« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

October 31, 2009

On Tuition: Do you trust the Dean of CLA or the Provost?


"There have been a lot of false statements made about tuition increases. He [Sullivan] said the discussion should focus on the marginal average cost to students of a tuition increase, factoring in tuition discounting, scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid support."

Faculty Consultative Committee
Thursday, January 24, 2008

What are those false statements of which you speak, Provost Sullivan? That tuition is too high? Your claim that increases in scholarships make up for increases in tuition and that the access problem is something that people are making up?

From a letter written by CLA Dean Parente recently:

"Twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars. That's how much many of today's students owe when they graduate from college. But their debt isn't due to lack of foresight or saving. The cost of higher education has so far outpaced inflation that increasing numbers of students are borrowing more than ever to pay for college. As a result, many students can't afford to pursue their dreams and aspirations that a college degree makes possible."

Which is more important? The ambitious aspirations of our undergrads or of the Morrill Hall Crowd?

For futher information please see the Periodic Table post: CLA Dean Parente's Vision of Student Debt Differs from that of the Morrill Hall Crowd at University of Minnesota

October 29, 2009

Duke Med School Has a Real Dean - Maybe We Should Try This At Minnesota?


Duke Medical School Dean Nancy Andrews

From the Durham Herald Sun:

DURHAM -- The dean of the Duke University School of Medicine said today that leadership in difficult economic times, and any time, takes collaboration. Dean Nancy Andrews spoke with Duke Chapel Dean Sam Wells Tuesday afternoon at the Duke Clinic as part of the deans' dialogue series.

Andrews said the medical school has two worlds -- the health system, where the majority of faculty work, and the medical school, which is dealing with the same financial issues as the rest of the university. The health system is relatively healthy financially, she said, but there is stress, including the impact of impending health care reform. Andrews also noted that the National Institutes of Health budget has been flat and medical school research is driven by federal funding.

She gets the most pleasure from her work by watching people develop in their careers, whether students or faculty. She also loves clinical research. She stopped practicing clinical medicine to be able to spend time in her lab, teaching and work as an administrator.

"My dessert at the end of a long day is thinking about the research lab," she said. Andrews loves to hear about clinical research, she said.

Wells asked Andrews about her role as a female leader. She said that she, like some other women, has been underestimated and felt invisible in the workplace. She hopes that is changing, she said, because all kinds of leadership and talent needs to be drawn from a larger pool than in the past.

Andrews said she has learned the most about leadership by listening to people.

"I can't just be seeing things through my own eyes. I need a bigger picture," she said.

Andrews said that leading during difficult economic times means being aware that the economy is affecting people different ways, at home and work.

"Ultimately what I'm most worried about is helping people see the strength in this organization," she said. Andrews thinks the down time of the economy will last longer than people anticipate, and it is important to come together.

The economy "makes us think of things that don't cost money," she said. "Our greatest resource is the people we've got here -- it's not the money. In a way, that's the silver lining."

Andrews hopes her legacy at Duke is helping people improve health and make scientific breakthroughs. When faced with a problem, she said, you roll up your sleeves and do the best you can. When the best isn't the right thing, it's time to change course and do better, she said. Andrews said being a leader means promoting the work of others, not just yourself.

Leadership matters. We need a full-time dean at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Right now we have a part-time dean and a gaggle of vice-deans. Given the economic and political turmoil we face at the medical school, this is unsatisfactory. I have yet to talk to a senior faculty member who does not agree that we need a full-time dean.

Frank? Bob?

A Brutally Honest Exchange at a Faculty Committee Meeting

and few seem to be interested.


Trust me, I'm a doctor...

"Why is the current system not serving the academic mission? This is like trusting the people whose last rocket didn't reach the moon when they say this next one will -- why trust the rocket scientists who failed? Will this arrangement just be in place for the next dozen years and then will there be something new?"


Senate Committee on Finance and Planning

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Professor Luepker next reported on the last Board of Regents' meeting, where Senior Vice President Cerra made presentation on "Evaluating Integration of the Clinical Enterprise." Copies of the slides that Dr. Cerra used with the Regents were distributed to Committee members. This is a massive reorganization in a major portion of the University, Professor Luepker commented, and it caught his attention not only because it is a new direction for health-care settings but also because this is a billion-dollar-per-year enterprise (or more). The reorganization proposes the integration of the Fairview hospital management corporation with the University of Minnesota Physicians (UMP) and the University of Minnesota.

It struck him, Professor Luepker related, that apart from the financial magnitude of the proposal, there are a number of other questions that should be addressed.

-- Where does research and education fit in with this new, integrated organization? The presentation was mainly about the reorganization of clinical practice.

-- Who runs the organization? It appears that the proposed Board of Directors will be composed of non-University people, and it appears that the organization will be run like a business.

-- The intent is to pay clinicians salaries competitive with the community. Clinicians at the University are now paid less than the market; clinicians in private practice work hard, but they do not usually have teaching or research responsibilities.

-- There are no dollars figures included in the presentation, but the amounts involved must be very large. Where will the dollars come from and what is the University getting involved in? One motivating factor is to gain market share and compete better with other health-care systems--but those systems now take University students and train them for free.

There are a number of elements to this plan that go beyond the Academic Health Center, he concluded, and the AHC is such a big part of the University that this issue clearly falls into this Committee's bailiwick.

What leapt out at her, Ms. Kersteter said, is that there is little about the teaching mission in the presentation, and that is more expensive in a teaching hospital. She said she was also concerned about the residency program; if that is done badly, there would be a big impact on the community.

If the new Board of Directors is primarily external, Mr. Erikson said, it is not likely it would focus on the educational mission of the Medical School. One could look at this proposal from a very different perspective and not understand that it more expensive to have a teaching hospital.

Professor Konstan said that if one looks at this from the 50,000-foot level, one can understand that the health-care industry is in a storm and people want to lash the rafts together, but one needs to be concerned that the University doesn't lash itself to a rock, which this could be.

Second, he said he would like to see a statement about the mission that the Board of Directors would be sworn to uphold, because it does not appear the mission would be the same as the University's mission.

Finally, he recalled the time when the University sold its hospital to Fairview; that was supposed to solve the problems.

Now this document shows a whole bunch of problems that weren't solved.

Why is the current system not serving the academic mission? This is like trusting the people whose last rocket didn't reach the moon when they say this next one will -- why trust the rocket scientists who failed? Will this arrangement just be in place for the next dozen years and then will there be something new?

This feels a lot like "trust me," he said.

Professor Luepker said he agreed with Professor Konstan: the mission of the new organization is not clearly stated (and perhaps it is simply economic survival), other than "advance excellence and innovation in integrated patient care, medical education and research."

