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November 28, 2009

A Letter to the President of Lake Wobegon University

November 25, 2009

President Robert H. Bruininks
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455

Dear President Bruininks:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE; www.thefire.org) unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, academic freedom, due process, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and religion, and freedom of association on America's college campuses.

FIRE is deeply concerned about new policies at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities proposed by the College of Education and Human Development. According to documents published by the college (see http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cehd/teri), it intends to mandate certain beliefs and values-"dispositions"-for future teachers. The college also intends to redesign its admissions process so that it screens out people with the "wrong" beliefs and values-those who either do not have sufficient "cultural competence" or those who the college judges will not be able to be converted to the "correct" beliefs and values even after remedial re-education. These intentions violate the freedom of conscience of the university's students. As a public university bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the university is both legally and morally obligated to uphold this fundamental right.

The following is our understanding of the facts. Please correct us if you believe we are in error.

In early 2009, the College began to reassess its teacher education program through a Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI). TERI's seven task groups included a "Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group." This group defined very specific ideas about "cultural competence," as described in its final report (later slightly amended) of July 16, 2009. Although the task group report admits "that cultural competence remains hard to define and that current definitions lack consensus," the group emphasizes:

Nonetheless, let there be no doubt that we consider cultural competence to be an indispensable characteristic of all beginning teachers and, hence, an obligatory goal of teacher education. In fact, we believe that the following outcomes that we present should serve as an overarching framework from which beginning teachers frame the rest of teacher education courses and practice. [Emphasis added.]

The task group's full explanation of "cultural competence" includes specific definitions of required beliefs and values. Under the heading "What Successful Beginning Teachers Need to Know & How to Assess and How to Teach Them," the task group identifies four categories of attributes that teachers "need." Each category is described as an "outcome" and includes various means of "assessment." The following excerpts from each section demonstrate many of the unacceptable impositions planned by the college to mandate that teachers' thoughts, attitudes, values, and beliefs conform to the task group's ideas of "cultural competence."

On the level of "Self," the task group seeks to require that:

Our future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression.

Future teachers will understand that they are privileged & marginalized depending on context ... It is about the development of cultural empathy, if you will. Teachers first have to discover their own privilege, oppression, or marginalization and also are able to describe their cultural identity.

Future teachers will recognize & demonstrate understanding of white privilege[.]

Future teachers will understand the importance of cultural identity and develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity[.]

On the level of "Self & Others," future teachers must take the Intercultural Development Inventory, "which measures five of the six major stages of the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity." Their "Cultural Intelligence" also will be assessed. They must reveal a "pervasive stereotype" they personally held about an identity group, and evidently must argue in a personal essay that this view has now been "challenged" on the basis of their experiences with that identity group. They also will be assessed regarding "the extent to which they find intrinsic satisfaction" in being in "culturally diverse situations."

In the area of "Self & Schools":

Future teachers will recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism. That schools and classrooms are often structured in ways that advantage and disadvantage some groups but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation.

In this area, the task group further elaborates that a student's

Autoethnography should reflect appreciation for how dominant pedagogical styles, school curricula, behavioral expectations, personal prejudices of school personnel (among other things) often convey overt and covert messages that devalue the culture, heritage, and identity of minority students. Writings must show awareness that, when minority individuals actively resist and reject the implicit and explicit messages attacking their ethnic identity, educational achievement is negatively impacted....

In addition, this area demands that "Future teachers create & fight for social justice."

Finally, in the area of "Self & Society":

Future teachers will understand that despite an ideal about what is considered common culture in the United States [what the college identifies as "the American Dream"], that many groups are typically not included within this celebrated cultural identity and more often than not, many students with multi-generational histories in the United States are routinely perceived to be new immigrants or foreign. That such exclusion is frequently a result of dissimilarities in power and influence.

One of the sources for this critique is the concept of the "myth of meritocracy in the United States."

In the following section of the task force's report on "Questions, Barriers & Possible Ways to Overcome," the task force presents several ominous ideas for overcoming barriers to implementing this curriculum:

That all beginning teachers be required to sign up for a certain number of diversity dialogues/seminars/workshops as a requirement for graduation?

Have students take course(s) that meet these outcomes as a condition for admission?

Develop clear steps and procedures for working with non-performing students, including a remediation plan.

In the final section, "What Makes the University of Minnesota's Programs Distinctive from Other Programs in the State?" the task force even presumes to demand commitments from the college's faculty, in violation of their academic freedom:

Every faculty member at our university that trains our teachers must comprehend and commit to the centrality of race, class, culture, and gender issues in teaching and learning, and consequently, frame their teaching and course foci accordingly.

