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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:



May 2006 state legislature approves $137 million in bonds for new stadium with President of U of M as Chief Cheerleader

May 2006 President and Regents pledge to raise $150 million for new stadium (bringing the total cost, with interest on state bonds, to $330 million for a facility that will be used for six games each year

May 2006 state legislature slashes University request for bonds to maintain and to renovate existing academic facilities from $80 million to $30 million

May 2008 state legislature again slashes University request for bonds to maintain and to renovate existing academic facilities from $100 million to $35 million

January 2009 governor's proposed budget cuts $151 million from University budget for operating expenses

February 2009 President decides to cut costs by terminating Graduate School and shifitng all its functions to the individual colleges (a decision made in secret and without following the administrative policies of the University)

February 2009 Chair of Boad of Regents declares that the Regents have no authority regarding decision to terminate Graduate School (Article II of the Bylaws of the Board vests the authority to govern the University in the Regents.)

February 2009 virtually all of the current and retired Regents Professors sign petition asking for reconsideration of decision on Graduate School

February 2009 President politely tells Regents Professors to go fly a kite

September 2009 new football stadium opens; academic infrastructure continues to crumble

Michael W. McNabb
Univeristy of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association lifetime member

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