Professor Olin said this proposal would set up a role conflict for individuals who will work for two organizations: the Clinical Scholar work versus the profit-driven organization. The mission is thus important. There have been two structures in place, one devoted primarily to education and one primarily profit-based. How would this proposal affect AHC finances? How would it address the Medical School deficit?

Professor Morrison said there is a big push in health care to develop integrated systems, and this proposal is oriented in that direction. The federal government may prefer integrated systems in the health plans it supports, and thus require them, and they may save some money. The Mayo Clinic is a model for this kind of integration. Most years it does well. That is the good side. The bad side, he said, that the Mayo Clinic has a good little medical school, but could not run a large medical school in its environment--and they know it. The idea of the plan for the University hospital and clinics seems to be to solve financial problems of the Medical School and the hospital by putting them in a box and separating them financially from the University. The University will provide the research and education infrastructure and the credibility of an academic connection. The financial infrastructure required to run the Medical School and its research operation will be carried by the University.

What chunk is falling away from the University, Professor Konstan asked? As he reads the proposal, he said, AHC faculty who are not completely clinical will be University faculty, but a larger percentage of their time will go to the new health system than they would spend on UMP. He said he agreed with Professor Morrison that this proposal would carve off the viable part of the AHC and leave the rest hanging around the University's neck. He said he worries that the University will go down this path without articulating well what will happen--because that would generate opposition. The role of this Committee is to ask where things are going so "we can shed light on it."

Professor Olin reported, in response to a question from Professor Martin, that the AHC Faculty Consultative Committee has asked for the report from the consulting firm but has been told they are not finished. They have had no in-depth discussion of this proposal, he said. Professor Martin said she hoped the AHC FCC would demand consultation for themselves and their colleagues to ensure a positive academic outcome.

There are two pieces involved, Professor Morrison said: the financial, and the one he is more concerned about, the educational. How is this still part of the University? Do they just need the cover of the University? "Affiliation" with the University does not equal a real relationship with the academic operations of University. He said he was also concerned about how the other colleges of the AHC, Dentistry, Public Health, Veterinary Medicine and perhaps Nursing would fit into this enterprise, and about whether the Medical School could become simply a trade school within the new hospital entity.

Ms. Stahre said that this proposal has an ominous tone and may have much broader implications than just the clinical enterprise.

October 28, 2009

Steering committee to plan U's academic future


From the Daily:

University President Bob Bruininks said the most significant way the University of Minnesota can cut costs is by "resetting priorities" -- determining which activities merit increased investment, which can afford cuts and which should be eliminated.

Charged with identifying action steps to cut costs and ultimately lessen the blow of decreased state funding, Bruininks formed the "Sustaining Excellence Steering Committee," announced this week. It was developed to serve as a continuation of the Financing the Future Task Force.

The committee has some membership overlap from the previous task force. Some of the differences are intended to provide a more diverse set of perspectives. Bruininks said the new committee is an attempt to include a variety of stakeholders, including faculty, staff and students.

"We did not succeed completely," Bruininks said, admitting the list is a little top-heavy, with 16 of the 24 members constituting University vice presidents, deans and chancellors.

Bruininks said he does not think members' job titles will affect their open-mindedness. He said he is tasking every aspect of the University system -- academic and support -- to evaluate which areas should be strengthened or maintained and which could be reduced or eliminated.

"All issues are on the table," he said, except closing campuses. "That's the one thing I will not recommend."

Strain said he is "excited but weary" of the task ahead of the committee. The vast number of areas to look at and things to consider will make it difficult to figure out which deserve focus.

My edited comments from the Daily website:

A little top heavy?

Submitted by wbgleason on Wed, 10/28/2009 - 7:57pm.

"We did not succeed completely," Bruininks said, admitting the list is a little top-heavy, with 16 of the 24 members constituting University vice presidents, deans and chancellors.


And these folks are going to determine what priorities (academic and otherwise) are going to be supported and which not?

If the paradigm is indeed to be reset in the immediate future, then President Bruininks should resign effective next June and an immediate search be started for a new president.

He owes this to the university and to his successor.
If we can buy out football coaches, perhaps we can buy out presidents? To have new priorities set by the present administration (16/24 members of yet another committee with an Orwellian name) is not rational given that new leadership will be stuck with the responsibility, presumably, for carrying out these changed priorities.

President Bruininks seems to be doing a good emulation of Governor Pawlenty by such behavior. The State and the University are going to be left in shambles, with great financial difficulties having been shifted into the future, after they ride off into the sunset. Both of them should resign.

All issues are on the table?
This is a perfect example of the strategy of this administration. Stack the deck, include a few non-administration types for window dressing, and then do what you want.


This can't go on much longer. Candidates for governor are already pledging to do something about unreasonable tuition increases.

We need an administration that can deal with this situation. The current Morrill Hall crowd is obviously not up to the task.

Right now, we really can't afford a new football coach at the University of Minnesota!

From the Pioneer Press:

Joel Maturi, expanding on his comments from last week about Tim Brewster's future, said Tuesday that the University of Minnesota football coach's job appears safe, even if the team loses the rest of its games this year.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

There are more important things to worry about right now than football, I am afraid.

October 27, 2009

Humphrey Institute's Larry Jacobs lays it on the line: "future of Minnesota not a bright one."

This is getting very serious folks. Denial at Morrill Hall and at the State Capitol is no longer acceptable. It is time for new leadership both places so that we can work together to solve our very serious economic problems.

The time for posturing has passed.

President Bruininks, in your remaining time, please start exhibiting some leadership.

From MinnPost:

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute, University of Minnesota, discusses how a major political crisis in Minnesota is leading to an economic crisis in regard to the state's budget.

A down economy, evaporating stimulus money, differing political priorities and an upcoming gubernatorial election are only adding to the state's budget-balancing problems, Jacobs said. Unless the two parties are able to find common ground on taxing and spending, Jacobs sees the future of Minnesota as "not a bright one."

October 26, 2009


VP O'Brien has an opinion piece in the Daily disputing an editorial about the poorly defined HEAPR projects list:

Response to 'Careless HEAPRs'

The editorial's main assertion that the HEAPR project list is poorly defined is wrong.

These comments were made on the Daily website:

VP O'Brien

Submitted by wbgleason on Sun, 10/25/2009 - 10:11pm.

Weren't you at the recent Regents Meeting where some of the regents asked the same questions as the Daily about the lack of specificity for what would be done with HEAPR money? If necessary, I can post a video to refresh your memory. And the same sort of slushiness about what would be done with the money, if approved, was expressed.