The task force's definition of teachers' "cultural competence"-elaborated in the final version of the task force report, excerpted above and published online-appears to be the college's official definition. In addition, it appears that the college fully intends to implement these recommendations. In an October 28, 2009, proposal to The Bush Foundation, the college promises that it will revise its curriculum toward the "development of cultural competence." Although further details are not provided in the proposal, the college has offered no more recent or more specific articulation of the term than what appears in the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group's final report.

Making matters yet worse, however, the college in its proposal promises to start screening its applicants to make sure they have the proper "commitments" and "dispositions":

Develop admission procedures to assess professional commitments. We recognize that both academic preparation and particular dispositions or professional commitments are needed for effective teaching. [Emphasis added.]

Moreover, in its proposal the college promises to begin using "predictive criteria" to make sure that future teachers will be able to develop an acceptable level of "cultural competence." Apparently, those who do not pass the political litmus tests set by the college and who seem too set in their beliefs will be refused admission.

This redesign of the college's policies is far in excess of what the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has ever mandated regarding "dispositions." FIRE notes that even NCATE removed from its accreditation standards the vague and politically loaded recommendation that education students demonstrate a belief in "social justice" in order to graduate.

FIRE urges you to consider the Supreme Court's ruling in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943), which invalidated mandated allegiances to political ideologies at public schools. Writing for the Court, Justice Robert H. Jackson declared:

Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.

The Court ultimately concluded that the Constitution intended to protect precisely "the sphere of intellect and spirit" from "all official control."

Moreover, as the Supreme Court declared-and as I am sure you will agree-"[t]he college classroom with its surrounding environs is peculiarly the 'marketplace of ideas.'" Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, 180 (1972) (internal citation omitted). That marketplace cannot function when a college mandates the beliefs, dispositions, and values of its students and suggests that students who do not conform lack "competence" and need remediation.

The University of Minnesota also should remember the Supreme Court's timeless expression of the important role of our universities in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 250 (1957):

The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident. No one should underestimate the vital role in a democracy that is played by those who guide and train our youth. To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation. No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made.... Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die. [Emphasis added.]

FIRE understands that the college intends to consult with the university's general counsel regarding its "dispositions assessment" in the summer of 2010. Let us urge you today not to wait until the college wastes valuable resources in taking several more months to plan such an unconstitutional and morally unconscionable set of demands on future teachers.

Indeed, the university's general counsel should be asked to comment as soon as possible. If the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group achieves its stated goals, the result will be political and ideological screening of applicants, remedial re-education for those with the "wrong" views and values, and withholding of degrees from those upon whom the university's political reeducation efforts proved ineffective. While the task group appears to have attempted to take matters of "social justice" to heart, it seems to have persuaded the College of Education and Human Development to adopt requirements that, by any non-totalitarian standard, are severely unjust and impermissibly intrude into matters of individual conscience. As these demands for "cultural competence" stand today, they are a severe affront to liberty and a disservice to the very ideal of a liberating education that appears to be behind the task group's ideas. It is a shame that the College of Education and Human Development has embraced such an illiberal view of education.

There is still time for the college to change course. A new set of "Phase II" task groups was established in October 2009 for the purpose of "moving forward on structural dimensions" of the plan. This year's applicants are already being warned about the possible changes, but the new "[d]ispositions assessment" is not scheduled to occur until next summer.

Please recognize your legal and moral obligation to respect the freedom of conscience of the future teachers of Minnesota. The College of Education and Human Development has a chance to demonstrate that it shares an understanding of the basic premises of a liberal education and truly embraces human diversity on its most profound and essential level. Great teachers come in all shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds and all beliefs. Let the college's policies reflect this reality.

FIRE requests a response by Thursday, December 17, 2009.


