electronic policy library.

Expedited Process. Policy owners may request a more expedited process from the Chair of the President’s Policy Committee (PPC) through the Administrative Policy Director. Special situations where this is likely may include a change in federal or state law, a significant and immediate financial opportunity, or a major institutional risk.

According to the administrative policy development document found in the Appendix:

The process must include consultation and posting of a draft of the proposed policy for 30 days during which comments may be made.

February 24, 2009

The Engineer of Transparency - OurProvost - Speaks His Mind


Tom Sullivan, the system's provost, says he favors the proposed policy change out of a belief that "a very important part of our universities — particularly our public universities — should be transparency," which is lacking where employees do not feel free to speak their minds.

This is pretty humorous given the transparent way in which the Graduate School was recently snuffed...

For details see: Balance of Power, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

For a slightly different spin on the situation, please see:
Trust Me, I'm a Lawyer.

OurCEO faces the music for stompin' on the Graduate School



Faculty Consultative Committee
Thursday, February 19, 2009
238A Morrill Hall

2. Discussion with the President

Professor Hoover welcomed President Bruininks to the meeting. The primary focus of the hour-long discussion was the decision about the Graduate School, both process and merits; secondarily there was discussion of budget issues. The President concurred in general with the Committee view that the consultation process should be improved. It was agreed that the President could ask to join the Committee at any of its regular meetings to discuss major decisions being considered, or that Professor Hoover would call a meeting of the Committee on short notice if needed. The Committee and the President also agreed that some discussions about possible decisions would need to remain confidential, others would not, and some decisions could occupy a middle ground, allowing for a short comment period.

Professor Hoover noted that the Committee had sent the President a letter expressing its deep dismay at the complete lack of consultation with faculty governance on a matter of enormous importance, the future of the Graduate School. The letter also expressed concern both about the implications of the decision for graduate education and for the reputation of the University as well as for the future of faculty governance at the University.

As noted numerous times before, the tendency of this administration to shoot first and ask questions later is quite disturbing. Is faculty governance, too, an oxymoron at the University of Minnesota?

But I guess that for people of a certain age, stompin' is irresistable...

How Others See Us - The AHC/Med School Reshuffle

From Modern Physician:

In other medical education news, the University of Minnesota Medical School is searching for a new permanent top leader following an administrative reshuffling that left the current dean, Deborah Powell, M.D., without a job.

University President Robert Bruininks announced that the school’s two top jobs—those of the dean and the senior vice president for health sciences—were being combined into one role. Bruininks said in a letter to university staff that the streamlining follows a pattern seen at other medical schools nationally.

Frank Cerra, M.D., the sitting health sciences senior vice president, will assume Powell’s job responsibilities by July 1 if he is appointed to the interim dual role by the university’s Board of Regents in May. University officials expect to begin a nationwide search next year, with the goal of finding a permanent top administrator by the fall of 2010.

Powell is in ongoing discussions with university officials concerning an administrative position in medical education, a news release says. She was the first female dean of the 154-year-old school. Powell was the subject of a critical Dec. 21, 2008, article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that said she had appointed university professor Leo Furcht, M.D., to a medical school ethics panel, even though Furcht was sanctioned in 2004 for secretly steering a $501,000 research grant to his own company.

Stimulate This!

Tom Friedman: Stimulate these - biotech, nanotech, info tech, clean tech

From the NYT via the Pioneer Press:

Reading the news that General Motors and Chrysler are lining up for another $20 billion or so in government aid — on top of the billions they've already received or requested — leaves me with the sick feeling that we are subsidizing the losers and for only one reason: because they claim that their funerals would cost more than keeping them on life support. Sorry, friends, but this is not the American way. Bailing out the losers is not how we got rich as a country, and it is not how we'll get out of this crisis.

You want to spend $20 billion of taxpayer money creating jobs? Fine. Call up the top 20 venture capital firms in America, which are short of cash today because their partners — university endowments and pension funds — are tapped out, and make them this offer: The U.S. Treasury will give you each up to $1 billion to fund the best venture capital ideas that have come your way. If they go bust, we all lose. If any of them turns out to be the next Microsoft or Intel, taxpayers will give you 20 percent of the investors' upside and keep 80 percent for themselves.

The renewable-energy business — wind, solar and solar thermal — was almost dead in this country. Most new projects stopped last fall because they depended for their financing on selling their renewable energy tax credits to Wall Street firms. As those Wall Street firms went bust or suffered steep losses, they had no need for tax credits, because they had no profits to offset. The stimulus package created a mechanism for renewable energy innovators to bypass Wall Street and monetize their tax credits directly through the U.S. Treasury, for any project that starts between now and the end of 2010.

The wind and solar industries in America "were dead in the fourth quarter," said John Woolard, chief executive of BrightSource Energy, which builds and operates cutting-edge solar-thermal plants in the Mojave Desert. Almost five gigawatts of new solar-thermal projects — the equivalent of five big nuclear plants — at various stages of permitting were being held up because of a lack of financing.

"All of these projects will now go ahead," Woolard said. "You are talking about thousands of jobs. ... We really got something right in this legislation.

That is how taxpayer money should be used to stimulate: limited financing, for a limited time, targeted on an industry bristling with new technology startups that, with a little push from Uncle Sam, won't just survive this crisis but will help us thrive when it is over. We need, and the world needs, an America that is thriving, not just surviving.

February 23, 2009

Finally, An Explanation of Why OurCEO Makes So Much Money

From Margaret Soltan's University Diaries:

Finally, an explanation for why the president of the University of Minnesota…

makes such an enormous salary.

It’s a tough job, presiding over a university’s decline, but someone’s got to do it.