Where exactly is this list of HEAPR projects?
Can you give me the url of a website where the HEAPR priorities can be found?

And as one of the state legislators put it: If you want the HEAPR money so badly, perhaps you should not ask for the other items? It certainly appears that HEAPR requests are some sort of kabuki, where you ask for more than you think you will get, so that the legislature can cut the request and yet you'll still get some funding. At the Regents meeting, wasn't it stated that we actually need TWICE the amount requested? How do you expect anyone to take HEAPR requests seriously when the span of money needed is 4X? (From the half we get to the twice we need, or say we need.)

Isn't it about time to get very specific about what is on the HEAPR agenda so that the public knows and can decide on the reasonableness of such requests?
And isn't it time to spell out the consequences for denial of HEAPR requests?

Is HEAPR really important? Or is the denial of HEAPR funds yet another excuse to neglect buildings so that they can be, how should I put it - retired, and new ones built?

And of course I am surprised you mention Follwell in this discussion. As you are very well aware this project would have been funded two years ago if not for the ineptness of the Morrill Hall crowd in dealing with the governor and the legislature.

Times are tough.

Perhaps you should start putting all the cards on the table?

October 25, 2009

The emperor has no clothes...

Emanations from Morrill Hall lately have been unworldly. The recent piece in the Daily by President Bruininks is a good example: "Research or outreach cuts are not an option..."

[I've pointed out previously that such cuts have already been made, e.g. to extension services.]

A response to the Bruininks piece has appeared in the Daily:

Bruininks' guest column unsettling

The contradictory statements left many questions unanswered.

Published: 10/25/2009

By Russell Ericson

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks' Oct. 19 guest column was unsettling. In it, Bruininks states, "We need both [quality and affordability] in order to be a leading public university; if we price ourselves out of the market in an effort to be world-class we will cease to be public in any meaningful sense, and if we fail to invest in quality we will slide quickly into mediocrity."

However, tuition at the University of Minnesota has more than doubled over the past 10 years. As a result, University graduates are faced with the highest debt loads in the Big 10. Increasing tuition won't reduce either of these figures, yet tuition increases are already planned and seem as though they will become de rigueur in the foreseeable future.

In his letter, Bruininks states that sharing knowledge in our classrooms is part of what we do here at the University. But it is common knowledge among undergrads that average test scores in most of the introductory math and science courses at the University are somewhere between 40 and 60 percent. Without a curve, about half of the people in the class would have failed. A midterm average in a class I recently took here was 32 percent. This seems to be business as usual at the University, even though these numbers clearly indicate an instructional problem. If no one is passing the tests, no one is learning anything.

According to Bruininks, "Minnesota has numerous colleges and universities that focus primarily on teaching and leave research and outreach to us ..." Should students at the University not expect to be taught in their classes? Have 50,000 undergrads made a "false choice" by choosing the University, where education is apparently not the primary focus? Are we not sliding "quickly into mediocrity" yet?

Russell Ericson

October 22, 2009

UMore (Lots More Money) continued...

The UMore Park Fiasco Continues in the Midst of Financial Problems at the University of Minnesota


From my fellow alum, Mr. Michael McNabb, who is also very concerned about the way things have been going lately at the University:

So this morning I am driving to the courthouse in Hastings on County Road 46 that runs through UMore Park. Now there is an enormous banner on the property with "Contribute to the Vision" at www.umorepark.umn.edu. On the web site we are told that we can contribute to "the vision for the 21st century of a University founded community of 20,000 to 30,000 people at UMore Park." If the University is going to start asking the public for contributions, it should first be asking for the funds it desperately needs to maintain and renovate its existing academic facilities since its strategy for securing the necessary HEAPR bonds from the legislature has failed.

The vision of the University for UMore Park includes mining sand and gravel, an operation that will likely take a capital investment of millions of dollars to prepare the land, including an envirommental impact study, and to build the infrastructure necessary for mining.

In his now famous June 1, 2009 article in The New Yorker Dr. Atul Gawande quotes Dr. Lester Dyke, a cardiac surgeon in McAllen, Texas, regarding the high cost of medical care in his community: "We took a wrong turn when doctors stopped being doctors and became businessmen." We will also take a wrong turn when educators stop being educators and become entrepreneurs. Is there a single person among the senior adminstrators or Regents who has any experience in mining operations, much less building a new town out in a rural area miles away from any existing municipal services?

It is easy to make decisions to take huge monetary risks on new ventures when you are not using your own money. Which raises the question--what is the source of the public funds that the senior administrators and Regents have already committed to this utopian scheme?

Michael W. McNabb
Attorney at Law


Why Scientific Fraud is On The Rise

Given our recent problems with stem cell research, this topic should be of general interest at the University of Minnesota.

From Allison Bass:

Over lunch, Harold (Skip) Garner, a professor of biochemistry and internal medicine at the Unviersity of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told me and the other folks at our table that research shows an increase in the incidence of data manipulation in published papers, ranging from manipulating results on submitted manuscripts and images to plagiarism, duplication and fabrication.

First, the opportunity is there: ever more sophisticated technologies allow scientists to cut and paste and slice and alter data submitted electronically. Second, as funding for NIH grants grows scarcer, there is greater competition and more pressure on scientists to publish and win those grants.

A third reason Garner didn't mention is the increasing commercialization of science and medicine, which has spawned an army of researchers on the take from health product companies. And a fourth reason is an appalling lack of enforcement by federal and state agencies that are supposed to monitoring scientific misconduct. According to The New York Times, a new Congressional report shows that the FDA takes years to investigate researchers accused of scientific fraud, which means that many of these scientists remain eligible to conduct research even after they have been convicted of fraud by local law enforcement.

Similarly, the Office of Research Integrity at the NIH only investigates one in 100 cases of suspected data manipulation and it rarely resolves the cases it does investigate. The commitment to policing scientific fraud should come from the top, but I haven't heard anything about this problem from Francis Collins, the new director of the NIH.

The NIH can certainly do far more to investigate allegations of fraud and restrict grants to labs and universities where there is evidence of irregularities. But it can't clean house by itself. Universities and academic institutional review boards (IRBs) have got to get a lot tougher in policing ongoing research studies and requiring the disclosure of financial conflicts of interest that tempt researchers into manipulating data in the first place.