Adam Kissel

Director, Individual Rights Defense Program

E. Thomas Sullivan, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

R. Timothy Mulcahy, Interim Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education

Mark B. Rotenberg
, General Counsel

Jean K. Quam
, Dean, College of Education and Human Development

Mary Trettin, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, College of Education and Human Development

David R. Johnson, Senior Associate Dean for Research and Policy, College of Education and Human Development

Michael P. Goh
, Chair, TERI Task Group on Race, Class, Culture, and Gender

Carole P. Gupton
, TERI Task Group on Race, Class, Culture, and Gender

Bic Ngo, TERI Task Group on Race, Class, Culture, and Gender

Timothy Lensmire, TERI Task Group on Race, Class, Culture, and Gender

Mary Beth Kelley
, TERI Task Group on Race, Class, Culture, and Gender

Susan E. Ranney
, Chair, TERI Task Group on English Language Learners

Susan Rose, Chair, TERI Task Group on Special Education

Deborah R. Dillon
, Chair, TERI Task Group on Reading Standards in the Content Areas

Susan Walker
, Chair, TERI Task Group on Families and Communities

Keisha Varma, Chair, TERI Task Group on Assessment and Learning

Cassie Scharber, Chair, TERI Task Group on Technology Standards

Senator LeRoy A. Stumpf
, Chair, Education Committee, Minnesota Senate

Senator Charles W. Wiger
, Deputy Chair, Education Committee, Minnesota Senate

Senator Sandy Rummel
, Vice Chair, Education Committee, Minnesota Senate

Senator Gen Olson
, Ranking Minority Member, Education Committee, Minnesota Senate

Representative Tom Rukavina
, Chair, Finance Committee, Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division, Minnesota House of Representatives

Representative David Bly
, Vice Chair, Finance Committee, Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division, Minnesota House of Representatives

November 26, 2009

How others see us... Disposition Assessment and TERI at Minnesota

"Who but an idiot would apply to this school?"

From University Diaries, the blog of George Washington University English professor, one of the country's foremost academic bloggers:

Designed with Sheep in Mind.

Dispositions assessment for new candidates approved (includes consultation with UMN general council) [sic]

This excerpt from a University of Minnesota school of education task force draft says it all.

The professor who wrote it doesn't know how to spell counsel. The same professor looks forward to subjecting applicants to the school to an assessment of their cultural competence - cultural competence here being what the task force tells applicants it is.

Applicants who don't want their social views investigated and approved by admissions officers might save themselves money and anxiety as to the correctness of their views by not applying.

Applicants who read the criteria by which they will be considered culturally competent, and who alter themselves to conform to the school's standards of cultural competence should feel encouraged to apply. This group should understand, however, that even if admissions officers find their degree of competence acceptable at this time, applicants will continue to be scrutinized closely on the matter throughout their years at the school.

The reason the task force thinks it might want to check in with the general council is that someone in the group has an inkling that political litmus tests might be considered unconstitutional.

But constitutional questions are the least of it. Who but an idiot would apply to this school?

So sheep may safely graze...


Note added November 30:

An interesting section of the original post is a growing number of comments that may be of interest to the TERI folks at CEHD. One of the best, I think, is from Soltan herself:

# Margaret Soltan Says: November 28th, 2009 at 7:37PM

Okay. The problem that proponents of admissions assessment in terms of dispositions, and then courses of study and other forms of training in terms of cultural competence, want to address seems to be the following:

Education cannot be a means of social and economic advancement for underprivileged people if the people teaching the underprivileged are insufficiently aware of the specific nature of their students' lack of privilege. How can schools of education best educate future teachers on the specificities of underprivilege?

Central to the answer offered by many schools of education is something like the following:

Students in schools of education must be made aware of their own privilege. They must undergo interviews and exercises which will reveal to the students their insufficient awareness of the ways in which privileges with which they were born have enabled their personal and professional successes... Successes that these students perhaps have considered primarily self-generated.

I am not disputing the importance of a sensitive and rich understanding of how various forms of deprivation make it much more difficult for various populations to be successful. I am taking issue with the particular method some schools of education who embrace disposition and cultural competence mandates take up to achieve this understanding.

This model assumes a significant enough degree of privilege in all people admitted to schools of education to warrant an intimate, revealing, ongoing procedure in which you publicly grapple with your political unconscious. Since many students admitted to schools of education will be from not particularly privileged backgrounds, and since some will be from decidedly not privileged backgrounds (I'm going to assume, Sara, that you don't believe all white people, by virtue of their skin, are privileged), this seems to me a sledgehammer of an approach, more likely to alienate and offend people than to enlighten them as to their insufficiently understood social attitudes.

More problematically, the model is a very particular, well-elaborated program of dispositional and cultural reform. It deploys a certain theory about the complex connections among social justice, personal interaction, and the transmission of knowledge with which reasonable people can disagree. Reasonable people can also take issue with the belief that you can enlighten and change people by challenging them to reveal their personal feelings about things in public settings. This belief rests on a prior belief in a group psychology / confessional model of personal change which, again, is controversial in terms of its conception and its results.