February 22, 2009

The U Slips and the State Suffers

Or, Don’t Worry, Be Happy

A concerned U of M graduate, who recently sent a son to college out of state, writes in the Strib today:

By Brian Rice

Recently, the Star Tribune reported good news for Carleton College when StateUniversity.com "quietly slipped" the Northfield school in at No. 15 in its ranking of the best 2,000 universities in the country. What was not reported was the bad, even ominous, news that the University of Minnesota ranked 199th in the same survey -- a ranking that places the university 10th out of the 11 schools in the Big Ten (add Penn State). This is very sobering news considering that on the same day a report from the Federal Reserve indicated that Minnesota has the highest unemployment rate in the upper Midwest, trailing only Michigan.

Minnesotans have long lived with the myth that the U is an elite academic institution and that our employment trends are always better than other states. Neither are truisms today.

The rankings that StateUniversity.com made of institutions of higher learning are not an anomaly. Two years ago, U.S. News & World Report ranked Minnesota tied for ninth among the Big Ten schools. This year, the same U.S. News report ranks the U seventh. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has consistently ranked higher than the University of Minnesota in these surveys, and that state is doing better than ours in other economic measures as well. What is going on?

My father served in the Legislature for 26 years and worked for Gov. Karl Rolvaag for four years. He was also a graduate of the U of M. To him, the university was sacred.
He understood, perhaps better than my generation, that as the university goes, so goes the state. Somewhere along the way, the people who govern our state have lost sight of an asset that is as precious to our economic and cultural climate as its water and air are to our health. Institutions of higher education and the University of Minnesota specifically are the engines that drive the mind and every idea, invention, product and thought that springs from there. That truly is our hope for a better future.

Our state is faced with yet another budget crisis and another round of cutting and retrenchment. Somewhere in those many crises that have occurred over the last 30 years, I can't help but think that decisions have been made that in the long run diminish this great state that we know as Minnesota.

Brian F. Rice, a Minneapolis attorney and 1982 University of Minnesota Law School graduate, is active in political and community affairs.

Meanwhile OurCEO continues to sing the same old song, the one made famous by an émigré from the Twin Cities, Bobby McFerrin, former conductor of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra:

February 20, 2009

$1 billion bioscience center planned for Rochester area

From MPR:

California developers are poised to announce an effort to raise $1 billion to create a bioscience research center just outside of Rochester. The Elk Run project has drawn the interest of one of the industry's leading developers. If successful, it could turn the region into a national center for research into new drugs, medical devices and other breakthroughs. The site is known as Elk Run, and these days, it isn't much to look at. It's a fenced stretch of vacant land along Highway 52, about 10 minutes north of Rochester.

The California real estate company that is developing the site has been meeting with state and local officials to tell them it wants to start work on a 1,700 acre mixed-use residential and business development, centered around a biotech business campus.

That firm, Tower Investments, hopes Steven Burrill, the venture capitalist, will fund research there for experimental drugs, treatments for diseases and medical products, sources tell MPR.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- who has long pushed for Minnesota to become a bioscience leader -- confirmed this week that his administration has talked to Burrill and his associates about the project.

"We've had meetings and discussions with them, and it's a hopeful project, and one that they continue to work on," Pawlenty said. "I don't want to speak for them, but if they can get a few more items lined up, that's something you'll be hearing more about in the coming weeks and months."

The project would require millions of dollars worth of groundwork. The state has already committed to more than $1 million worth of sewer and other improvements on the site.

Several legislators say MnDOT is also weighing a $50 million project to improve highway access to the site.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, who represents the area, told MPR he met with developers this week to talk about the highway project, including the potential for using federal stimulus funds for highway access.

The developers have included a representative of the Mayo Clinic on the project's board, and sources say the developers would like to get the world-famous medical center to join the venture. Those sources are people who have been provided details of the project, but asked not to be identified before a formal announcement.

Venture capitalist Steven Burrill also declined an interview request. But news of the potential billion-dollar development has legislators, University of Minnesota researchers and the venture capital community talking.

"Is there skepticism? Probably. There always is when you're talking about a big project," Demmer said. "But as with anything else, if you make steps along the way, as you get closer, the reality starts setting in that this can be done. And we know these kinds of things are being done. Why not here?"

In fact, outsiders, including Pete McNerney, a Minneapolis-based biotech investor, say the site's proximity to Rochester and the cachet of the Mayo name could put the state on the biotech map.

"If it were known that there were that kind of money available, there would be a lot of people approaching whoever makes the decision," McNerney said. "The trick, of course, would be which ones to invest in and which ones would move to Minnesota."

The state has had a checkered history with medical innovation. It has successes like Medtronic, the large medical device maker based in Fridly. But a $24 million investment in the University Enterprise Laboratories project in St. Paul is foundering.

So McNerney remains skeptical. The economy is sagging, and even companies like pharmaceutical giant Pfizer are laying people off. Good intentions and money don't guarantee success.

February 19, 2009

Shut your mouth, go away...

Bruininks responds to letter from Regents professors


From the Daily:

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks personally responded Tuesday to the Regents professors’ letter requesting the postponement of the Graduate School reconstruction, but he will not be considering their request. In the letter obtained by the Daily, Bruininks does not specifically respond to the request, although he does acknowledge the professors’ concern over the University’s lack of consultation before making the decision.

Instead, he focused on the positives the administration believes the reconstruction will achieve, such as an increase in spending efficiency.

“The provost, endorsed by all the Twin Cities collegiate deans and senior academic officers, felt this plan had the best chance of accomplishing a number of important goals of the University of Minnesota,” he said in the letter.

Or as the classic song goes:

Shut your mout', Go away

Mama, look at boo-boo dey

Shut your mout', Go away

Mama, look at boo-boo dey

(I couldn't find it on Utube, only the PAIN version, which is not safe for work.)

Let's be frank, Frank..

I've posted an entry on the Periodic Table responding to a Daily opinion piece by Frank Cerra, our VP for the AHC:

A Straw Man Argument and Vague Complaints..