October 21, 2009

Law and Values Consortium at U to Sponsor Ethics Talk, Professor Jacko to Serve as Commentator

I was very surprised to learn today that a lecture is to be held here at the University of Minnesota on a matter related to ethics. It is sponsored by:


The topic is:


What is truly amazing about this talk is that one of the commentators is none other than:


Now a lot of strange things have happened at the U in the area of ethics. For example we had Dr. David Polly speak in the Mini-Medical School last Spring on the ethics of industry/university conflict of interest. We had Dr. Leo Furcht serve as co-chair of a committee that was to develop new rules for conflict of interest in the med school. Dr. Furcht himself had been disciplined for a major conflict of interest policy violation a few years earlier.

Arguments used by Dr. Cerra and Dr. Powell - former Dean and now a faculty member in Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (chaired by Dr. Furcht) - for Dr. Furcht's being on the committee were summarized by Margaret Soltan in her post about the Hannnibal Lechter executive strategy entitled: It takes a thief.

So what's wrong with Professor Jacko serving as commenter on a lecture about ethics?



Business As Usual at the U? Georgia Tech Confirms Tenure Revocation

U Admin: Sainfort and Jacko Being Treated Unfairly...

Double dipping professors to have salaries, responsibilities reduced

Oh what a tangled web we weave (from the Atlanta Constitution)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Tolerating this kind of behavior by the University administration is sickening and demonstrates weak moral fiber. If we don't have integrity here at the U, what do we have?

Well we have a president who has the nerve to make statements like this:

"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)

President Bruininks, do you really think that people both inside and outside the U don't realize what is going on here? How long is this situation going to go on without action on your part?

College Costs Keep Going Up - Wring Our Hands or Do Something? Tom, Bob?

From the NYT:

The price of a college education rose substantially last year, despite a 2.1 percent decline in the Consumer Price Index from July 2008 to July 2009.

Hit hard by state budget cuts, four-year public colleges raised tuition and fees by an average of 6.5 percent last year.
Prices at private colleges rose 4.4 percent, according to a report issued Tuesday by the College Board.

Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, called the increases "hugely disappointing."

"Given the financial hardship of the country, it's simply astonishing that colleges and universities would have this kind of increases," Mr. Callan said. "It tells you that higher education is still a seller's market. The level of debt we're asking people to undertake is unsustainable.

"A lot of people think we can solve the problem with more financial aid, but I think we have to have some cost containment. For all the talk about reinventing higher education, I don't see any results."

[Bob, Tom ?]

But with college costs so high, borrowing is increasing as well. Although grant aid rose significantly in the 2008-9 school year, the latest year for which data are available, student borrowing -- and the gap between available resources and the overall cost of attending college -- continued to increase, the report said.

[So claiming that scholarship money is increasing does NOT mean that the net cost is decreasing, in fact the actual cost continues to increase at a rate that far outstrips inflation. Being honest about this might help us at the legislature, but then this would require some backing and filling on what has been said previously.]

October 19, 2009

Driven to Dissemble, Part 9999. The Folwell Hall Shuffle Redux



The Daily has an article on a clarion call for student support of money for renovation of Folwell Hall.

University seeking student support for Folwell project

The University is requesting $23 million from the state for renovations to century-old classroom building.

On which article I heartlessly commented:

This administration counts on a lack of institutional memory

Submitted by wbgleason on Mon, 10/19/2009 - 8:15pm.

Everyone should remember that in the past the Morrill Hall crowd threw Folwell under the bus, even after Pawlenty indicated that he would support the renovation, because they thought they could get the money instead for the Bell.

For background see:

The Folwell Hall Sellout Or, I Guess It is Not Unique and Essential... (March 5, 2008)

"Meanwhile, the University Administration has pulled the rug out from under the Folwell renovation, even though the governor had already indicated his approval."

"The Administration's treatment of the Folwell renovation is a good example of the fact that you should pay more attention to what people do than to what they say."

"In Wellstonian: These people are not very good at walking the talk."

"Of course this would take leadership, vision, and a sense of priorities commensurate with our land grant mission."


If the administration wants students, faculty, and staff to help lobby at the legislature, then I suggest they let these stakeholders have an actual say in what our priorities will be there.

Currently this input is a show:

"How is the priority list determined, Professor Luepker asked? At the end of the day, the President decides, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. He decides from a list that comes from the vice presidents and deans." Senate Committee on Finance and Planning, September 20 (2009)

I certainly agree that students should lobby for Folwell money, but they should also be aware the project could (and should) have been completed a lot earlier if the Morrill Hall crowd had a better sense of priorities.

It is hard to come up with an example where the state legislature did not support a request that was demonstrably linked to our educational mission (Folwell) but cases of us being turned down abound when they appear to be unnecessary or untimely - the Bell.

October 16, 2009

Ohio State has had no tuition increases for the last three years. Why is this, President Bruininks?

It is a matter of priorities at both the state and university levels. Especially interesting is the situation in Ohio and Michigan, states with less than robust economies.

Note that in order to assure itself of state support Ohio State pledged to students and families that there would be no tuition increases and this has been the case. Perhaps this strategy is worth exploring here in Minnesota?

From the Daily Iowan:

University of Michigan officials said they will not face any budget cuts this year, mostly because of the school's savings from the past six years.
The university has eliminated nearly $135 million in recurring general funds with a combination of small changes, including employee health benefits, energy conservation, and purchasing methods.

"We keep looking for opportunities to both save money and to continue looking for ways to generate revenue," said Rick Fitzgerald, the senior public affairs and media relations representative.

He pointed to cuts such as the number of flowers the university plants to renegotiating contracts with suppliers for equipment.

Ohio State University is also avoiding cuts.

"We are very fortunate we have a government and Legislature that are extremely committed to higher education," Ohio State media-relations director Jim Lynch said.

But officials are taking measures to save $90 million to prepare for future economic troubles, he said.

Ohio State is entering its third year without any tuition increases, a promise the university made to students and families. State support also made it possible to avoid layoffs, and Ohio State employees are eligible for a 2.5 percent payroll increase, Lynch said.

October 14, 2009

HEAPRs, Creepers - opaqueness and generality as a U legislative strategy

The Daily makes a good point about bad strategy. The Regents seem to realize that the current strategy of the U is not up to the task of extracting money from the State Legislature under current economic circumstances.

From the Daily:

Careless HEAPRs

Approving capital request without details jeopardizes future requests.

Last Friday, the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents unanimously approved President Bob Bruininks' plan to request the state to borrow $193 million for major building and renovation projects, notably including a new physics and nanotechnology center and the renovation of the long-outdated Folwell Hall.

Over half of this money, however, is designated for the less glamorous but essential Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) fund, used to make repairs and updates to aging University buildings. The suspiciously round $100.0 million HEAPR request does not detail specifically how any of the funds are to be spent, despite the administration's insistence that there is a $250 million repair backlog and 30-year time horizon for addressing all building needs.