I think there are better -- more seemly, probably more effective -- ways to encourage greater degrees of awareness among students in schools of education about the classroom effects of economic and cultural disparities in this country. These ways would involve, broadly speaking, having the students spend much less time thinking about themselves, and much more time thinking about the world of their future students. A course which involved a close reading and discussion of books like A Theory of Justice by John Rawls and The End of Equality by Mickey Kaus, for instance, would probably be much more effective than disposition workshops. (I'm aware that some schools of ed offer such courses.)

A rigorous education in theories of justice, the history of discrimination in America, and the particularities (Jonathan Kozol, etc.) of schooling and inequality, coupled with plenty of apprenticeships in classrooms throughout one's years in ed school, seems to me one good way of educating future teachers in the politics of the classroom.

November 21, 2009

Letter from Lake Wobegon U

Sunday November 22


The above figure was included in a pdf that is downloadable from the Board of Regents site. The document is purported to be the report of the external audit team. Supposedly, that's all there is, there isn't any more. I wonder how much this so-called audit cost? If this is actually all there is to it, then the whole process appears to be a sham.

I'd like to know the numbers behind the bar graph and am looking into the matter. But at first glance they imply that tuition revenue now covers 85% of the cost of instruction at the U. This money, plus state support, should more than cover what it costs to educate a student at the U.

This point is crucial because tuition should not be considered a revenue stream to help fund the ambitious aspirations of the university administration (aka the Morrill Hall crowd) to become one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]. The cost for this grandiosity should not be on the backs of students and their parents.

More to come on this matter.

Intransigence at the U - clear to all?

Board of Regents Chairman Blows Off

Request for Meeting With Former Regent

and Met Council Chairman, Peter Bell

In the above video, Regent Allen claims that no new items have been placed on the table during Light Rail negotiations. He also implies that the U's sole motive for intransigence is protecting the research of the University. Neither claim stands up to scrutiny.

From the Pioneer Press:

"Negotiations between the University of Minnesota and Central Corridor light-rail-line officials stumbled again this week, with the U apparently reinstating tens of millions of dollars to its wish list of payouts and Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell alleging "arrogance" in response."

"The dust-up has caught the attention of state lawmakers, and it looks like they're going to step in. On Friday, state Rep. Alice Hausman, a St. Paul Democrat, said she's planning to convene a meeting Wednesday in Ramsey County offices with leading lawmakers and both sides to try to sort things out. "

As for the question of whether the university is hogging taxpayer money that could go elsewhere, O'Brien said: "The university has a great deal of sympathy with others along the line. Our job as officers is to represent the interests of the university."

Bell, himself a former member of the university's board of regents, bristles at comments like that.

"The arrogance is just counterproductive to moving this project forward," Bell said Friday. "They need to understand that, yes, they have a fiduciary duty to the university, but they also have a duty to the public. ... I always say and believe that the university has legitimate concerns. They need to acknowledge that we have legitimate constraints, and they have refused to do that."

Hausman said she was "very disappointed and alarmed" to learn that on Monday the university reiterated prior demands to be reimbursed perhaps $2 million for U-hired consultants, perhaps $20 million for lost revenue from two parking lots that would be disrupted and for a "free-fare zone" for students traveling between stations on-campus.

"It did feel to me that there were suddenly four or five new things plunked on the table," said the St. Paul lawmaker.

Bell said he has requested a meeting to speak directly to the regents. He said he has been refused.

Breathtaking, sad, arrogant.

Ms. Hausman is the person responsible for the upcoming bonding bill in the legislature. The Morrill Hall crowd would be well advised to pay attention to what she has to say...

Leadership matters. How about showing some, President Bruininks?

Board Chair Allen's remarks are also very disappointing and do not seem to be in accord with the facts. The lack of respect shown for Peter Bell is most telling, especially since he is a former member of the Board of Regents.

Perhaps Chair Allen is afraid of engaging in a frank, honest and open discussion with someone who has views other than those of the University of Minnesota Administration?


November 12, 2009

Draft of Conflict of Interest for Download


It is disgraceful that I had to get this document from the media who received it at a press conference held by Mr. Rotenberg yesterday.

The document should have been released first to faculty and staff to whom it will apply. This is typical of the behavior of our administration.

If the administration wants faculty and staff to get on board, they had better start taking their obligations to us seriously.

Bob, Tom?

November 8, 2009

Weekly News From Lake Wobegon U.

As mentioned last week, I'm cutting back to Sundays.

It is really hard to decide on what to write about given the events of the week.

I'd encourage readers to check out the article about conflict of interest in the Daily this week. Please pay special attention to the comments.

