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February 24, 2010

Dr. Frank Cerra Announces Retirement

February 24, 2010

Dear Colleagues:

I am writing today because our long time leader and colleague, Senior Vice President and Dean Dr. Frank Cerra, has informed me that he plans to retire from his position effective December 31, 2010.

In late 2008, Dr. Cerra agreed at my request to extend his appointment by nearly six months when I announced the consolidation of leadership and offices of the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and the Dean of the Medical School. I know that you all join me in recognizing Dr. Cerra's unparalleled leadership and outstanding and long lasting contributions to the University of Minnesota, the Academic Health Center, and to health education, research, outreach, and clinical care. While I wish him all the best in his next pursuits, his stepping down from his current role will have a tremendous impact on many aspects of the University and its wider community. Dr. Cerra will continue as senior vice president and dean throughout this calendar year, and is committed to working closely with me and other leaders to ensure a smooth transition in this key leadership position and maintaining the excellence in health sciences that he has devoted his career to achieve.

Clearly, a transition of this nature will require a thorough and thoughtful search for the next leader of the University's academic health sciences. The University's Medical School and the other health sciences schools together drive a significant portion of our teaching, research, and public engagement mission, and will continue to play a vital role in shaping health care policy and delivery for the state of Minnesota and the surrounding region. The continuously changing landscape in which we deliver on our mission requires us to search for a leader who will maintain and build on the University's many achievements in this area and who will work to ensure that our health sciences remain strong, vital, and effective.

There are many issues to consider as we approach this transition. Briefly, these include the ongoing strength and vitality of the University's Medical School, the University's role as the primary supplier of well educated and trained health professionals for the state of Minnesota, the University's role as a distinguished health research organization, the organizational structure that supports the mission of the Medical School and the other health sciences schools in the new normal of fiscal constraint and budget challenges, and the ideal mix of qualities and experience we will need to fulfill this role. In my judgment, this is a process that will greatly benefit from broad consultation. Given the complexity of this search, and its importance to the University, I wanted to provide you with a brief introduction as to how I intend to proceed.

To begin, we have decided to obtain the services of Susan Gebelein of Savannah Consulting to help gather input from the University's key governance groups and campus leaders, as well as important external community partners and friends, on the critical issues and questions presented by this search. These will largely be personal, focused interviews with a broad representative sampling, and the results will help inform the composition of the search committee, the completion of the position description, and the overall structure of the search process.

Susan Gebelein is well known in the University of Minnesota community from her more than 25 years of consulting experience with Personnel Decisions International (PDI), where she served as an executive vice president, and through a number of projects she has undertaken previously. I am confident that her experience and knowledge of the University will serve us well in this endeavor. We have used a process similar to this with great success for other high-level leadership searches, including, most recently, the process currently underway in Duluth to select a new chancellor. The brief additional time it adds to the overall process is more than made up for by the insight and knowledge we gain from the many stakeholders we will be able to consult.

This consultative process will begin immediately and I expect it to be completed by early April. During this same time, I plan to also personally consult with the primary governance groups and leaders in the Medical School, the Academic Health Center, and the University of Minnesota Physicians, as well as leaders of key external organizations, including health systems, the Minnesota Medical Foundation, the Medical School Board of Visitors, and other healthcare policy and delivery groups. While we look forward to a robust consultative interview process and to the insights this will provide, we will simply not be able to interview everyone. I do, however, want to hear from all who are interested in this process and who have suggestions or assistance to offer. To that end, please send your comments to ahctrans@umn.edu by April 1, 2010, and they will be included in the compilation of ideas and recommendations.

I am confident that we are well positioned to launch this important search in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner, beginning with this broad consultation with interested stakeholders. I believe we are in a strong, competitive position, and am grateful to Dr. Cerra for the ample lead-time he has provided the University to complete this search and allow for a smooth transition. Following this consultation phase, I will be back in touch with you to outline the specifics for next steps in the process.

Thank you as always for your good work and efforts on the University's behalf. I look forward to speaking with many of you in the coming months about the future of the Medical School and academic health sciences at the University of Minnesota.


Robert H. Bruininks

Robert H. Bruininks

February 23, 2010

Robbery in Carlson School of Management Building

Oh My God!

From an all points email:

On Tuesday, February 23 at approximately 2:00 p.m., a University of Minnesota employee was the victim of a robbery in the Carlson School of Management building on the West Bank.

The victim was in her office when two suspects entered, threatened her, and demanded money. The victim complied and the suspects fled out of the building on the 19th Avenue side of the building.

Thank God that the victim was unharmed.