Publicly asking the state to borrow such a sum without specifically accounting for its proposed spending is terrible legislative strategy. Following this same route in 2008, the University received only 35 percent of its original HEAPR request, further delaying essential repairs and eventually increasing costs.

A more powerful strategy would employ a detailed project breakdown, including the time since last repair, accumulated costs of past delays, number of students and faculty affected and an estimated price range for all backlogged repairs.

Regents Dean Johnson and David Larson deserve credit for questioning the proposal's non-specificity, but the Regents' unanimous vote demonstrated a failure of oversight. The regents should not allow the University to repeat past failures by using opaqueness and generality as a legislative strategy.

October 13, 2009

Now is not the time to be (or appear to be) greedy at the State Legislature...

Minnesota's economic outlook appears bleak for foreseeable future

From Karen Schmickle's excellent MinnPost article:

The state's sales tax receipts for the quarter ending Sept. 30 were 13.5 percent below the sums received for the same quarter last year, according to an economic update [PDF] issued Monday by the office of Minnesota Management & Budget.

"We may have stopped sliding downhill," said State Economist Tom Stinson. "But these figures tell us that this has been a very difficult time for the Minnesota economy. ... These are pretty big hits."

Monday's economic update also showed that state revenues are running behind projections set in February. The full impact on Minnesota's fiscal picture won't be known until a comprehensive forecast comes in December.

What's known for now is that individual income tax receipts for this past quarter were $93 million short of budgeted expectations. Sales tax receipts fell $20 million short.

"We thought we had a very pessimistic assessment when we finished the forecast in February, and we are actually running worse than that assessment," said Sen. Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis.

If the trend continues, the state's already bruised budget is likely to take further cuts next year, Pogemiller said.

In response to shortfalls this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty cut nearly $3 billion in state spending through a controversial "unallottment" process, wiping out funding for some programs entirely. The governor's office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday's economic update, but other experts agreed the state may need to brace for more belt tightening.

Another way to look at the state's latest economic update is to see its reflection of our collective abilities to earn taxable incomes and buy goods that generate sales taxes.

The view from that perspective is likely to remain bleak for some time to come, said Elizabeth Peterson, director of research and planning for Greater Twin Cities United Way.

Because unemployment almost surely will rise even while recovery starts, "everything is going to be lagging," she said.

"Sales taxes will be lagging because people still are afraid they are going to lose jobs," she said. "Wages are going to be stagnant. It's not pretty."

It's particularly ugly for at least one in 10 Minnesotans who are unemployed or underemployed at lousy part-time jobs. They are fighting grim, gut-wrenching hardship that many of their families never have seen before.

About half of Minnesotans are buying less food, according to a Northwest Area Foundation survey reported in September. And nearly half had lent money to family and friends.

More than one-fourth of those surveyed said they had problems paying for such basic necessities as mortgages, rent and heating. Twenty-three percent have had a friend or family member stay with them because money was short. And 32 percent had trouble affording health care.

President Bruininks:

Please keep the above in mind when you go over to the legislature and tell them that now is the time to invest in the University of Minnesota. This will only contribute to our already bad image as an institution that does not place a very high priority on the needs of others.

I am really tired of hearing the line: Now is the best time to invest in the U. Give us the money because it will go ever so much farther in these hard times?

I don't think so.

October 12, 2009

Fee simple

The Daily is on its game. They call out the admin on the fee vs. tuition subterfuge. To be fair - see end of piece - Mr. Putzenreuter and the BoRe seem to agree with the Daily on this one. Perhaps other parties are responsible for the foot dragging? The folks in Morrill Hall have become masters of this tactic.

From the Daily:

To fee or not to fee: Is it tuition?

The $600 fee is used as tuition but deceitfully billed as a student fee.

On Oct. 6, The Minnesota Daily ran an article about the University of Minnesota's fee structure evaluation. In the article, the $600-per-semester University Fee ($60 per credit for the first 10 credits) was largely glossed over.

University Senior Budget Analyst Peter Zetterberg was quoted as saying that the University Fee is "just a flat form of tuition that all students pay." This fee is not included as tuition when student accounts are billed or when the University tells students what tuition costs and its rate of increase.

It may seem small, but at $600 a semester, it is 11.2 percent of total tuition ($4,560 per semester plus the University Fee). It becomes even more important when you realize that the fee has increased $50 from last year's $550 per semester, an increase of 9 percent.

While administration may give the students a line about how tuition has only increased 3 percent from last year (actually 7.5 percent, temporarily offset by stimulus money), they don't even include the 9 percent jump in the University Fee, which amounts to an additional 1 percent increase in total tuition.

Calling a $1,200 annual charge -- used as tuition -- something other than "tuition" is downright deceitful.

Students are tricked into believing they are paying significantly less for their education, but total undergraduate resident "tuition and fees" have increased 8.5 percent this year, provisionally reduced by stimulus money. The University must be honest with students about what education costs rather than hide tuition hikes.

Stop this newspeak and call the fee tuition. Include the $1,200 per year in tuition and re-establish some simple clarity and transparency in the atmosphere of the University.

My comment on the Daily's website:

Mr. Pfutzenreuter and the Board of Regents Seem to Support rolling fees into tuition.

"Information that has been provided to the Board of Regents for the last three budgets has included total cost of attendance and increments in it, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. The Board has members who do not like fees; he has made a commitment to the Regents that there will be a recommendation to consolidate fees into tuition."

source: Senate Committee on Finance and Planning, Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Of course this administration does not seem to move very fast...

October 11, 2009

"I've never been more shocked and disheartened by this University and the philosophy of its administration."

former student Senate chair Ryan Kennedy in the Daily.

I've posted recently on the paradigm resetters in Morrill Hall and the Daily has reacted just as negatively:

Last Thursday afternoon, the McNamara Alumni Center offered reprieve, or so I'd thought, for my body chilled by fall wind. Only after I entered the crystalline geomorphic dome and sat down in the sixth floor Regents' Board Room to the University of Minnesota Financing the Future Task Force, did it become clear to me wherefrom those chill winds blew.

The 22-member task force including only two students, was charged to set the future course of University finances, heralding an austere "new fiscal reality." While presenting the report, Vice President and CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter implied the University had been fiscally blindsided by the state of Minnesota in a "dramatic and permanent reset of the University's sources of revenue." Posturing as if the Minnesota divestment trend amounted to breaking news, the task force established the foundation for a slate of drastic budgetary recommendations: 1) Grow a larger and more diversified portfolio of revenues; 2) Grow tuition revenue while ensuring financial access; 3) Substantially increase administrative and academic effectiveness, reduce costs and boost efficiency; 4) Narrow the scope of the University's mission to advance a distinctive constellation of excellence.