Professor Gary Schwitzer of our J-school skewered Frank in his own response on the Daily.

[Gary has the chops, click his bio link. We are fortunate to have him at the U.]

Professor Schwitzer has posted some further thoughts about this situation on his U-think blog. Some of them are below. I suggest that Frank think about them and possibly even make some sort of apology. But then again, surgeons don't make mistakes, do they Frank?

Mishandling of med school conflict of interest process

I bit my lip for more than six months, but after about 10 calls from reporters in the past two months, I decided to say everything I had to say in a guest column in the Minnesota Daily , which has taken heat from University of Minnesota medical school administration for its reporting on the school’s conflict of interest recommendations process.

I feel for those young journalists who have been trying to do a good job reporting on this bungled affair, but who have been stonewalled by many medical school faculty. It’s easy to take shots at young journalists; it’s harder to reach out and help them learn and improve. Across the University campus in the past eight years I’ve been appalled by the way student journalists have been treated by faculty, staff and administration.

In this case, I think the med school has an awful lot of introspection to do before it starts pointing fingers.

The University's senior vice president for Health Sciences, Frank Cerra, raised a false dichotomy in his guest column in the Daily this week, writing:

“I want to state clearly that this University, our Medical School and all health sciences schools must have industry relationships. … to suggest we sever all ties with industry is a mistake with enormous consequences for the nation’s health.”

I never heard anyone suggest that all ties with industry be severed.

But the following comments are more troubling.

“Finally, I expected more fairness, more facts and less innuendo from the Daily than the coverage during the past several weeks. It’s unfortunate that this important effort continues to be misrepresented by a few who seem to want to influence the outcome outside of the process. The faculty of the Medical School have brought forth their thinking. This is their voice…”

How does he know the effort was misrepresented? He never attended one of the task force meetings. Whom does he refer to as the “few who seem to want to influence the outcome outside of the process”? That’s a pretty vague broad-brushed attack against anyone who comments.

But his emphasis on the faculty’s thinking and the faculty’s voice is most troubling of all.

That shows the lack of a grasp for the importance of public input on the school’s conflict of interest policy – the very point of my guest column.

Who Runs This Asylum?

I thank a friend for pointing out:

"Post from the Minnesota Daily on 2-17-07: In an e-mail response to the Regents Professors the chair of the Board of Regents, Dr. Patricia Simmons, said that the reconstruction [termination] of the Graduate School is not something on which the board can make decisions."


From the bylaws of the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota:

Article II

The government of the University of Minnesota shall be vested in a Board
of twelve Regents . . . .

Article VII Section A

The Board of Regents may authorize appropriate executive officers to acton behalf of the University, consistent with Board of Regents policy . . .

Article VII Section B

All matters relating to the education and administrative affairs of the University, consistent with actions or policies of the Regents . . ., are, for the purpose of effectuating the government of the University under and by the Regents, committed to the President, the University Senate, and the several faculities, as provided in the Senate Constitution and as amended from time to time.

February 18, 2009

Board of Regents to Regents Professors

Sorry there is nothing we can do....

I guess it is hard to say no to the CEO of the year!

From the Daily:

Every day the number of Regents professors who have signed the letter asking to postpone the Graduate School reconstruction rises. The Board of Regents, however, will not be acting on their request.

In an e-mailed response to the Regents professors, Board Chair Patricia Simmons said the reconstruction is not something the board can make decisions on, although they do understand the professors' concern over the administration lack of transparency over the reconstruction.

"This item was presented to the Board for information and not for action, as it is an administrative reorganization and not an action that ends programs," Simmons said. "We recognize that consultation has been a hallmark of this University for many years and especially so for those leaders - the faculty, the administration, and the Board Regents - who share governance."

President Bob Bruininks and Senior Vice-provost Tom Sullivan told the Board of Regents Friday they intended to contact the regents professors directly, Simmons said in the letter.

As of Tuesday night, 23 Regents professors had signed the letter to the Board of Regents.

In total, there are 27 current Regents professors, 16 of whom have now signed the letter. Seven retired Regents professors also have signed.

It is difficult to believe that a resolution by the Board of Regents requesting proper consultation on this matter would not serve to wake up OurCEO and OurProvost.

There are eventually consequences for not walking the talk on openness and transparency. The gag refliex starts to kick in for most folks. Or maybe OurAdministration doesn't have a gag reflex?

More Reaction to the Coup at the U...

From the Daily:

In Graduate School restructuring, a lack of transparency

Last week, Provost Tom Sullivan declared a “restructuring” of graduate education by effectively annexing the Graduate School and bringing administrative decisions within the jurisdiction of his own office. Bracketing off questions regarding whether this move provides sound policy, Provost Sullivan should be resoundingly scorned for his utter lack of transparency and his unwillingness to first consult those most affected by this decision.

Not only were many key actors in graduate education not involved in the decision-making process — including those working for the Graduate School, graduate student organizations, and the graduate students themselves — but most were completely unaware that such a measure was under consideration at all. As a result, rather than initiating a two-way discussion with graduate students about how to improve their experience at the University of Minnesota, these students have been met with a paternalistic public relations blitz about how this policy measure is in their best interest.

It is of no coincidence that talk of transforming the University into a top-three public research institution is now a memory. The University is increasingly treating its graduate students like a cheap (but efficiently produced!) product. By emphasizing efficiency over quality and unilateral-but-well-marketed decisions over dialogue, we risk turning graduate education at the University into a bastion of mediocrity over excellence.

Matt Hindman

Graduate student

Public perceptions of conflicts of interest

From the Daily:

Ethics reform for the Medical School could have been open to public perceptions. In the end, it just didn’t feel that way.

BY Gary Schwitzer PUBLISHED: 02/17/2009

As a longtime health care journalist who now lectures journalists and students about the importance of investigating and writing about conflicts of interest in health care, I was pleased to accept an invitation from the dean of the University of Minnesota’s Medical School, Deborah Powell , to serve on a task force that would make new COI policy recommendations.

