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A Can of Worms That Is The University of Minnesota, Rochester

Given the contraction that is inevitable in higher ed, I have been slightly puzzled by resources being poured into U M Rochester, especially considering the enrollment numbers. There have also been some, shall we say, unintelligent things done in the areas of medical technology and bioinformatics. And of course a cynic might conclude that the U pushed for Rochester funding as a sop to (gasp!) politicians in southern Minnesota.

But the Rochester situation is perhaps a topic for another day.

For now, the Daily has just published a thought-provoking piece on UM Rochester:

Last week, the three-year-old University of Minnesota-Rochester opened its doors to 55 bachelor of health sciences first-years, marking a major milestone for the youngest campus of the University of Minnesota system. The cadre of first-years joins current graduate students in a variety of biotechnology and medical fields, and plans call for continued growth in coming years.

In a recent agreement, the Board of Regents and the renowned Mayo Clinic agreed to jointly develop academic and research programs at Rochester, but the agreement also designated the UMR Chancellor, not the University Regents, as Rochester's chief agent of communication and negotiation. Instead of approaching the Mayo partnership for the benefit of the University of Minnesota system, benefits will inevitably be focused on Rochester.

This Rochester-centric attitude poses a long-term threat to the Twin Cities campus. Demand for medical innovation may make the Rochester campus fundamental to both the state economy and the University's academic reputation. The gravitational pull of these expanding programs combined with Mayo Clinic and the $500 million bio-business investment in nearby Pine Island means that Rochester could soon offer and dominate such Twin Cities strongholds as cellular and molecular biology and chemistry. The medical school itself may eventually call Rochester home.

Existing schools and research centers must remain in the Twin Cities and vital new academic programs should not be given exclusively to UMR. Ultimately, the University must maintain the Twin Cities as the system's flagship campus in all major fields while it expands educational opportunities in Rochester.

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