For those unaccustomed to the shifty indicators or connotative nature of higher education hyper-jargon, focus on strategies 1 and 2. Note their prominence within the hierarchy. Strategy 1, broad and vague, grows revenues. It relies in part on a new "covenant" with the State of Minnesota (the same state that has permanently reduced University funding) and in part on the speculation of increased private donations. It fails the litmus of institutional sincerity and fiscal dependability. So why include this "non"-strategy? It serves to prime the University to the revenue growth mantra, pitched more specifically as Strategy 2, a "tuition fix."

And Messianic recitals by Vice Presidents Steven Rosenstone and Richard Pfutzenreuter that tuition "is the revenue stream with the highest potential for long-term growth" offered little calm to students.

And framing the "new reality" as a loss of revenues rather than an explosion of costs seeks only to justify the corollary revenue-side tuition fix. Comparatively, the report lacked the will to cut costs.

Conspicuously, all three scenarios hiked tuition (the only strategy that closes the projected gap pegs long-term tuition growth at 9.8 percent annually for Twin Cities undergraduates). None of the graphs modeled programmatic, employee or facility expense reductions -- a not-so subtle admission of near-, mid- and long-term reliance on raising student tuition costs.

Last year, Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Va., said of administration, "They are going to lose a lot of friends at the Capitol if they jack up that tuition ... They're pricing themselves out of work if they keep going up 7.5 percent." Are we poised to burn the last remnants of structural integrity in the state partnership bridge?

"Morris, Crookston and Duluth are already priced beyond market and may not be able to absorb significant tuition increases," but the task force offered a bleak alternative: an "aggressive tuition option" targeting "undergraduate students on the Twin Cities campus, who account for 45 percent of the University's tuition revenue." These families and students already pay tenuously close to market, leaving them top-notch debt loads after graduation for Big Ten public universities.

Ever barred from the chopping block is the sacred cow "strategic positioning agenda" -- that broad canard of University priorities approved in 2005 "to become by [2015] one of the top three public research universities in the world." . But to finance planning and implementation, institutional and academic support costs have steadily risen; as we approach the strategic initiative's halfway point, some indicators point to a net drop in University position.

After delivering such dark tuition prospects to a largely "optimistic" Board of Regents, University President Bob Bruininks audaciously requested tuition-payers fall lock-step in line, asking that "students, staff and faculty work in partnership with [the] Board." An especially outrageous assertion, considering only two members of the 22-strong task force were students. If administration sincerely seeks partnership, students deserve drastically better representation on future task forces.

October 10, 2009

Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2009) Are Out - Ouch!


Interested parties might want to check out the site to see how the University of Minnesota is doing with OurLeader's "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]." We are supposed to be halfway there. Where do you think we stand?

[Hint: Not even close. In fact we've fallen about twenty places since last year.]

Times Higher Education Rankings - (2009)

[(numbers) are the 2008 rankings]

19 Michigan (18)

32 UCLA (30)

39. Berkeley (36)

61 Wisconsin (55)

63 Illinois (71)

76 Texas (70)

76 UCSD (58)

78 North Carolina (102)

80 Washington (59)

86 Georgia Tech (83)

87 Purdue (99)

105 Minnesota (87)

50 top in engineering and IT: Berkeley, Georgia Tech, UCLA, Purdue, Michigan

50 top life sciences and biomedicine: Berkeley, UCSD, UCLA, Michigan, UC Davis, Washington, Wisconsin

50 top natural sciences:
Berkeley, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, Illinois, UCSD, Texas, Michigan

50 top social sciences: Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, UCSD, Wisconsin

50 top arts and humanities: Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan

October 9, 2009

Hindsight: 20/20, Foresight: 20/200

Fellow U of M alum, Michael McNabb has kindly given me permission to post his email message of today.

The financial crisis at the U of M is not like a natural disaster that hit without warning. It has been coming at us for DECADES. At the annual legislative briefing in January 2005 the Alumni Association distributed a booklet entitled "Reverse the Trend." Here are two gems from that booklet:

(1) Thirty years ago Minnesota spent eight cents of every dollar on higher education and today that number is less than four cents.

(2) State appropriations now make up less than 25% of the University of Minnesota's total operating budget while tuition has increased nearly 21%.

According to the report in the Star Tribune on October 9 "there were few questions from the Regents" after the senior administrators presented their report on the financial crisis. How can that be? Were they too stunned by the news (because they had not been following the trend of the last 30 years)? Were they sleeping through the report?

So why have the senior administrators and the Regents continued to sit on their hands all these years? Oh, wait, I forgot, they were too busy cajoling legislators and donors (and strong-arming students) for hundreds of millions of dollars for a football stadium that will provide entertainment for six Saturday afternoons each year.

The senior administrators and the Regents followed the lead of (former) Regent David Metzen, who proclaimed that "a lot of your image as a university is linked to athletes." Star Tribune report of March 24, 2007.

So their legacy will be the football stadium.

As for leadership at the U of M, the members of the faculty will need to rouse themselves and assume the leadership role or they will have only themselves to blame for the continuing decline of the University.

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

October 8, 2009

Paradigm reset? Is that adminspeak for changing our priorities?


(Brother, can you paradigm?)

Marching orders have been prepared by the Morrill Hall crowd and were presented to the Board of Regents at their meeting today. The next few years are going to be interesting. As an aside, I'll just note that the administration had better take a nice fat salary cut soon if they expect the groundlings to go along enthusiastically.

From the document:

The University's financial architecture has undergone a dramatic and permanent paradigm shift. State support, historically our largest revenue stream, has been reset: it now constitutes only about 1/5 of the University's operating budget and while integral to the University's finances, it may not increase over the years ahead. Tuition is now the University's largest revenue stream and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Operating costs, the cost of academic excellence, and the appetite for investments in new faculty and staff, student financial aid, research support and infrastructure, technology and facilities, are now rising faster than revenue. The University's compact with the State of Minnesota to prepare the next generation of health and other professionals is at risk. And, over the years ahead, the University of Minnesota will face even steeper competition for students, faculty, and grants. If no changes are made and current trends continue, the University will face at least a $50 million shortfall in 2012 and a $1.1 billion annual shortfall by 2025. Unchecked, declining resources will lead to a decline in quality.