I've had a computer stolen out of my office and know people whose wallets have been stolen out of their purses on the U campus. We've had a student shot in front of a dorm for no apparent reason. Three blocks from where I live - across the river from the U campus - three people were murdered in the holdup of a family operated grocery store.

What the hell is going on here?

Code Violations At Northrop Auditorium?

I've posted before on this situation and written to the Attorney General's office about it.

They responded with some helpful suggestions about how to proceed and the first one was to contact the person responsible for code enforcement at the U, Mr. Merwyn Larson.

So I've written the following letter to Mr. Larson:

Mr. Merwyn Larson
Building Official
University of Minnesota
Building Code Division
319 15th Avenue SE
RM 270 Donhowe Building
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Dear Mr. Larson:

I write to you at the suggestion of the office of the Attorney General, Lori Swanson.

I write concerning possible violations of code at Northrop auditorium as well as what has been claimed to be life safety issues:

"The University is very concerned about the fragility of the building. Northrop is egregiously out of compliance with code and life-safety requirements and code officials could close the building at any time."

Steven Rosenstone, Vice President for Cultural/Scholarly Affairs
University of Minnesota

This statement was made by VP Rosenstone and recorded in publicly available minutes of the University of Minnesota Senate Committee on Finance and Planning, January 25. 2010.

These claims by a university official are shocking. If true, then the University should immediately close Northrop until it can be gotten up to code and life-safety issues addressed. To do otherwise is irresponsible.

I first contacted the City of Minneapolis to report these possible code violations. There I was told that since the building belongs to the State of Minnesota, the City of Minneapolis could not do anything. The State Attorney General's Office has suggested that I contact your office for help in this matter.

I trust that you will pursue this matter as soon as possible and I look forward to a response concerning this matter.

Please acknowledge receipt of this message.

Thank you.


William B. Gleason

Mr. Larson is the person designated by the university who is responsible for administering the Code at the University of Minnesota. The designated Building Official has the authority to serve an order on any person responsible for a building or structure in violation of Code.

A Building Official's certificate may be revoked if he or she violates any provisions of the Code or otherwise engages in fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. In the event that Mr. Larson's response is unsatisfactory, I will next be contacting the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry as suggested by the Office of the Attorney General.

I will keep readers of this bog apprised of progress or lack of it in this important matter of public safety.

Plagiarize, plagiarize, let no one's work evade your eyes

With apologies to Tom Lehrer:

President Steps Down Amid Plagiarism Accusations

The president of Malone University, a small liberal-arts institution in Canton, Ohio, announced his resignation on Monday after concerns surfaced that he had used unattributed materials in some of his speeches.

In a speech Mr. Streit gave while provost at Olivet Nazarene, he described the history of the word "provost" in language that strongly resembles a definition on the University of Iowa's Web page. Mr. Streit said: "Unfortunately, the original definition of the word 'provost' was 'the keeper of the keys of the prison.' The Provost Marshal of the Norman invaders who plundered England in 1066 was infamous for torture and merciless cruelty, and suspected deserters and drunks during the American Revolution were very poorly treated in their respective 'provost prisons.'"

The University of Iowa page states: "Unfortunately, the original definition of the word 'provost' was 'keeper of a prison.' The Provost Marshal of the Norman invaders in 1066 was infamous for torture and merciless cruelty. And suspected deserters and drunks during the American Revolution were very poorly treated in their respective 'provost prisons.'"

February 22, 2010

Next Up at the State Capitol: Shoot-Out at the OK Corral

Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:40 PM


At 1 AM this morning the legislature's capital investment conference committee announced its recommendations. The House and the Senate are expected to pass these early this week. Details are in the attached chart.

Two observations: (1) the House conferees agreed to $23 million more for the university than the original House bill and (2) even though the Governor and the conference committee both recommend $100 million for the university, per the attached chart there is a big difference in how they allocate those funds.

Martin Sampson
Caroline Hayes
Faculty Legislative Liaisons

The legislature has done the right thing by the University. It would behoove the Morrill Hall Gang to graciously accept this - under the circumstances - generous offer. Physics and nano can begin planning and the bonding is front loaded in favor of things that support our educational mission - such as Folwell, to use a glaring example.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that there will be a bonding bill at all, as the governor has threatened to veto it if it is not to his satisfaction. You can't put in your own pet projects with the line-item veto. So I am afraid we've not heard the last on this.

A strong statement on behalf of these priorities from the Gang would be appropriate. Don't hold your breath.

February 21, 2010

Morrill Hall Gang Should Pay Attention


to what is going on in Iowa City. Perhaps that would help them avoid the deer in the headlights pose?