In one of the first meetings of the task force, we heard a presentation about the importance of perceptions of conflict of interest — that it is, indeed, even the perception of conflict of interest that must be addressed.

Can any of us truly judge how our own actions are perceived by others?

How does the public perceive industry funding of continuing medical education? Would the public, if told, wonder why a recommendation to end industry funding of CME was removed from the final report? I was the only true “outsider” on this task force, and I don’t know why it was removed. On several occasions, I urged the task force to bring outside parties into the process. What has the Medical School done to gauge public perception of the issues considered by the task force?

Since the task force completed its work, I have not heard directly from anyone in the Medical School except for a polite note of thanks from the dean, which promised: “As we go forward, the Medical School will keep you and other faculty up to date on the progress of new conflict of interest policies.”

In my case, at least, that didn’t happen.

Instead, local and national reporters started calling, asking if I knew that the man the dean appointed as task force co-chair, Leo Furcht , had, indeed, been disciplined by the dean on COI issues. I had never been told. Journalists wanted my opinion on the circulation of new drafts of the ethics reform report — about which I knew nothing.

I’ve now learned that some Medical School department heads have questioned, “Why is this journalism guy commenting on our process?” Perhaps they were never told that their dean invited me. I didn’t ask to be invited, didn’t need the extra work, didn’t really have time for it and didn’t get paid for it. But I attended more task force meetings than some of their Medical School colleagues. (Eight were assigned to my subcommittee. At a couple of subcommittee meetings, I was the only one to show up to meet with the subcommittee chair.)

In the end, the conclusion of the task force’s work felt rushed and incomplete, even after almost a year to make recommendations.

I urged the task force and the dean that editorial boards of local news organizations should be shown the draft recommendations, told that this is only a draft and then asked for comment. Perhaps if that had happened, this slow, toxic dribble of news about the process would have been avoided. The process could have been proactive, open to public perceptions, and inviting.

The end result just doesn’t feel that way.

In the end, the Medical School is correct; it is their report. But at some point they’re going to have to deal with public perceptions.

Gary Schwitzer is an associate professor who teaches health journalism in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

I think this serves as an excellent response

to Frank Cerra's Daily piece:

where he claimed:

"Finally, I expected more fairness, more facts and less innuendo from the Daily than the coverage during the past several weeks. It’s unfortunate that this important effort continues to be misrepresented by a few who seem to want to influence the outcome outside of the process."

This whole situation is a disappointment to many of us at the University, both within and outside of the Medical School.

Sincere thanks to Professor Schwitzer for speaking up. I know that this was not easy.

Bill Gleason

February 16, 2009

Request of Regents Professors to Postpone Graduate School Reorganization To Be Ignored?

OurCEO and OurProvost have stepped in it. Eighteen Regents Professors (at least) question the move.

The Daily reports:

Regents profs ask to postpone Grad School reconstruction

The request by regents professors shows little signs of being met by administration.

A letter signed by 18 current and former University of Minnesota Regents professors will not be enough to halt the reconstruction of the Graduate School, despite the professors’ specific request to postpone the measure.

“This is not a matter that should be taken lightly: the Graduate School has served us for 104 years, and if we choose to disband it, we should do so with full understanding of the costs and benefits,? the letter, which more than half of the University’s distinguished faculty signed, states.

Regents professorships are the University’s highest honor a professor can receive and are appointed by the Board of Regents. In total, there are 27 current Regents professors, 14 of whom signed the letter. Four retired Regents professors also signed.

The letter states the decision to “dissolve? the Graduate School jeopardizes the University’s core principles of “transparency and faculty governance ,? two principles that the letter’s drafter, Regents professor Steven Ruggles, said President Bob Bruininks and Senior Vice-Provost Tom Sullivan have advocated in the past.

Many of the professors who chose to sign the letter, including retired Regents professor Sara Evans and current Regents professors Matthew McGue and John Sullivan , said they did so out of frustration with how the decision was made.

In response to the letter, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail that the administration consulted with deans, faculty, and past and present directors of graduate studies about the reconstruction and that the issue has been discussed regularly for a number of years.

The letter and numerous interviews with professors and student leaders in the school, however, contests the University’s claims.

“There was no prior consultation with faculty,? the letter states. “Only the collegiate deans — who report directly to the senior vice presidents and depend on them for their budgets — had any advance notice that this was taking place. None of the senior administrators — not even the dean — had any advance warning.?

Board of Regents Chair Patricia Simmons said they will respond to the letter directly and consider the professors’ concern over the lack of faculty consultation, but the decision on how to handle the reconstruction is ultimately up the University’s administration.

“When it comes to creating any new programs or eliminating any programs then the board must act, but for reorganization we wouldn’t,? Simmons said.

Simmons does not anticipate the board will make a formal recommendation to the administration based on the letter’s concerns.

Although the letter was sent by the Regents professors on Thursday evening in hopes that the board would discuss it at their Friday meeting, it was not addressed.

Wolter said in the e-mail that the University appreciates the Regents professors’ “engaging dialogue and commitment to strong graduate education.?

When the letter was first e-mailed to members of the Board of Regents Thursday night, only 14 professors had signed, but by Friday the number had risen to 18.

This behavior makes a mockery of claims by OurCEO and OurProvost they espouse openness and transparency. Spokesperson Wolter's claim that this had been discussed for years is particularly egregious.

Great way to build community and solidify support for your actions during these difficult times, Bob...

February 15, 2009

Hasta La Vista, Graduate School


Or, Let them eat... Administrative Policy

I thank a reader for pointing out to me this interesting document:


Administrative Policy

Administrative policies are system-wide institutional directives that mandate requirements of, or provisions for, members of the University community, including procedures to assist with their implementation.