A paradigm reset
of both our academic priorities and financial strategies is required to meet the enormous changes in revenues, rising costs, and increased competition. The challenges demand a new portfolio of academic, fiscal, administrative, and planning strategies to advance the excellence of the University of Minnesota. The Task Force has identified five such strategies designed to advance the excellence of the University, to ensure innovative research, and provide an extraordinary education for our students and dedicated service to the people of Minnesota.

I don't even know where to begin with this blockbuster.

Weep along with Thomas Kuhn.

Suffice it to say that the author(s) of this document should be aware that many people are tired of hearing the word paradigm. If the admin knew what paradigm meant perhaps they wouldn't use the word gratuitously? Perhaps they suffer from paradigm paralysis? Or maybe they just think it sounds impressive.

October 7, 2009

U makes Sierra Club's Hit List...

Bruce Nilles
Bruce Nilles is the director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign

Coal is too dirty, even for colleges

That's the first ad of our new campaign targeting the world of higher education: Coal is too dirty - even for college.

Did you know that many of our country's colleges and universities - places that are supposed to be a source of higher-education and leadership - get their electricity by burning coal? And sometimes those coal-fired power plants are even on the campuses?

I think many of us look back in disbelief at some of the things we did in college. We're seeing that same sense of disbelief from current college students when they learn that their campuses are still powered by coal.

This ad launches a campaign that will use print and online advertising (two more video ads to come) to highlight that some things are just too dirty, even for college.

The ads play off stereotypically "dirty" college behavior, becoming progressively more "dirty" throughout the series. Though college life allows for leniency in the socially acceptable, coal still crosses the line.

The ad campaign targets schools in 11 states which currently rely on coal power.

* Indiana University-Bloomington

* Indiana University of Pennsylvania

* Lewis and Clark

* Ohio University

* Penn State University

* SUNY-Binghamton

* University of Colorado - Boulder

* University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

* University of Georgia

* University of Iowa

* University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

* University of Missouri-Columbia

* University of North Dakota

* University of Southern California

* University of Washington

* Virginia Tech

* Washington University-St. Louis

If you attend one of these schools, you can sign a petition asking your university president to kick coal off your campus - the list and the petition are on this website: http://www.2dirty4college.com/

The Campuses Beyond Coal Campaign is working nationwide to wean all campuses off of coal-generated electricity and replace it with clean energy options. With organizers on the ground in several of the more than 60 campuses with on-site coal plants the Campaign is working to help universities achieve the zero carbon emissions targets set forth in the Presidents Climate Commitment.

We released a report last month to support the campaign: "Breaking Coal's Grip on Our Future: Moving Campuses Beyond Coal." It highlights many of the problems facing coal dependent schools and the solutions available.

We know students want a cleaner, healthier future, and so they're organizing on campuses coast-to-coast to make that vision a reality.

The ad campaign will run through the end of October, with the remaining two videos to be released in the next few weeks. It's time to kick coal off campus!

October 6, 2009

Best Judgment? Is That Like Best Practice?

Although I am a great admirer of the the University of Wisconsin, they step in it, too.

From University Diaries:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has defended a professor's $219 purchase of the complete set of the 1960s series "Get Smart" as appropriate.

The Legislative Audit Bureau discovered the purchase of the 25-DVD set by a business professor during a review of credit card spending.

Auditors also wanted explanations for the professor's purchase of seasons of "The Love Boat" and "Family Ties." The professor, whose name was redacted from records, spent more so all three could be shipped overnight.

In an internal e-mail, the professor said clips from the shows would be used "to illustrate aspects of business and management" in his class.

UW-Madison called the purchases a "best judgment" and said the DVDs would be used for years, so purchasing instead of renting them made sense.


Maybe I am just bitter about last weekend?

October 5, 2009

We Are All Californians Now. Tenured Radical Hits Home Run

From the website of a Professor of History and American Studies at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.

For Americans, education is every man or woman for his or herself. Americans say they value education, but they don't seem to value the thought, planning or expenditures necessary to sustain and fight for the institutions that make an educated society possible. Nor, and I would say the elitism of many academics is partly to blame here, do they care much about extending educational opportunities in the most inclusive way possible.

Hence, it no longer common sense that public universities actually be accessible to the public, nor is there much conversation about what private institutions have at stake in returning to some semblance of accessibility and service to a larger public good. This moment, when our way of life at elite institutions has finally become unsustainable, is a critical time to rethink that and we need to look to what is going on in public colleges and universities to see where common interests lie and common action might be taken.

As culprits, Butler specifically cites a bloated administration, huge budgets for intercollegiate athletics, and, most importantly, a dysfunctional state government in Sacramento.

[sound familiar]

Defunding of higher education -- based on conservative ideologies designed to starve the state and re-shape public institutions on a free market model -- resulted in steadily raised tuition and the expectation that students and their families would bear the burden of those tuition increases by taking out loans.

I would like to hear that happy "pop" all over the country, as we pull our heads out of where they have been and realize that this isn't just about the library cuts, it isn't just about the salaries, it isn't just about the standards movement and the demise of anything that might look like progressive education, it isn't about the job market. It's about the whole system and how it works. Here, from my point of view, are four basic issues:

The fate of each form of education is inextricably linked to the fate of its apparent opposite: public schools are linked to private schools, religious schools to secular ones; four-years to community colleges; elite to non-elite.

Why are we having such trouble staunching the bleeding in the current economic crisis? In part it is because we have hit the limits of what privatization of education, and funding institutions on the backs of private debt rather than public funding, can accomplish.

Faculty and administrations everywhere are currently engaged in a contest as to which stone they are going to try to squeeze blood from next,
and that isn't how this problem will be fixed. We need a fresh infusion of cash that takes us back to pre-1980 levels, adjusted for inflation.

Faculty and administrators need to stop arguing with each other and begin fighting the state for the quality education Americans deserve.

If there is any lesson to the current crisis it is this: funding higher Ed on the backs of students and through private endowments is unstable and unsupportable over the long term.

In other words, when we fight for ourselves we need to do so in ways that are in solidarity with the interests of our students.

College and university presidents need to make some kind of collective statement as to what constitutes reasonable expenditures, and the first thing to go should be expenditures aimed at marketing the university.

Educational institutions should stand or fall on the quality of the education they offer, period: not the beauty of their dorms, not the national standing of their athletic teams or the latest redesign of their Helly Hanson college gear.

Every time a new student center or dormitory is built, an institution automatically increases its maintenance budget. Often this budget is met by forcing students to live and eat on campus, when historically students have devoted what dollars they had to tuition and books by living collectively off campus.

We need to take an honest look at what gives us prestige and why, and stop devoting dollars to glitzy budget items that make schools into pop cultural phenomena. If alumni don't understand why a new football stadium has nothing to do with education, we need to stop being such snobs and take it upon ourselves to explain to them why that is.