From The Iowa City Press-Citizen:

Pressure and scrutiny on faculty increase

UI officials trying to figure out where to go from here

As belts tighten, people inside and outside the university are scrutinizing how UI faculty, who have research, teaching and service obligations and earn an average of $100,000 a year, spend their time.

In the sciences, faculty face more pressure to generate external revenue to pay their own way. In arts and humanities -- fields with fewer external grants -- faculty see decreasing internal support for their research, greater demand for teaching and threat of elimination for programs that can't be more self-reliant or have low enrollment.

For years, UI increased the number of graduate teaching assistants and "other" faculty, who help carry the teaching load, according to the 10-year employee analysis. Adjunct and visiting professors would fall into this category.

Due to budget cuts, this past year, UI cut back on "other" faculty and graduate teaching assistants. Now there is a demand for more tenure-track faculty in the classroom, UI College of Liberal and Sciences Dean Linda Maxson said at a Faculty Senate meeting last fall during a discussion about cutbacks in internal support for research sabbaticals.

As belts tighten, faculty are facing scrutiny fromvarious directions about how productive they are or should be.

Rep. Jeff Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who has criticized UI spending on several occasions, said more scrutiny is needed for sabbaticals, time in the classroom and the number of publications, among other things.

A union leader recently characterized faculty research sabbaticals as "paid time off to goof off."

In November, UI attempted to gain support to revise a Post-Tenure Effort Allocation Policy to give administrators a tool to force unproductive faculty to take on more duties, such as teaching more classes or taking on service assignments. Faculty rebuffed the attempt saying it undermined the intent of the policy, which was to protect opportunities for creativity.

James Garland, former president of Miami University (Ohio)
and author of "Saving Alma Mater," said there is a schism between the university and the outside world, and internally between faculty and administration.

Faculty want to protect the university as academic quality erodes, he said. However, in many ways universities are very inefficient, and it can be seen in the faculty. For example, faculty time is consumed by countless committees, and every campus decision requires broad consensus, he said.

Gaye Tuchman, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, authored "Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University." She argues that establishing productivity benchmarks for academia is equivalent to "corporatizing" the university.

Universities are starting to serve the highest bidder, rather than the broad public good, she said.

"The day is coming when the state university of Iowa is a state university in name only," Tuchman said.

One of the hardest hit parts of UI is the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which includes 65 percent general education funds in its $195 million budget.

Frank Durham, an associate professor in UI's School of Journalism and Mass Communication ... sits on five committees and has taken on administrative duties. He teaches two courses, including a large introductory course, in addition to research duties. This is typical for faculty, he said.

The risk, from Durham's perspective, is that students will start losing out in their education.

"Doing more with less sounds hopeful, but it seems unlikely. "

With fewer resources, UI has announced plans not to cut across the board, and instead strategically take from weaker programs and give more resources to stronger programs.

"If we believe in democracy of pain, then we are on the road to mediocrity," Loh told faculty at a recent Faculty Council meeting.

When Jeff Cox, a long-time UI history professor, looks at the shift to a more revenue-driven model, he sees long-term damage to UI's core mission. For example, the Department of History in the liberal arts college will never be perceived as an area of strength because it doesn't get external funding, he said.

Determining areas of strength through ability to generate money is the wrong approach, he said. The damage is already visible, and it is being passed on to students in their degrees, Cox said.

Cox points to cuts in sabbaticals -- 100 two years ago to 52 next year. These are crucial for faculty in the humanities, he said. UI also has slipped in U.S. News and World Report annual rankings -- 21 among public universities in 2000 to 29 in 2009.

"Iowa's international reputation, unlike that of Iowa State, is based on its reputation in the arts and humanities, as well as medicine. The cuts in sabbaticals are a body blow to the quality of the UI and the value of a UI degree," Cox said. "I think the connection between the prestige of research and the value of a degree is not very well understood, but very important to this debate, since it affects undergraduates and their prospects."

Written from West Roxbury, Massachusettts, where I am on sabbatical in the lab of Dagmar Ringe and Greg Petsko at Brandeis University. This is a world class laboratory of the type that the Morrill Hall Gang salivates after.

We - and Our Gang - need to pay attention to what is going on at other BigTen schools because, contrary to the Strategic Propaganda Initiative - this is where our true competition lies. The smokescreen of becoming one of the top three public research universities in the world is becoming thinner and thinner. What goes on at tOSU, Iowa, Wisconsin, Purdue and Indiana is especially relevant.

The next big thing at the U of M should be a massive fundraising effort. This should be dedicated to keeping the cost of education at MInnesota reasonable. The new compact with the state of which the gang likes to speak, should have this goal as its centerpiece.

Let's return to our roots. Why does the gang always start whining about investments when the topic of reasonable cost comes up? Is not an investment in our students worth making? And who is more likely to stay in Minnesota to make a life? A state resident or someone from Florida?