Policy Advisory Committee (PAC)

The Policy Advisory Committee is a standing committee of University administrators authorized by the President's Policy Committee (PPC) to work in partnership with the policies owners to review the policy plan to ensure policies are needed and aligned with institutional mission, goals, and priorities; review subsequent policy drafts to ensure policies are concise, consistent in format and scope, and easy to understand; and to make recommendations for action to the PPC. The PAC meets on a bimonthly basis, and consists of the administrative policy director (chair), and representatives of each of the executives on the PPC.

Policy Advisory Committee (PAC)

The Policy Advisory Committee reviews policy plans to determine if the criteria for administrative policies are met, that the policy statement and reason are clear, and that the plan for implementing and maintaining the policy is sound; reviews policy drafts for clarity and consistency; provides recommendations to the PPC as to whether or not a policy should move into the public review state; and provides regular updates to their respective executive officer and share feedback as appropriate with the PAC.


Procedures are a series of consecutive action steps related to a policy that specifies how a particular process should be completed. Procedures include information on who, what, when, and where of the policy.

Reason for Policy

The Reason for Policy is a statement on the policy that describes why the policy exists (i.e., mitigates institutional risk, supports institutional mission and values, meets legal or regulatory requirements of the policy)

February 14, 2009

Erosion of Academic Freedom at the University of Minnesota?

Those concerned about this topic should have a look at a post on the Periodic Table:

Trust Me, I'm a Lawyer...

Or, Erosion of Academic Freedom At the University of Minnesota?


February 13, 2009

(Grad) School’s Out: Post-Implementation Planning

From Comments on Higher Ed about the Coup at the U:

This decision to close the Grad School was made without sufficient consultation and planning.

Unlike Stanford and MIT, the University of Minnesota is a much larger university, and a public land-grant university at that. It is doubtful that distributing grad school functions to the local programs will work in such a large, complex university.

In the provost’s message, graduate programs are promised more ‘responsibility and control’ yet are not offered specific resources with which to do this. It is feared that already-overburdened staff and mid-level administrators will be handed one more unfunded mandate.

And many central functions of the Graduate School are beyond the capability of local programs and personnel: as just one example, more than half the applicants to this Grad School are international. Their applications require a long articulated sequence of processing, from overseas recruitment to transcript evaluation to visa processing in a manner that fulfills complex legal SEVIS regulations, language support, advising, and so on.

At a large public research university where half the grad applications are from overseas, who will do this work?

It is fashionable to call for the abolition of administrative levels. But when these administrative supports are gone, I predict there will be loud outcries from local graduate programs, departments and colleges, who lack the training and time to do what the Graduate School did well — so well that few noticed they were even there.

The Grad School will be missed.

Lannie, at 6:15 pm EST on February 12, 2009

Graduate Schools - (Grad) School’s Out

Comments on Higher Ed about the coup at the U:

Graduate Schools need to do a better job of explaining what they do both internally and externally. Most colleges and universities realize that the administrative functions they undertake are NOT reduplicative. And above and beyond these administrative functions, a successful graduate school raises money for and distributes fellowships; advocates for the importance of graduate education both to university constituents and the outside world; and works with individuals and groups of students, both those who excel and those whose careers are in trouble.

Money-hungry collegiate deans think they will benefit if they can carve up a graduate school’s budget. The deans at Minnesota are going to find that they have taken on headaches, and the U of Minnesota’s students are going to find themselves adrift.

The provost’s memo to the university community discusses other institutions without graduate schools: they are small, rich, private universities. At other universities and colleges, graduate schools fulfill crucial roles.

David Williamson, at 6:15 pm EST on February 12, 2009

February 12, 2009

(Grad) School’s Out - Changes in Graduate Education?

Coup at the U
From the Comments on Inside Higher Ed:

As an alum of Minnesota (1946, '66,' 75) I have some concern about the planned de-centralization of the graduate enterprise. Sure, they are another bureaucratic layer, but still as such, it emphasizes the importance of graduate education... to the University, the state and the country. I don’t want its importance to be ‘lost in the crowd.’Elaine R Parent

Dr Elaine R Parent, retired at UCSD, at 2:55 pm EST on February 12, 2009

(Grad) School’s Out - Neither the faculty, nor the graduate students were involved...

Coup at the U
From Inside Higher Ed:

As a proud holder of the University’s PhD degree, it has always been my intention to include the university in my will. I am not sure what I will do now as I do find the changes made to be singular in the sense that neither the faculty or the graduate students were involved. It seems the balance of resources necessary to high quality graduate study will be at risk — perhaps the U will move toward a new model, focused on medical school, engineering, and other professions and away from the long standing support for subject in the liberal arts. I regret this decision.

Norma J. Hervey, Dr. at Luther College, at 1:05 pm EST on February 12, 2009

(Grad) School’s Out? Hold On A Minute....

Coup at the U

From the Comments Section of Inside Higher Ed:

I think people here are being a bit too quick to commend the U of M for this. These measures were taken without any regard for the input of the Graduate Students, the Graduate School, or the University community as a whole. Amid growing unrest amongst the graduate students (their fees and workload have risen considerably in recent years as their stipends have remained stagnant), there is a widespread sense of skepticism that this measure of efficiency will actually help graduate students. Instead, it appears to some as a guise for eliminating academic departments that aren’t seen as being directly profitable to the university.

Matt, at 12:45 pm EST on February 12, 2009

(Grad) School’s Out: A Completely Reprehensible Move

From Inside Higher Ed Comments:

I can’t believe people would applaud this as a smart and rationed move by the University. Take a second and think how you might feel if one morning you woke up and found that you most likely didn’t have a job anymore; furthermore, imagine you were told this via an impersonal mass e-mail. What clearer way is there for the university to demonstrate it’s complete lack of concern for its staff and students?

