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OurProvost Backpedals

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March 4, 2009

TO:Graduate Faculty, Graduate School Staff, and Graduate Students
FROM: E. Thomas Sullivan, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
SUBJECT: Restructuring Graduate Education

As a follow up to my earlier announcement about restructuring the oversight and support of graduate education at the University of Minnesota, I want to respond to the questions and concerns that I have heard.

We currently face a sense of urgency as we plan for substantial impending budget cuts. If this sense of urgency appeared to compromise my commitment to consultation as we begin to chart a new course for the oversight and support of graduate education, I regret that misunderstanding. Graduate education is a valued attribute of this University, and we all share ownership in its ultimate impact and success. We all know that the reputation of a research university is inextricably linked to the reputation of its graduate programs.

The February 9 plan,
"Restructuring the Oversight and Support of Graduate Education to Enhance Excellence," which was endorsed by the president, was intended to establish a commitment to restructuring graduate education and to provide the outlines of what that restructuring might look like. The dual purposes of the restructuring effort are to conserve fiscal resources and enhance excellence, to be accomplished by streamlining administration, reducing overhead, eliminating redundancies, and aligning responsibilities and accountability for graduate programs. The plan was designed to be a starting point for a broader conversation across the University community. Decisions regarding the contours of this general plan have yet to be made, and will be made only after broad and deliberate consultation.

To this end, I appointed a team of graduate faculty and students, directors of graduate studies, members of the Graduate School Executive Team, chaired faculty, members of faculty governance, department chairs, and collegiate deans, to drive this conversation and to gather diverse perspectives and experiences as we develop a shared vision for restructuring graduate education at the University. I have emphasized that the committee has broad and flexible discretion to make recommendations regarding how to accomplish the restructuring within the context of its general charge to submit recommendations on all relevant issues, whether or not specifically identified in either the February 9 plan or the February 20 charge memo. And as we did with the 35 strategic positioning task forces, there will be a public comment period and widespread discussion of the committee's recommendations before any final directions are determined.

I also want to emphasize that if we need more time beyond the fall 2010 projected implementation date set forth in the February 9 memo, we are prepared to take the time--we are more committed to moving forward with a promising strategy than meeting a deadline.

We all are committed to sustaining the accomplishments that have been made in graduate education to date, and to further enhancing the quality and excellence of graduate education in the face of these challenging economic times. We all also are committed to ensuring that this restructuring, and other crucial efforts to move the University forward in these times of fiscal challenge, will be accomplished through an open and inclusive process that ensures thoughtful and informed recommendations.

cc: Executive Team
Twin Cities Deans
Department Heads and Chairs
Directors of Graduate Studies and Assistants
Faculty Consultative Committee
Senate Committee on Educational Policy
Regents Professors

The issue of violating written University policy on re-organization is not addressed. Strange for a lawyer...

I went to see the opera version of Pinocchio last night, Tom. Unfortunately, your last sentence reminds me of the lad. If you want people to start believing in open and inclusive processes then it is time to demonstrate this by your actions. I note that you did not use the word transparency in your email. Just as well, because you have damaged it beyond repair.


"To the extent you're pissed off, I apologize." You know, once you've learned to fake sincerity, you've got it made!

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