It is time to seriously address our problems if the tilt to MNSCU is not to continue.

And to make things crystal clear, I don't begrudge MNSCU a penny. They are doing a great job.

February 20, 2010

Political and Reputational Capital, Part II

It does not take a rocket-scientist or a medical school dean to predict that the recent bad decision on pelvic exam training at the U of M would receive national attention.

For example, from Inside Higher Education:

"We looked at the cost-benefit ratio and didn't think it was worth it," said Sharon Allen, a professor of family medicine and community health who is course director of "Physician and Patient," the class where students get their first chance to interview and examine patients.

Though the change will probably save at least a few thousand dollars, Linda Perkowski, associate dean for curriculum and evaluation, said the decision wasn't purely a financial one. "Money is important but we would never decide something just based on money."

But those who got to perform the procedure on patients as second-year students worry that the students who follow them will miss out on a valuable experience.

Patty Dickmann, who is president of Minnesota's fourth year class, said the change is "unfortunate."
Having the firsthand experience of examining a practice patient "significantly reduced the level of stress when performing my first pap smear" during her OB-GYN clerkship.

Another fourth year, John Thomas Egan, said he and his classmates consider the practice exam "an important learning tool, taking students who perhaps may never have been involved with any sort of intimate exam or touch and giving them this experience in a very safe space."

Other medical students voiced their concern to the campus newspaper, the Minnesota Daily. On Thursday, the paper published a letter from a non-medical student who said the curriculum change upset her as a patient. "In an era where women's bodies are continually objectified and encouraged to look more and more like a Barbie Doll, it is truly disturbing to see our bodies being literally replaced with plastic dolls in the training of the professionals who will care for our bodies," she wrote.

But however could we pay for this?

I suggest taking a look at the salaries of all administrators in the U of M medical school who have anything directly (or indirectly) to do with medical education. We also have the Deborah Powell Center for Women's Health. Would we be better off spending money on actual medical education or theoretical medical education? (That would be Med2010.)

Then of course we are spending money on so-called alternative medicine. The Director of Spirituality and Healing apparently believes in homeopathy.

Money for alternative medicine but not enough for real?

For shame...

February 19, 2010

Political and Reputational Capital - Do We Have Any Left?

Many faculty members are concerned with the state of the university with respect to these matters...

A few quotes from a recent meeting of the Senate Committee on Finance and Planning (February 2, 2010) are telling:

Professor Luepker convened the meeting at 2:05 and welcomed Vice President Himle and Associate Vice Presidents Klatt and Peterson to discuss risk and political capital. He explained that the topic came up after a conversation with Vice President O'Brien about light-rail transit, which moved into a discussion of risk and political capital.

Vice President Himle said this was an excellent topic to discuss so all would understand it. She said she approaches the issue from the standpoint of the University having a reservoir of reputational capital (which could be political, with the public, or divided more finely). They do nothing in University Relations without thinking about reputational capital.

Mr. Driscoll recalled that what came up in the earlier discussion was the ability of the University (or not) to manage the public perception about the differences between the University and the Metropolitan Council. The Council ran circles around the University and the University's response was slow in coming.

Vice President Himle returned to the case of light-rail transit and the University's dispute with the Metropolitan Council. The Met Council's message was a great one: The community wants a train and the Council's task was to build it on time and under budget. The University's response was complex and the topic of many internal discussions. It is that complexity that makes it difficult for the University's position to be persuasive to a public that has already concluded that it wants the train.

[VP Himle] She said people do not know the University.

People from the academic ranks must know legislators personally; the University needs a legislative army, individuals who can call on every legislator. One problem, she said, is that alumni/ae now in positions to help are those in their 40s and 50s--people who did not have a good experience at the University. They have not updated the tape from the 1970s.

...the question is how well University people know their legislators, and whether they can call legislators if they make a bad decision about the University. Ms. Peterson agreed that personal contact makes the difference. People can send letters and emails; what is important is the next step, having coffee with a legislator. The capacity is there but the University has not taken that next step.

There are clearly some problems.

Claiming to be running a grass-roots lobbying operation by ginning up fake letters of support and other activities is not going to work. This is what the U admin currently does. As Shania Twain put it: "That don't impress me much."

Whining that the actions of our leaders are misperceived is not going to work either. In fact our administration has made serious mistakes on light rail strategy, on conflict of interest management, and in the area of medical education. Facing facts, admitting that mistakes were made AND fixing them is in everyone's best interest.