Jesse Wozniak, University of Minnesota, at 12:45 pm EST on February 12, 2009

A former Johns Hopkins Dean Writes About Non-obvious Roles of Graduate Schools

Comments on Higher Ed:

The Johns Hopkins University has never had a graduate school. As a former dean of graduate education in Hopkins’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences I have seen both the benefits and shortcomings of operating without a graduate school. Many of the benefits are obvious, and some were mentioned in the article. But I think that Hopkins suffered during the recent NRC survey of graduate education in not have sufficient dedicated staff and resources to produce the needed data and to show itself in the best light. Another difficulty that arises without a graduate school is that development efforts for graduate education can fail to receive the priority that they deserve. If an institution is to dissolve its graduate school great care has to be taken to ensure that critical long-range functions are not compromised.

Eaton Lattman, CEO at Hauptman Woodward Institute, at 11:23 am EST on February 12, 2009

Continuing With His Policy of Openness and Transparency, OurProvost Makes Inside Higher Ed...

Coup at the U

From Inside Higher Ed:

(Grad) School’s Out

Provost Tom Sullivan has decided to dissolve the University of Minnesota’s graduate school, placing more power in the hands of individual deans and his own office.

“Clearly we have some redundancies and overlap requirements of our graduate students, and in this day and age there’s really no reason for that,? Sullivan said. “We need to be more nimble in how we recruit and admit and support those students.?

While the graduate school will cease to exist as a freestanding administrative unit, an Office of Graduate Education will be created within the provost’s office.

The graduate school at Minnesota is viewed by some faculty as an important centralized entity designed to help ensure that resources are distributed in service to the broader mission of the university — not just an individual department or college.

Minnesota officials cite as models several other distinguished universities, including Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania, where decentralization of the graduate school has been introduced. The “vast majority? of the Council of Graduate Schools’ member institutions, however, have stand-alone graduate schools, an official there said Wednesday.

A handbook produced by the national council also declares: “There should be a separate unit within the university that decides on or has veto power over admissions decisions, ensures that the policies set in place by the graduate faculty are being carried out, and has final degree-granting authority for all graduate degrees. This structure fosters equity in standards across all graduate programs, helps to provide quality control, and stimulates boundary-spanning curriculum development at the graduate level.?

Robin Brown, director of graduate studies for Minnesota’s Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature, said that the graduate school has helped to ensure that resources are fairly distributed across departments.

“They are an equalizer, and source of equity and a source of balance,? he said.

Under the new model, deans will be making their cases for graduate school resources directly to the provost, as opposed to going through the graduate school.

“I’ll have much greater information,? he [Sullivan] said. “It will be decentralized where the deans can speak directly to the quality of his or her programs.?

Gail Dubrow, vice provost and dean of the graduate school, was not informed of the plan to dissolve the graduate school until shortly before the announcement was made public, according to several sources.

The decentralization is also expected to produce savings, which Sullivan says will be redirected into graduate programs for fellowships and other enhancements.

The restructuring of Minnesota’s graduate school, announced Monday, came as a surprise to many. Sullivan said he consulted deans prior to making the announcement, but several sources told Inside Higher Ed that Gail Dubrow, vice provost and dean of the graduate school, was not informed until just prior to a press release being issued.

Sullivan was tight-lipped, however, about how much — or how early — he consulted with Dubrow, whose role would clearly be diminished, if not eliminated, under the new arrangement.

“The dean was consulted before there were any public announcements,? he said. “I’m not going to get into the details of the conversation.?

Nor would Sullivan discuss whether Dubrow will have a new role in his office. “She and I’ve had a conversation about that, and I’m not going to disclose confidences that we’ve discussed,? he said.

Dubrow declined an interview request, saying Sullivan was the “spokesman? on the issue.

Dubrow wasn’t the only person who was apparently in the dark about the overhaul of graduate education at Minnesota. Graduate students said they were not consulted at all about the plan.

“We totally understand that there were structural changes that needed to be made and that’s been evident, but to go ahead and wipe out the grad school without consulting the community — it’s really shocking,? said Kristi Kremers, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly at Minnesota.

Big Brother and OurCEO know best...

February 11, 2009

Graduate School Restructured - Provost Sullivan Believes in the American Method: Shoot First and Ask Questions Later

More from the Daily on the Monday massacre:

Many faculty and students at the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School found out the school would be restructuring around the same time the public did on Monday, although Senior Vice Provost Tom Sullivan said all deans who oversee graduate programs signed off on the plan.

Graduate School faculty and staff were aware that there may be cuts, but didn’t know it would be completely disbanded, though Sullivan said many of them were consulted about the change.

If graduate directors were contacted, neither Roger Miller, director of graduate studies for Liberal Arts, nor Jean Bauer, director of graduate studies for family social science, was among them.

While Bauer knew the Graduate School was likely to take a heavy hit with the upcoming budget cuts, he said he was shocked by the news yesterday.

“I don’t think anybody knew,? Bauer said. “People weren’t consulted ahead of time — or at least I wasn’t.?

It is unclear how this transition will affect Graduate School Dean Gail Dubrow , Bauer said.

“One of the people that I feel the worst for is Gail Dubrow, who was recruited to head up the Graduate School,? Bauer said. “What this means for her is very, very difficult to say.?

Dubrow did not comment and University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail that Provost Sullivan is speaking for the institution at this time.

Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President Kristi Kremers , who works closely with the administration, was even more surprised than faculty, describing the news as an “utter shock.?

“Nobody saw it coming,? she said. “To totally dissolve the entire Graduate School without consulting the community, it’s a really bad way to handle things, and I just expect more out of the University administration.?

Aside from the shock, faculty and students are unsure of what this could mean for graduate education.

“The truth is none of us know yet what this means,? Tim Kehoe, the director of Economic Graduate Studies, said in an e-mail.