Questionable ethics: a textbook case

And then there is an article in the Pioneer Press about continued arrogance by the Morrill Hall crowd. I've abstracted, with emphasis, some of the salient points on the Periodic Table:

The Arrogance Continues at University of Minnesota...

But the most amazing document to come at me from the ether was this:

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'll just quote some things that caught my eye. Students, faculty, and staff should be aware of what's coming down the pike:

Tuition now exceeds state support as the University's largest revenue stream and tuition will likely be the University's largest source of revenue in the future.

In short, the University must increase revenue, reduce costs, and develop new academic planning strategies. These are matters of great urgency. The hard work of implementing the report must begin immediately, Dr. Rosenstone concluded.

One can see where the state money goes: It is concentrated in CLA, Duluth, IT, CFANS, and the Medical School. When the University faces a cut in state funds, it is difficult not to go to those units to find the money.

State Economist (Professor) Thomas Stinson and State Demographer Thomas Gillespie will meet with the Board of Regents in December to report on economic and demographic trends in the state. Professor Stinson is predicting that economic growth in the state over the next 25 years will be only one-half of what it is today. The task force concluded that the state will not grow sufficiently to provide enough funding for higher education.

The covenant between the University and the State of Minnesota defining the rationale and responsibilities for state support of higher education needs to be strengthened.

[Covenants are by mutual agreement. The legislature and the citizens are not interested in a high tution model. Deal with it?]

"Operating costs, the cost of academic excellence, and the University's appetite for new academic investments are now rising faster than revenues."


In order to give one an idea of the appetite for investments, Mr. Pfutzenreuter pointed out that "the initiatives that have emerged from the strategic positioning process require an incremental $400 million to $600 million in new and/or reallocated recurring resources."

[And it is unfair to students to finance this on their backs and the backs of their parents.]

And the idea that the state funds can be replaced with private funds is not realistic, Dean Finnegan added. Professor Martin reported that to do so for only a fraction of appropriation would require that the University raise about $800 million per year.

"The shift in revenues, rising costs, and increased competition are enormous challenges that require a paradigm reset in our academic and financial strategies for the future. The challenges demand a new portfolio of academic, fiscal, administrative, and planning strategies as well as sharper incentives to advance the excellence of the University of Minnesota." He repeated the point that there is no magic bullet, and that UMore Park gravel, selling land, and other strategies alone will not be sufficient.

Another problem, Dean Finnegan observed, is that the state is significantly overbuilt in higher education.

[Dean Finnegan, please amplify. Does the word Rochester do anything for you? Is the U overbuilt? Or are you referring to all those other state institutions who are getting your piece of the pie?]

There is a difference between the University and a typical business, Professor Konstan said in response to Dean Davis-Blake's comments. Any business will have units that are profitable for the long term. Every unit in the University receives a subsidy; just because it brings in revenue does not mean it is paying for itself. One can say research is important, but the more that is done, the more money the University loses. That is probably true in everything the University does.

Professor Konstan said it also felt like a lot of responsibility for the solution is being pushed down into the business units, which avoids solutions that are across and between units. No dean can decide to invest in two colleges, or realign six colleges into four. The Committee also has no sense of what is NOT on the table. The "Promise of Tomorrow" scholarships? The University could say it will support 4,000 students with the scholarships--but no more. The University calls a lot of things "must" because of its values, and it may need to decide which of the "musts" it will not compromise on and those that it will.

[Crucial. Professor Konstan is a smart guy, thank God he is on this committee.]

What about the timeline, Professor Konstan asked? Dr. Rosenstone said that is a question for the President.

[And here's the big point. Dr. Bruininks is a lame duck. Do you - members of the U community - really think that the skids can be greased for a major reorganization and that anybody (good) is going to come in here under the developing circumstances? Or perhaps we'll just promote the Provost to president and continue along merrily?]]

Professor Morrison
said that in his view the University faces two problems, not one. The first problem is July 1, 2011; the second problem is the next two or three decades. Someone must think about what the University is going to do on Friday, July 1, 2011. How much money does the University have in stimulus funds, he asked? (About $89 million over two years, all but $11 million of which has been allocated, most of it for tuition mitigation and middle-income scholarship program, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said.) So the University will lose about $45 million per year, Professor Morrison concluded, and must either continue to mitigate tuition or bump up tuition by a large amount. The middle-income scholarship program is recurring, so has a tail, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, and when the money to stop buying down Minnesota resident undergraduate tuition is gone, returning students will see a $740 tuition increase.