Our leaders should be intelligent enough - and have some general ethical principles well in hand - to answer directly questions about what is going on at the U. Shoving Dan Wolter or someone else out in the headlights to "deal with it" is not going to work in the long run. This kind of behavior makes the University leadership look weak and ineffectual. Somewhat surprisingly, Athletic Director Joel Maturi seems to be able to think very well on his feet and give immediate responses to the press and others. This seems to be because he has developed some general principles about what is right and sticks to them. And I say this as someone who is not a big fan of the athletics department. I've had direct responses to questions from Joel literally in the middle of the night. The Morrill Hall gang could take lessons from Mr. Maturi in the public relations area.

Do you think that Mark Yudof, Biddy Martin, or Gordon Gee has each of their tweets vetted by a PR person before posting?

Leadership matters. Time for a change?

For the most recent example of a very bad decision that destroys the U's reputational capital with the public, please see the fiasco involving the use of plastic pelvic models, instead of the real thing, for the training of medical students in order to save money.

Ridiculous and almost laughable. If the U is truly interested in maximizing reputational capital, please reverse this decision immediately. To claim to not have the money to do real medicine while using it for so-called alternative medicine is simply absurd.

For more information and an illustration of how this action has harmed us, please see:

University of Minnesota Medical School: Changes Pelvic Exam Lesson For Medical Students

February 18, 2010

More on the Bonding Bill

From Politics in Minnesota

Bonding package headed to conference committe

The House and Senate are rushing into conference committee this week, hoping to make good on the pledge of DFL leaders that an early bonding package - aimed at putting unemployed Minnesotans back to work - will be passed quickly.

But the two DFL-controlled legislative chambers are far apart on several key aspects of their bills, including an expansion of the Moose Lake sex-offender facility and construction projects at public universities.

Senate Capital Investment Committee Chairman Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said these differences will make it difficult for conferees to agree on a bill by Friday.

"I suppose the good thing about it is it forces us to make compromises quick. But that's very fast," Langseth said.

One of the big differences between the two sides going into conference is funding for construction projects at the state's public higher education institutions.

The Senate authorizes $111 million for the University of Minnesota while the House figure stands at $77 million. Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants $100 million for the university, of which $53 million is authorized for a physics and nanotechnology facility that doesn't receive any funding from the House.

The House provides more money for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities [MnSCU] system. The House has $245 million for MnSCU; the Senate, $211 million.

Hausman, who chairs the House Capital Investment Committee, said the House's major investment in MnSCU is meant to spur job creation. The MnSCU schools, she added, are a critical resource for unemployed Minnesotans seeking to improve their job skills. She also noted that the 'U' has fared well in previous years on projects such as the Gopher football stadium and four research facilities.

But the smaller amount has led to accusations that Hausman is retaliating against the university for suing the Metropolitan Council in Hennepin County District Court over the Central Corridor light rail project between the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

"It has to do with sending them a message. I wish they wouldn't. That's not what the bonding bill is supposed to do," Langseth said.

Hausman said the university's litigation against the state concerning Central Corridor was upsetting to her. But she said that was not a factor in crafting the bonding bill.

"If there was payback, there would be nothing for the main campus," Hausman said.

Hausman likewise criticized Pawlenty's prioritizing of the Moose Lake facility, calling it curious in light of his recent proposal to double prison sentences for sex offenders. Keeping offenders in prison longer would seem to mean less space will be required in Moose Lake for post-sentence treatment.

Both House and Senate majorities support a larger bonding bill than Pawlenty's $685 million proposal. And six House Republicans on Monday night voted with DFLers in passing the bonding bill.

The Republicans were Jim Abeler of Anoka, Paul Anderson of Starbuck, Greg Davids of Preston, Larry Howes of Walker, Bud Nornes of Fergus Falls and Morrie Lanning of Moorhead.

Lanning said the House bill is too expensive, but added that he couldn't vote against projects for college campuses and flood mitigation in his district.

"Those are important investments. I can't turn my back on those even if the bill is too big," Lanning said.

If Pawlenty vetoes the bonding bill, however, Lanning said he wouldn't vote to override the veto.

"I will be supporting the governor's veto. If he goes in and line-item vetoes projects, I won't vote to override those either," Lanning said.

Hausman said she isn't pursuing a strategy of enticing Republicans to break ranks and support an override attempt. DFLers would need all their members and three Republicans to reach the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor.

Hausman said the bill sent to Pawlenty could be the last chance legislators have to pass the bonding bill.

"That's sort of it. People have to remember 2007, when the entire bonding bill was vetoed. You don't always get second chances."


Please see an earlier post about doing the same things over and over and expecting different results:

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

February 17, 2010

University of Iowa Makes Hard Choices...