Sullivan, however, maintains that the reconstruction will have positive implications for the University.

The reconstruction, he said, will help increase financial support for graduate students and collegiate units, but they will take on additional responsibilities. The reconstruction will also help with the state’s projected $151 million cut to the University’s budget , although it is not clear how much the University will save at this time, Sullivan said.

Sullivan is confident the transition of the Graduate School into a parallel of the Office of Undergraduate Education will run smoothly after an implementation committee is established later this week.

The committee — which will include business leaders, faculty and students — will make recommendations regarding how to go about the change.

Faculty and students, however, are not as confident in the fluidity of the change.

Kremers and Bauer are concerned about how the cuts will affect the ability to maintain the Graduate School’s functions, like fellowships and research.

“It really saddens me that our administration would do this almost as an afterthought, with little consideration of the implications we have for the future,? she [Kremers] said, “by removing the structure that has been in place for over a century.?

Open and transparent?

Third greatest public research university in the world?

OurCEO and Provost are way off base during this pitch out.

February 10, 2009

Openness and Transparency at the U - Graduate School Disbands?

Ah, yes, after much discussion an important decision has been made by OurCEO and his band of brothers. It is telling that such moves have lately been made with no community discussion or, apparently, input from those directly affected.

From the Daily:

The University of Minnesota will be restructuring the Graduate School, changing it from a “free-standing? administration to part of the Provost’s Office, effective fall 2010, the University announced Monday.

Senior Vice Provost Tom Sullivan said in a University press release that the change will reduce costs and strengthen graduate education and programs.

A committee, which will include college deans, experienced directors of graduate studies, graduates students, faculty and the Provost’s Office will help decide how to implement the transition. They are scheduled to have a plan ready by April 10.

However, there is indication the change came as a shock to Graduate School faculty, Council of Graduate Students President Geoff Hart said.

“It’s a pretty big bomb,?

he said. “The gist of what I have been hearing is that a lot of the big higher ups in the Graduate School themselves didn’t even know this was happening.?

The Provost's Office will need to determine exactly which positions fit where, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail.

COGS President Hart is planning to organize an emergency meeting for Tuesday night so students can discuss the ramifications of the change.

“That is, on the grand scheme of things, is probably as a big of an earthquake as you could have for the Graduate School because they are not going to be there anymore and everyone is kind of having to do their own thing,? Hart said.

Some comments have already been made on the Daily's website:

Of course this leaves the former graduate school operations to the tender mercies of the provost - you know the one who has ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world.

How's that working out?

Sullivan's Power Grab

Grabbing more power. Students will be left in the lurch, no money is going to be saved by this. Where was the transparent decision-making as the deans, provost, and president sat in a back, smoke-filled room diving the spoils of a college they didn't want. You think they would have learned something when closing the general college. Guess not. This shouldn't happen. Think it's confusing now as a grad student, just wait until this is done.

More empire building ...

Sullivan continues to astound both with his transparent empire building/power grabs and with his outrageously limited and linear view (a lawyer's view, perhaps) of university mission and structure. This "reorganization" translates to the elimination of the University's century-old freestanding Graduate School.

I've heard from a number of people that the new Sullivan fiat to close the Grad School came as a shocker to the GS dean and staff. It's appalling.

big mistake

I'm an administrator in the Graduate School of another flagship public university. This is a pretty stupid move by the Provost at Minnesota. And not an original one. Often a provost wanting to make a splash will do this kind of thing, pretending that the individual colleges can perform these functions more rationally and efficiently. It's just not true, though, and a lot of the places that eliminate the Graduate School rebuild it in the years after because the essential functions of the Graduate School just can't be done more effectively elsewhere. It's usually not a power move just by the provost, though--the other deans are usually in cahoots, thinking they can use redistributed money for faculty and research. The students really get screwed by this kind of "restructuring."

February 7, 2009

Medical School Ethics is Not An Oxymoron

Upping the ante - we make USNews and World Report.

See: "Draft of Ethics Reform at Minnesota Medical School Criticized"

Sunshine is the best disinfectant?

February 6, 2009

Medical School Ethics is Not an Oxymoron...

The Daily has duly noted the latest twists and turns in the ongoing saga of the U medical school's attempts at reform. This has been the topic of numerous posts on this blog.

See "Exclusive: Medical School Moving Toward Softer Reform"

OurLeaders seem to think that just because we are in fly-over-land that no one will notice the continuing shenannigans. Au contraire...

Margaret Soltan, one of the premiere academic bloggers in the US, has posted on the situation. From her post entitled: "UD's No Montaigne"

… but over the course of writing this blog she’s come to some tentative conclusions about some basic human motivations.

Many of the, er, troubled university people UD follows on this blog share two defining motives:

1. Greed
2. Status.

Greed’s straightforward, although the depth of greed many of these people exhibit startles UD. No dollar amount is enough, and they seem willing to ruin their lives, and undermine the integrity of their university, in search of more.

Status is a little trickier, but it’s basically a gnawing need to feel that they belong to exclusive groups with access to information other people don’t have. Scroll down to a recent, typically pathetic example: Ex-Speaker Sansom.

Or think of the thousands and thousands of fools at Florida country clubs and Manhattan hideaways desperate for access to the exclusive inner circle of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

You can watch - if you have a daily blog like mine - university reforms wither on the vine because of greed and status.

See, for instance, how administrators and professors at the University of Minnesota medical school, even in the face of national scandal, do everything they can to resist reductions in money and status.

There follows an extensive cut from the Daily article ending with the striking:

"'If a doctor in the community can’t go to a prestigious public university like Minnesota for continuing education programs that are free from industry sponsorship, then where can she go?' he [Gabriel Silverman, American Medical Student Association Scorecard director] asked."

