Bob Bruininks Dark Secret
Well, okay, it may not actually be a secret to the President of the University of Minnesota, but it is to the boobs who pay the bills. (I mean us). The secret is: the University is becoming more and more of a closed society. No eyes allowed.
Well, that's an exaggeration. SOME eyes are allowed, the eyes that some (I would name names if I knew exactly who they were) apparently don't want anyone outside the sanctum santorum of Morrill Hall to see. For those who only help fund the state's "land grant" University, but seldom if ever visit the place, Morrill Hall is the Administration building. It's tucked into one side of Cass Gilbert's great Mall. That's where the decisions are made that affect the fate of those thousands of wide-eyed undergrads, the chipmunks who power the turbines, and the deep thinkers who actually have something to offer the great unwashed taxpayers who ultimately pay the bills.
That is: IF those deep thinkers could have the opportunity to share their thoughts with the less educated among us. By less educated, I'm including myself. You see, in addition to my all-important KareMudgeon duties, I am a reporter. I know that's a shock to many of you. Heck! It's a shock to my boss, but then, I know he seldom reads what I write. That's how I stay employed.
I would like to continue being employed. It would require that I get to the bottom of actual issues that affect the rest of the great uneducated: TV and blog viewers. Why are they "uneducated", you ask (after those viewers raid my boss's office with torches)? It's because it seems that their great University is disappearing!
Yes. It's true. I'm sure there are deep thinkers in the faculty and staff at Gopher Central who can add to the enlightenment of those boobs (us, again) who yearn for shafts of sunlight to fall and ease us into the light of day. Nice phrasing, huh? My chest is all puffed out over that last sentence. But back to Bob Bruinink's ongoing struggle with public education.
It's easier to get a lower interest rate on a credit card (just try that!) than it is to get an interview with one of the deep thinkers at the Official Knowledge Repository of the North Star State! Let me give you just one recent example: A couple of weeks ago, I called the office that is oddly named the "news service" at the "U". I was trying to set up a simple story that would be greatly enhanced by some thoughts from a maroon and gold deep thinker. Like all reporters, I was on a deadline. Now, for a reporter, that means getting a response from the people who are supposed to be able to find the appropriate deep thinker in the Swiss Bank that passes for the University.
What would have been a timely response? An hour? A day? THREE DAYS LATER, I got a voice mail from one of the folks at the "news service", informing me that they couldn't find anybody to talk about the subject in mind. There was NOBODY? Not one deep thinker, in the shadow of the new football palace, that could talk about a business story that, believe me, SHOULD have somebody? Imagine my surprise when I saw a comment in the Star Tribune that morning from (can you BELIEVE the irony?) a professor at the University of Minnesota on exactly the same subject! Coincidence? You decide. No really. You decide. I'll wait.
Okay, I've waited long enough. You don't seriously think I let those characters hold up my story do you? Nope. About 5 minutes after I placed that original call to the "news service", I placed another call. This time my fingers did the walking over to that big private school called the "University of Saint Thomas". I know it's just a Catholic school, a private institution, with no requirement to answer any of my questions, but guess what? I had an interview with a very deep thinker completely set up in TEN MINUTES!
The result? (And this is where President Bruininks should really perk up and listen) UST got the public attention. UST got the on-air credit for deep thinking. UST got the thanks of the viewing public for the sharing of actual knowledge! NOT THE U OF M! I hope the message is clear. It has been repeated over and over in recent years at the University of Minnesota. I have spoken with other reporters in and out of this information distribution center in Golden Valley and let me tell you: my hurt feelings are just about universal. The U "news service" is useless. They have become the last resort, when they should be the first call. Is it any wonder that UST is raising money from the public in vast amounts almost at will, while the PUBLIC University struggles to stay competitive and justify cash from Cass Gilbert's other edifice down University Avenue? (That's the State Capital, for the architecturally challenged).
There was a time, in the 2 ½ decades in which I have taken pen to paper and camera to tape in covering Minnesota in which the U News Service was a magnificent source of information for reporters, and through them, to the tax-paying public. One call (not an e-mail or a Twitter or a text) and the "news service" offered exactly that: service. Those days began fading some years ago. Now the atmosphere is choked with bureaucratic smog and apparently inexperienced or disinterested personnel.
President Bruininks' office is 3 floors above the semi-basement where the "news service" supposedly works. It's time to take the elevator down 3 floors and see what's going on. More precisely, he should see what is NOT going on, and how that affects the public image of Minnesota's biggest potential News source. It's time to make the deep thinkers accessible to the public and the public media, not just to spend all day trying to "spin" the U's official policy position. The best research is raw data. That's what reporters seek to find and pass on. Let's leave the spin to the viewers and the readers.