From the DesMoines Register:

Iowa City, Ia. -- Fourteen of the University of Iowa's 111 graduate programs could be restructured or eliminated following final recommendations by a provost-appointed task force.

In it was a breakdown of the university's graduate programs, each put into one of five categories ranging from "exemplary" to "additional evaluation required."

Those in the latter category were identified in the report as having deficiencies "without viable plans for improvement," putting their futures in question.

The programs deemed in need of additional evaluation are:

Arts and humanities:

American studies M.A., Ph.D.;

Asian civilizations M.A.; comparative literature M.A., Ph.D.;

comparative literature (translation) M.F.A.;

film studies M.A., Ph.D.;

German M.A., Ph.D.;

linguistics M.A., Ph.D.

Social sciences:

Educational policy and leadership studies (educational administration) M.A., Ed.S., Ph.

educational policy and leadership studies (social foundations of education) M.A., Ph.D.;

health and sport studies M.A., Ph.D.;

teach and learn (elementary education) M.A., Ph.D.

Health sciences:

Stomatology M.S.

Biological sciences:

Integrative physiology Ph.D.;

exercise science M.S.

Has MnSCU become the state's central institution of public learning?

Good question. The Daily observes:

The Senate bonding bill passed last week contained $111 million for the University of Minnesota system and $297 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU). But the House awarded the University $34 million less while it offered MnSCU an additional $46.5 million. The two systems receive comparable general state funding, but on Monday Gov. Pawlenty proposed a $36 million cut to the University and only a $10 million cut to MnSCU.

Is the University being defunded in favor of MnSCU? If not, why the enormous budget discrepancies?

University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter cited legislative politics: "It's always been difficult for the University, because MnSCU has a project in every part of the state, but we don't." He added, "The discrepancy in the House: I've never seen such a low bill before, and we don't understand what message Rep. Hausman is sending to us."

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, holds the powerful position of chair of the house capital investment finance division. "Because of the economy, many people are returning to school, and the accessible system is MnSCU," she explained.

"Enrollments are up significantly."

Asked if MnSCU has replaced the University as Minnesota's central institution of public higher education, Hausman said, "I don't think so ... The University is still the one and only premier research institution." Unlike the Senate, the House didn't provide any resources for a new physics and nanotechnology building.

So what do legislators say the University has done wrong?

Hausman said, "I think the University is carrying out its academic mission in quite an appropriate way. If you're asking, 'Is there any relationship building that needs to take place?' that's another question."

So, we asked that too. But Hausman had little to offer: "I don't know how to approach it ... That's a tough one."

She did caution the University not to read too far into the bonding budget this year,
"This, I think, is an economic aberration."

Let's hope so, otherwise "MnSCU-mah!" may not be far off.

I think Mr. Pfutzenreuter knows very well what kind of message the legislature is trying to send the Morrill Hall gang
. Can you say tuition increases? Can you say light rail?

Recall this infamous exchange between Mr. Pfutzenreuter and a prominent state legislator over tuition increases:

"They're going to lose a lot of friends at the Capitol if they jack up that tuition,"
he [Tom Rukavina] said. "They're pricing themselves out of work if they keep going up 7.5 percent."

Despite Rukavina's intent to keep tuition low, Pfutzenreuter stands by the fact that the Legislature can't decide how the University spends its money.

And in response to Pfutzenreuter:

"Tell him to sue me," Rukavina said. "It's in the bill, tell him to sue me."

February 13, 2010

No Smoke and Mirrors, Just Come Clean

From Waltham, MA, where I am on research leave at Brandeis University, comes some advice that the Morrill Hall gang would be well-advised to follow:

From the Brandeis Hoot (Editorial)

At a faculty meeting Thursday, Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe said the university would "not make any smoke and mirrors when we announce [the cuts]," and would instead opt to "cast it as an exciting turning point of the university to refocus."

"This is painful but will make us stronger," he said, "that's the story I will be trying to spin."

With all due respect to Jaffee, we wish it weren't. The fact is that Brandeis does not have the best track record when it comes to public relations and dealing with the press...

When delivering unfortunate news, just lay it on us straight.

Trying to parade these budget cuts as something they are not-like an exciting new change and opportunity for the university - will not bode well...

As experts in the field we hold that bad news is best announced quickly, and without beating around the bush. And, if you can manage it, on a Saturday.

The Hoot's motto: "To acquire wisdom, one must observe."

You could pretty much substitute University of Minnesota in the above editorial and not be far from the mark, sadly.

February 11, 2010

More Rowing in Tar?

rowing in tar.jpg

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

2. Statement on Budget Issues

As a follow up to the budget discussion the Committee held on February 1, Professor Luepker drafted a memorandum to the President and circulated it to the Committee by email.