If that cut were $150 million, which would not be unexpected with a state deficit of $7 billion, Professor Morrison said, and the disappearance of the stimulus funds, the University could face a shortfall of $200 million. On a base of state funds of about $600 million, that is a 33% cut. He said he was not sure some realize this is coming, and the University must think about strategies for July 1, 2011 and for the long haul. The task force report addresses the long haul and the University appears to be whistling in the wind about 7/1/11.

[Professor Morrison is another old timer who also really understands what is going on. When he speaks, we should all listen. This includes the Morrill Hall crowd..]

The University will also be in transition, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, with a new president presumably coming in to office. Professor Morrison agreed, observing that the current president will leave office the day the University goes over the cliff. It is the responsibility of those at the University now to not let that happen, Vice President Rosenstone pointed out. He agreed with Professor Martin on the need to get everyone at the University to understand the new reality, and how to engage across the institution to make changes necessary to advance the excellence of the University.

[Given what has gone on around here - Graduate School coup, AHC re-org by executive fiat, smothering General College, strategic propaganda initiative, just as a couple of examples - it is going to be difficult to engage across the university. The blame lies at the feet of the Morrill Hall crowd expecially the individuals sitting in the president and provost's office, as well as the cultural czar.]

Mr. Pfutzenreuter said he was "question fatigued." Everyone asks questions about how to deal with the situation but no one provides answers.

[Ah but many of us - or at least some - have provided answers. The Morrill Hall crowd just doesn't like them and has been in denial.]

If one wants the faculty to know about the situation, it will be necessary to send someone to every department meeting, Professor Konstan said. Or one could try the blue-ribbon task forces in each college as a way to reach a more-interested subset. He wondered if one really wants to approach faculty now--leading to them worrying about the financial future rather than doing their jobs.

In terms of faculty involvement, Professor Luepker said, Committee members listen to the information but they are also representatives of groups on campus. What deserves repeating is that while people like to focus on the state cutting its appropriation to the University, the University also has $80 million in additional costs each year. That applies to everyone; all can see what they would do with more money. It is time to recognize, with Pogo, that "we have met the enemy and he is us." He and Professor Oakes were recently at a faculty meeting and asked for time to report on what FCC is doing; the chair was concerned about frightening the faculty and distracting them from their teaching and research.

It is important to involve more faculty members in thinking about these issues, Professor Seashore said.

[Our administration has avoided this solution like the plague. Our provost has talked about conversation, but he is not interested in one. The most frequent comment from our president lately has been no comment. Show us you're serious and a lot of faculty would get involved. Otherwise, don't waste our time.]

Professor Martin said there was task force consensus that the University needs a culture change. In response to Professor Seashore, she said that no one believes that DECISIONS will be made at the department level, but people must understand the situation.

Dean Finnegan agreed with Vice President Rosenstone that for whatever reason, the state has only so much money to invest in the University (there could be more if the state were to deal with the problem of over-built higher education, but until it has the fortitude to do so, the state is stuck where it is).

[There he goes again... Let's be a little more specific about your sniping, here, Dean Finnegan - what, exactly, is on your mind?]

Is it possible to get faculty to have an ownership culture in the University, versus a "reside in" culture, Professor Konstan asked? That used to be the case; for it to work, it must go hand in hand with trust.

[On the money, again, Professor Konstan. Time to stop the posturing in Morrill Hall?]

Some remember the mid-1990s, when some members of the Board of Regents blamed the ills of the University on faculty tenure, Dean Finnegan said, and those were dreadful times. The conflicts caused deep rifts and no one wants to return to that situation. Professor Chapman said he understood but that it will be difficult to do something with programs to deal with the pending situation if there is no way to achieve financial savings.

[Ah, especially in the AHC, some of the major players in the attempt to destroy tenure are still pretty high up the greasy pole...]

State support remains crucial and the University needs to develop a new compact with the state "that more clearly articulates the long-term rationale and responsibilities of the state to support teaching, research, and outreach."

[I think this is, indeed, possible. But not the way the Morrill Hall gang are planning. If you want the legislature to play ball, you are going to have to get down on your hands and knees, put on the sack cloth and ashes, and apologize for bad, arrogant, behavior lately. Then you have to agree to a covenant that INCLUDES a high quality/reasonable tuition model. You simply cannot view tuition as a "revenue source." Figure out what it really costs to educate a student for a year. Tuition + the state's contribution cannot exceed this. If you are really serious about trying to save the university from itself - this is the simple roadmap. If I am incorrect about this, let's have an honest dialog? Bob, Tom?]