UD concludes:

They say that as people are dying, their hearing is the last thing to go. For the - let’s continue calling them troubled - university people UD follows on this blog, the last thing to go is greed. Greed will be their valedictory, their epitaph, their message to the world, as, out of one job after another, they wave goodbye.

February 4, 2009

EFS is dead?

Don't we wish...

No mo' EFS

"Hi all -

EFS for self-service is dead. The FileMaker EFS databases are dead. We WILL accept EFS numbers, which will be recorded manually on the log at the desk, for desk (mediated) copies, color copies, ledger copies, Wangensteen copies, and PhotoDelivery requests."

February 2, 2009

AHC Reorganization - OurLeader Still Doesn't Get It

From the Daily:

AHC reacts to position change

BY Emma Carew
PUBLISHED: 02/01/2009

University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Dr. Deborah Powell is out. Senior Vice President of Health Sciences Dr. Frank Cerra is in – at least for now.

The only question now is why.

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks announced Wednesday that the positions of senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school would be combined, effective July 1, pending approval by the Board of Regents in May.

University spokesman Dan Wolter said the decision comes as the first step in the bigger picture of cost-saving moves for the Academic Health Center.

Powell and the Medical School have recently come under fire for missteps relating to a committee Powell created last year to address major flaws in the Medical School’s conflict of interest policies.

Cerra, the current senior vice president for health sciences, will serve in the interim position as the University works toward identifying a new candidate for the position in 2011 .

Powell’s future in the AHC is less clear. A memo from Bruininks to the Regents, acquired by the Minnesota Daily, states Cerra and Powell are “in discussions concerning a future administrative role for Dean Powell in the area of medical education.?

A statement from Bruininks issued Friday evening reiterates that the decision was based on the potential for cost savings, and was unrelated to the conflicts of interest committee.

Wolter said the salary information has not been determined for the new position.

The Minnesota Daily previously reported Cerra and Powell as commanding base salaries of $439,570 and $242,149, respectively .

The bigger picture goal of the restructuring between the two offices is to save $5-$10 million annually, Wolter said, but he acknowledged this move alone will not create that level of savings.

At this point, it’s unclear how those savings will manifest.

Dr. Jon Hallberg, assistant professor of family medicine in the Medical School, said he believes Cerra will implement a number of associate deans in order to balance the priorities of the Medical School with those of the AHC overall.

“I liken it to being a football coach,? he said. “You have a line coordinator, a defensive coordinator… I think Frank will need and will put into place some confident, strong [associate deans] to take care of the day-to-day operations.?

Still, Bruininks has been unwavering in his stance that his decision is unrelated to recent Medical School controversies.

“I’ve been disappointed by some of the media coverage of this administrative restructuring, and need to set the record straight. As University officials told reporters yesterday, this decision had nothing to do with Dean Powell’s service on the PepsicoAmericas Board of Directors, or, indeed, any conflict of interests concerns,? Bruininks said in the Friday statement. “Dean Powell has never acted contrary to the University’s conflict o f interest policies and principles.?

But a simple Google News search of Powell’s name and title tells an entirely different story.

Recent articles tell not of award and accolades bestowed upon the school, but of accusations of severe conflicts of interest and policy failures.

Late last year for instance, the Star Tribune reported that Dr. Leo Furcht , whom Powell named to chair the conflicts of interest committee, was disciplined for severe conflicts of interest violations.

In a report obtained by the Daily, the disciplinary committee states: “Dr. Furcht, at a minimum should not be allowed to perform the conflict of interest responsibilities of a department head.?

Gary Schwitzer, an associate professor of journalism who sits on Powell’s conflict of interest committee, posted his reaction to Bruininks’ announcement on his blog, Health News Blog.

Schwitzer details being approached by a reporter who asked whether he thought the decision was made in response to the recently reported controversies relating to the committee.

“How would I know?? Schwitzer writes. “The thought crossed my mind when I heard the news, but U hierarchy hasn't shared any such info in my in-box recently.?

Other Med School faculty, including some who sit on the conflicts of interest committee, as well as the American Medical Student Association, declined to comment or go on record for this story, saying the topic is too politicized.

Whether Dean Powell violated the conflict of interest policy is not the point. Many people have expressed disappointment that Dr. Powell would take (in 2007) $130 K for being on the board of directors of a company that sells products that rot children's teeth. And be aware that she is NOT on the board as a health care consultant but as someone who had a fiduciary responsibility to help the company make money.

Recall your statement: "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)

If you don't understand why people might be upset about this, President Bruininks, then your moral compass, too, is demagnetized.

Dr. Bruiniks, do you believe that Dr. Powell should have appointed Dr. Furcht to the conflict of interest study panel?

I note that you have been careful, thus far, to not directly comment on this matter. If you are going to reorganize things in the AHC then I think you owe us an answer to this question.

Dr. Halberg - how is hiring yet more associate deans for Coach Cerra going to save us money? We have a new associate dean who is being paid $266 K, according to the Daily, for what used to be a halftime job and it is now full time. And, purportedly, this move is to save money? This makes no sense.

It is a terrible idea to have one person be both the Medical School Dean and the AHC Provost/VP.

Do you really think that one person can do both jobs?
This is disrespectful of the abilities of both the dean and the provost. To imply that the provost can take care of the medical school in his or her spare time is also disrespectful of the medical school students, staff, and faculty.

We'll see how the recruiting goes for this new position.

This mistaken action sets up a very bad parallelism between the Dean of the Medical School and other deans in the AHC. It is hard enough for these other deans to compete for resources with the med school dean, but if the med school dean is the provost - the other dean's boss - then it is going to be even worse. I think that one might even describe this as a conflict of interest...

President Bruininks, either you have done this re-organization to remove Dean Powell from her deanship - in which case you should have the courage to admit it - or you have done a very amateurish and mistaken job of re-organization.

These developments are very disappointing to those of us in the medical school who have to deal with the consequences of your misinformed actions.

Bill Gleason