Colleges and universities must stop competing with each other and begin coordinating themselves by region, and in some cases, nationally.

Most important, and this will be the hardest thing for some of us to give up, we must all give up the notion that the prestige attached to some of us entitles us to greater consideration. This is perhaps the greatest lesson of the protests in the California system which, a system that for almost a century has dedicated itself to lifting up every citizen who was willing to study hard and dedicate him or herself to learning.

That is the mission, my friends: that is what we are here for. When we organize only on behalf of our own salary, benefits and research accounts, institution by lonely institution, we are missing the big picture. But if we get the big picture, and are willing to work across the class and interest lines that currently divide us, the rest will come.

We are all Californians now.

Right on sister. And I have only given excerpts. This whole post should be required reading for the Morrill Hall crew.

Will the Regents Rubber Stamp Another Unreasonable Bonding Request to the State Legislature?

Short answer, yes.

Once again the U of M is being put in the position of appearing to be arrogant and greedy. Perhaps this description does apply to our administration, but as a member of the community, I would like to point out that not everyone at the U thinks this request is a good one.

In fact, in the long run, these kinds of unreasonable requests are what contribute to our bad relations with the legislature and the public.

For an example of how this went down last year, please see: Time to put the head back on? Or, we have no money, therefore we must think.

So let's look at the proposal:


What it should be:

Folwell 36.5
Itasca 5.5
Americn Indian LC 10M
General Lab Ren 10M
Physics and Nano 10M (planning)

In the end, the rank order of priorities is set by the president. He has not done this very well in the past and this year is no exception. The emphasis should be on education given our limited resources. If we get planning money for Physics and Nano this year, full funding could be requested next year. Unfortunately the Board of Regents seems to go along with these absurd requests - perhaps in the belief that we will be cut anyway, so why not ask for as much as we can?

The strategy used by this administration has made us look arrogant and greedy in the past. The proposal President Bruininks is asking the Regents to endorse does this yet again.

Time for another approach? New leadership?

October 2, 2009

Part-Time Governor: State Needs Vikings

From the Strib:

"We value the Vikings' importance to Minnesota -- we need to find a way to keep our Minnesota Vikings," he [Pawlenty] said this morning on his weekly radio show."

From the comments:

Pawlenty says MN needs
the Vikings but consistently acts as if we don't need the U of MN or higher education generally, or elementary and secondary education,or decent roads or much else.

Hey, T, I got a plan. You'll like it. Taxes.

OK, call it a "services fee" or a "user-sponsored event charge." Tax on downtown food and drink on game days. Tax on businesses dependent on the fan spending. Tax on game tickets. You can either whistle in the corner, or lead. just once, I'd like to see you lead. Just once.

Leadership matters - in St. Paul and in Morrill Hall.

Administrators Who Blog: U Virginia's Darden School Dean Robert Bruner

Margaret Soltan has a piece up on University Diaries entitled "Blogoscopy" wherein she cites an Economic Times of India article:

Robert Bruner... the dean of Darden School Of Business at the University of Virginia ... has one of the most readable blogs I've seen in a long time. His posts are fairly frequent and most of them are so original, well thought out and sincere (as opposed to cynical) that they may actually be called 'wise,' a term that's very seldom used in its true sense these days. Bruner's posts come with innumerable quotes from literature and his erudition touches subjects ranging from leadership and ethics to innovation and work-life balance, often linking them to contemporary events.

... "A blog is like a huge chalkboard that everyone can read -- it helps me extend the reach of my teaching well beyond the classroom," says Bruner. "I also do it because it allows me to inform my audience, frame an agenda and shape discussion. That's something leaders need to do."

Academics like Bruner find themselves pulled into the blogosphere in part because their net-savvy students demand it of them. "Once these students graduate into the outside world, they will expect the same thing from the leadership there," says the dean...

Yes, it is about leadership. Leaders frame agendas and shape discussion about them by appropriate consultation. Our Provost - a few years ago - promised us such an opportunity to have a conversation with him. He reneged. Too busy. Sad.


University of Minnesota Provost Launches Blog - Hold That Thought...

October 1, 2009

It is getting kind of ugly - the University and our part-time governor

From Thomas Lee's excellent Patent Pending blog:

There's certainly no love lost between the Pawlenty Administration and the University of Minnesota.

First, there's the usual budget spats. And then DEED Commissioner Dan McElroy's threat earlier this year to wage "budget jihad" against the U if a planned start-up based on university research in regenerative medicine leaves the state.

But now Governor and would-be presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has waded directly into the fray. During a keynote speech Wednesday to The Collaborative's annual venture capital conference, Pawlenty chided the U for lacking a risk taking, entrepreneurial culture and not working well with outside companies, according to sources.

He also helpfully suggested the U should exclusively license its technology to local companies, even if it means the school has to "take a haircut." Then Pawlenty cracked his usual joke about teachers and tenure- that the only place to find job security without merit is government and the university.

But what Pawlenty said is almost besides the point. It's where he said it that really pisses off U officials. Ripping the U at a conference designed to generate investor interest in local start-ups seems counterproductive, especially at a time when the state is trying jump start a weak economy.

"I'm really disappointed in the governor's comments," said U tech transfer chief Jay Schrankler, who attended the speech. "The relationship between the university and governor could be better."

The governor's suggestion about university licensing is also noteworthy. Republicans are supposed stand for business, of free market capitalism. The U granting sweetheart deals to local firms because they're local doesn't sound very free market to me. It sounds protectionist and parochial.

If Pawlenty doesn't think much of the U, then the feeling is quite mutual.
U officials say the school is a convenient scapegoat for politicians who can't do simple things like pass an angel investment tax credit. (Pawlenty says he supports such credits and is optimistic that they will pass in 2010. Glad to know that seven years of futility hasn't dampened his optimism.)

The back and forth bickering is why we look like chumps compared to Wisconsin.
(Check out my recent two-part series on Wisconsin biotech). Minnesota will never improve its situation if the governor and the state's top research university can't get it together.

In the Badger State, the University of Wisconsin has worked hand in hand with governors and legislators of both parties to craft one of the country's best environments for tech transfer and biotech start-ups.

"I don't think we're quite on par with what's happening in Wisconsin,"
said Mulcahy, an observation that wins my vote for Understatement of the Year.

This situation points to a failure in leadership, both in St. Paul and in Morrill Hall. Within the next few years there will be turnover both places. In fact it would be best for both the state and the university if the current occupants immediately resigned.

Let's hope that the behavior of the incumbents is kept in mind when selecting their successors.