1. It is apparent that we are in a severe and worsening fiscal crisis. Something has to be done. We are not sure everyone believes this yet or understands the likely impact.

2. The proposals are based on additional "across the board" cuts and is for only one year, FY 11. This is the usual response to a fiscal crisis. A bold, transparent strategic plan, which provides a vision and informs decisions, is not apparent. Such a plan will be essential if we are to face the FY 12 crisis and future cutbacks. The long-range problem was well described in the Financing the Future report. A strategic plan needs articulation and must be initiated soon.

3. Major elements in the draft budget proposal move many budget decisions from the schools and colleges back to central administration. This reverses the goals of the budget model over the last several years and takes responsibility away from the schools and colleges, once again encouraging dependency on central administration.

4. The draft plan that was discussed needs a summary table of the costs and revenues to assess the whole picture. It is not possible to ascertain this from the handout.

With regard to specific items:

1. Pay raises: A 2% raise in pay is more symbolic than economically substantive. Employees will appreciate the symbolism. However, the public and political perception of this may be that the University has enough money to absorb State cuts and still give pay raises.

2. Twenty-seven pay periods: This calendar artifact should be handled directly with 27 payments where applicable: all should be treated equitably, but calculating paychecks may differ between hourly-wage and salaried employees. This issue needs to be factored into future budgets. Few people understand the calendar problem other than knowing a solution wasn't planned. It shouldn't happen again.

3. Tuition increase: It is clear that the burden will increasingly fall on individual students and their families. It also appears the added money will be controlled by central administration rather than the schools and colleges. The increases will have to be used to offset state budget cuts and therefore will not be available for instructional purposes.

4. Initiatives pool: It is not apparent how we can create any new initiatives in the coming period. Some of this money appears targeted to fill holes that undoubtedly will occur but the criteria for these subsidies are not apparent. It sounds like discretionary money for central administration. A wise use of this money might be to invest in one-time projects that will produce financial benefits or to distribute part of the pool to colleges to invest in local priorities.

5. Furloughs: This is the most controversial topic for employees. In essence, two unpaid weeks is a 3.8% pay cut. Making it work will be problematic, especially given the diversity of funding sources and appointment terms for faculty, staff, and student employees. The Committee needs more details and further consultation, but the details must be worked out quickly because employees are already raising concerns due to the vagueness of the idea and lack of communication.

6. Overall givebacks of 2.75%: How will those decisions on the distribution of cuts among the various units be made and will the criteria be transparent? The term "supporting the institutional framework" is obscure. The bottom line of this is that staff will lose jobs.

7. Financial aid: In recent years, as state financial support has waned and tuition increases have been necessary to cover the resulting revenue loss, the University has significantly expanded its commitment to need-based financial aid to lower- and middle-income students. The cost of this aid is a substantial part of the undergraduate cost pool and reduces the efficacy of these tuition increases as corresponding increases in aid are needed. It also reduces discretionary revenue from tuition increases. Given the likelihood of sustained and significant reductions in state support, the Committee feels that it is important for the University community to discuss the nature and level of the University's financial aid commitment and how that commitment relates to the mission of the University.

8. Cost pools: A variety of comments were made about cost pools. It is apparent that some will increase, as will the overall total. It is apparent that the cost pools exceed the State subsidy for a growing number of schools and colleges. Cost-pool increases are an additional budget cut to the units, on top of the 2.75%. The Committee needs greater clarity about the relationship of the cost pools to the academic mission.

February 3, 2010

From the Department of Exaggeration, Morrill Hall


Committee on Finance and Planning
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Former CLA Dean and now Cultural Czar Rosenstone:

"The Transformation of Northrop."

It will be a fundamentally new facility when the project is completed, Dr. Rosenstone began. It will be transformed from a building that makes modest (at best) contributions to academic life to one that is a vital center of distinction that advances key academic priorities, from one that is a rock in the stream (that people walk around) to one that is a destination, from one that is irrelevant to students (who go in it for convocation and graduation and never otherwise) to a bustling, dynamic place for collaboration, study, and conversation central to everyday life on campus. It will be transformed from a building rarely used (it is mostly dark during the day and rarely used in the evening, but it costs about $1 million per year to maintain) to one that is teeming with activity all the time, from one that is outdated with dreadful acoustics and distant sightlines to a preeminent cultural center with leading-edge technologies (and world-class performance space). It will be transformed from a building unconnected with the people of Minnesota to a community forum. And finally, it will be transformed from an invisible facility to one that is a global platform that engages the greatest minds in the world and connects the University with global audiences (right now it does not have the capacity to host international conferences).

A global platform that engages the greatest minds in the world? Cough, cough..