Professor Luepker noted that the University has talked about the $250 million in new Medical School buildings north of the football stadium. Is there any projection of the return-on-investment for those facilities, or the patents it will take to pay them off? The task force did not see any such data, Dr. Rosenstone said, but that is the type of question that needs to be asked regularly.

[And I have asked this question from the very beginning. No one was interested. Q.E.D.]

There are other compelling reasons to do the research, Dr. Rosenstone pointed out, but the financial questions have to be asked. Professor Morrison said that supposedly the cost of the facilities is to be covered by the indirect-cost recover funds that will be generated to pay off the bonds. But there is a gap between the indirect-cost rates and actual costs, Dr. Rosenstone pointed out again, and one must fully account for the personnel costs in the new facilities.

[Exactly. And these points were made by me on two different blogs. Absurd claims were made by Frank Cerra and Fitz on this.]

In terms of real estate, the University owns 27,616 acres of land, and some it is critical to teaching, research, and outreach.

[Cough, cough... Any reasonable person would look at that number and start thinking about selling some of this land. But apparently not the Morrill Hall crowd. They are still in land acquisition mode.]

Professor Morrison asked if it is possible to have a compact with the state. He noted that he has spent a lot of time at the legislature; one can deal with this year's legislators, but next year things will be different. The compact with the state was written in 1851 and it has broken down, and he said he was not sure anyone could deal with the fact that it was broken.

[Dr. Morrison is pessimistic about a new compact. I disagree, but have to admit that he has an enormous amount of wisdom and experience. I think that a new compact is possible if we move from the high tuition model in return for better support. Look at Ohio State. No tuition increase in three years. What exactly is going on there?]

Since the early 1980s, the University has asked for general funds and that the Board of Regents be allowed to invest them. Maybe it is time to rethink that approach, and to put undergraduate students, some of the activities in agriculture, medical education and so on, at risk for loss of appropriations and let the legislature know what will happen if fails to provide funds.

[Try it. This would be an incredibly stupid thing. First you would look foolish to the public if you took it out on undergraduates. And second, you need money from the legislature. If you try to pull a stunt like this, you will regret it.]

The scope and size of the central administration needs to be re-examined and whether it is providing value. When he came to the University, there was the vice president for academic affairs, the vice president for finance, and the vice president for lobbying--and that was it. Now there are staffs and staffs; the administration can do more to control the size.

[I could cite chapter and verse on this. And I am tired of the administration chopping a few peons in their office as human sacrifices. Let's seem some actual Vice Presidents/Provosts and associate vps and assistant vps phased out. Chiefs of staff? Maybe if you need a chief of staff, you have too much staff? Or you are irrelevant?]

Second, what is to be done with units showing a profit, Professor Morrison asked? Should they stand on their own resources, or should the central administration cream off the profits? The 300-pound gorilla in the discussion is the Academic Health Center. If the AHC goes a separate way, as seemed to be suggested last week, what will that do to the calculations? He surmised that it could make the situation worse.

[Horse, barn door, locked...]

Tuition is the revenue stream with the highest potential for significant, long-term growth, although not without restraint.

[No it is not, and it is key that this be understood. It is not a "revenue stream." It is a reflection of the cost of education and not a parameter that can be adjusted when the U is short of money because of its ambitious aspirations.]

It must build upon its tremendous progress over the past decade and continue to advance the quality and reputation of a U of M education.

[The time for posturing is over. "tremendous progress"? Give me a break. You are asking student to pay more, for less. It is time for brutal realism about our situation, not Mary Poppins prattle.]

Crookston, Duluth, and Morris are now at or over-market in their tuition rates. There is need for a candid conversation about the quality of education and how the University compares with its competition, about the supply of qualified students, and where additional investments in program quality, scholarships, recruitment, and the student experience are needed.

[As I was saying...]

Should the University serve more undergraduate students beyond Minnesota and the reciprocity states?

[Ah, that would be no. Hidden here is a question about revenue and ambitious aspirations. The fire sale on out of state (not reciprocity) tuition is something that needs serious discussion. We are turning down qualified Minnesota students for what?]

Should the University continue to move to higher tuition with higher levels of financial aid for undergraduates of modest financial means?

[That, too, would be no. Even though the Morrill Hall crowd would have us believe that this is the only way possible, there is obviously another model, e.g. Ohio State where there has been no tuition increase in the last three years, no layoffs, and a 2.5% pay increase this year. How can this be? Why don't we hear the admin speak to what is going on in Ohio?]