The University is very concerned about the fragility of the building. Northrop is egregiously out of compliance with code and life-safety requirements and code officials could close the building at any time.

If that is actually the case, Czar Rosenstone, it sounds like the University should immediately close Northrop because of safety concerns. Why don't you do this? And why wasn't something done earlier? There are these HEAPR funds that you obviously know about...

Dr. Rosenstone described the process by which the University recruited executive and design architects (Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, Inc. was selected for both tasks after a competitive selection process, in part because it has worked on campuses and has been very much involved in historic preservation and renovation).

Ah, I see. So the fix is already on. SOP at Morrill. Use funds - from where? - to do your own planning and then, voila, it is a fait accompli! This is exactly the stunt pulled with UMore Park.

We don't have a proper facility to host an international conference?

Well, goollee Gomer, let's run right out and build one?

Ever heard of the Minneapolis convention center? What's wrong with that?

And why - exactly - do we need another world class music hall?

There are numerous such facilities in the Twin Cities area. The hubris and illogic is beyond belief.

But I guess if you are a czar, you need a kingdom.

Leadership matters. And it is sorely lacking in Morrill and in Northrop.

February 2, 2010

There are good people out there - let's find one...

Dr. Randy Woodson, Purdues current provost, will take on new duties as chancellor at North Carolina State University as early as May 1.

Some information about him:

"Dr. Woodson brings the understanding of the importance of land-grant universities and their role in our world. His extensive leadership experience as an executive officer, administrator and faculty member at Purdue afford him the appreciation for NC State's own land-grant mission and its vital importance to the people of North Carolina. We are excited to have Dr. Woodson and his family joining NC State and look forward to his leadership."
NC State chancellor Jim Woodward

"There is not a doubt in my mind that Randy Woodson is absolutely the right person to lead North Carolina State today and in the years ahead. Over the past 25 years, he has accumulated a wealth of academic and leadership experience at one of the best land-grant institutions in America. At each step along the way, he has proven himself to be an engaged and effective leader who promotes openness and collaboration, strategic thinking and creative problem-solving, and a real-life commitment to academic excellence and student success. He also has earned a reputation for great integrity, sound judgment and an unwavering commitment to the special mission of the land-grant university. I am convinced that Randy Woodson brings the right mix of experience, expertise, skills and passion needed to be a truly great chancellor for NC State, and I am thrilled that he has agreed to join our leadership team."

University of North Carolina system president Erskine Bowles

"At heart, Randy comes from the ranks of faculty and knows what it means to be faculty. In many ways he exemplifies the best of what a university professor should be, and in a way it is great for someone who comes to the position of dean, provost or president. His intellectual rigor and gentle sense of humor brings people together. ... Randy is a special person. He is a great people person with an uncanny ability to work with people to forge a consensus view."

Robert J. Joly, head of Purdue's horticulture and landscape architecture department (via JCOnline.com 1.8.10)

"Randy is, I think it's fair to say, universally respected and liked here
and it's a significant loss for us, and a big gain for [NC State]."

Michael Dana, a professor in Purdue's Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture (via The News & Observer 1.7.10)

"He's been a wonderful provost.
He thinks like a faculty member first and like an administrator second. It's a great thing from a university's perspective. I can say with full confidence that there is never a negative word about him."

Howard Zelaznik, chairman of Purdue's faculty (via The News & Observer 1.7.10)

It is encouraging to learn that there are people like this in academia who still want to be chancellor/president. Finding someone like Randy Woodson in the near future is going to be critical for the University of Minnesota. It is also very important that we look for an outsider. Continuing down our current path, without the careful correction of someone without an ax to grind, would be a very bad mistake. That is what the good places do. Look at the effect that Biddy Martin is having at Wisconsin and David Skorton at Cornell. It is hard to believe that the best of all university presidents can be found at the University of Minnesota - again...

Tuition Increases Going for Education? What a novel concept...

From the AP:

Other states have been more subtle in their budget balancing attempts.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is in the first year of a four-year tuition increase plan aimed at improving quality. In addition to statewide tuition increases of about 5.5 percent, in-state students at UW-Madison will pay an extra $250 a year each year.

This year, tuition went up by $617 to $7,296 or about 9.2 percent, but financial aid increased at the same time.

Still, few are complaining because the extra money -- $100 million in the first four years and $40 million each year afterward -- is reserved for providing more classes, improving student services and increasing need-based financial aid.

I am concerned that tuition is being jacked up at the U of M to support activities other than education. More transparency in this area is called for. How much does it cost to educate one undergrad at the U for one year? And I am not talking about the number you get when you divide all the money spent in a year at the U by the number of students...