Lower-division courses subsidize upper-division courses; it would not be possible to have small-enrollment upper-division courses without large-enrollment lower division courses.

[And yet this administration fought tooth and nail to beat down the number of large classrooms in the new Taj Bruininks that replaces the former Science Classroom Building. And this despite input from faculty about how stupid this was. There is a difference between dictatorship and leadership.]

Ms. Stahre said that with respect to increasing tuition and the quality of education, the only time students hear about quality is in the talk about the student-faculty ratio. That is not an adequate measure; how is quality measured? That question needs to be answered much better than it is now, Dr. Rosenstone said. Graduation rate is a proxy. It is incumbent on the institution to demonstrate, in a thoughtful way, why it is a good investment to come to the University.

[Others are not so sanguine. As for commitment to quality education at an affordable cost? Meaningless drivel. The administration has flatly failed on its promises of excellence and affordability." Daily (13 Oct 2009)]

The fourth strategy advocated by the task force is narrowing the scope of the mission. "As important as new revenues, cost-cutting, and efficiency gains are, in our judgment, together they will not yield sufficient new resources to ensure the excellence of our University. We cannot become one of the best universities in the world and meet our land-grant responsibilities without narrowing the scope of our mission to advance a distinctive constellation of excellence."

[Why is there always an assumption in these discussions that we are to become one of the best public research universities in the world? This is insane. Why not one of the best schools in the BigTen? Those of us who have suggested this repeatedly, have been called "doubters" by the Morrill Hall crowd. Please, stop the posturing.]

Big decisions must be informed by data and analysis, Dr. Rosenstone said; in the past, some big decisions have been made without the full analysis one would expect. If the University doesn't have all the money it would like to compete against some of its peers, it needs to play smarter.

[Bingo, Dr. Rosenstone. Do we really need a cultural czar?]

Getting faculty buy-in will be crucial, Professor Roe said; they must feel they have an interest in the identifying solutions and will be listened to if the University is to retain their loyalty.

[Lord, love a duck. Why do you think faculty will buy in? Why should they? When has the faculty been invited to the table for a true consultation? The answer lately is: never.]

What is the next step, Mr. Erikson asked? That is the President's decision, Dr. Rosenstone said.

[He should be tasked to take care of the 2011 problem Professor Morrison identified. We should begin an immediate search for a new executive who can be hired asap. This person should be involved in the long term problems mentioned in this discussion. No one who is worth much is going to come in with the marching orders all tied up in a neat little bundle by his predecessor for implementation. ]

Everyone is expressing the view that there will need to be restructuring and incentives to engage faculty, Professor Seashore said; even if the decision about the big picture is made on high, faculty must be engaged at the unit level--and not all of them have to be, there just needs to be an energized number. Faculty will do this work for very small amounts of money.

[I know Dr. Seashore means well, but this is a truly ironic comment.]

Either this Committee or the Faculty Consultative Committee needs a deep discussion with the President, Professor Konstan said, that hits hard on the point that the University cannot wait, on what the next steps will be or who he has charged with carrying out the next steps. These issues cannot be allowed to slip into the next administration.

Professor Luepker noted that the Faculty Consultative Committee had volunteered for the job but was turned down.

[This takes the proverbial cake. We want faculty buy in. We want faculty on board. Yadda, yadda, yadda...
Leadership, anyone?]

November 1, 2009

Cutting Back on Blogging...


Actually, I've not lost hope, at all.

I think that the current financial situation at the U is going to force a serious re-evaluation of our mission, values, and priorities. The only fear I have is that the ambitious aspirations of our administration will continue unchecked because of a lack of inclusion and true consultation of students, faculty, and staff.

I will be going on sabbatical/research leave to Brandeis University in Boston from 1/1/10 until 6/1/11. In the next two months I have much to do to prepare for this move, so I am cutting back to posting only on Sundays. This will probably continue while I'm gone.

I wish the University nothing but the best. Honest dissent from the party line of the Morrill Hall crowd is part of my responsibility as a Minnesota citizen, and university alum/faculty member.

The Morrill Hall crowd should look on the face of Northrop every day to remind themselves:

The University of Minnesota

Founded in the Faith that Men are Enobled by Understanding

Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning and the Search for Truth

Devoted to the Instruction of Youth and the Welfare of the State

This used to be quite easy. But now the front door of Morrill Hall is locked and only the side and back doors are accessible.

This is symbolic of what has been going on in Morrill Hall lately.