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March 31, 2010

Stand and Deliver

Coincidental with my challenge to President Bruininks to do this tomorrow, I learned that the person who's done most to popularize the phrase (in modern times) has died.

From the Pioneer-Press:


Jaime A. Escalante, the most famous and influential American public-school teacher of his generation, died March 30 of cancer at his son's home near Sacramento. He was 79.

A lively, wisecracking Bolivian who did not begin teaching in the United States until he was 44, Escalante transformed one of the lowest-performing high schools in the country into a model for raising the achievement of disadvantaged children. A 1988 film about his success, "Stand and Deliver," with Edward James Olmos playing the East Los Angeles math teacher, spread his story around the world and inspired teachers in hundreds of inner-city schools to copy his methods.

Escalante pioneered the use of Advanced Placement, a program of college-level courses and tests designed for high-achieving private schools, to raise standards in average and below-average public schools. His success at Garfield High School, where 85 percent of the students were low-income and few parents had more than a sixth-grade education, suggested that more time and encouragement for learning could trump educational disadvantages.

The Garfield AP program continued to grow, with courses in history, government and biology, and spectacular results in calculus.

In 1987, Garfield students took 129 AP calculus exams, more than all but four high schools, public or private, in the country. That year more than a quarter of all Mexican American students in the United States who passed the Calculus AB exam attended Garfield.

His wife, Fabiola, arranged for the family to move to California, to which two of her brothers had already immigrated. Escalante went along with his wife's plan, but he was frustrated to discover upon arriving that his Bolivian credentials would not get him a job in any U.S. school.

He spent 10 years learning English and repeating his undergraduate education and teacher training, mostly at night and during the summers, before he was accepted as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Much of Escalante's success with students stemmed from his ability to persuade them to work on lessons in his classroom after school each day, and to attend Saturday and summer classes to prepare for calculus. He rejected the usual markers of academic excellence and insisted that regardless of a student's GPA, he would let her take the AP course if she promised to work hard.

On one occasion, a student he did not know wandered into his after-school classroom, crowded with people doing their homework. She said she was in the gifted class and needed help with a problem. His voice full of delight, Escalante motioned to a boy in the room and said, "Let me have a student who is NOT gifted show you how to do that."

And he did all this without a TERI program.

March 29, 2010

The True Priorities of Our Leader

From the Pioneer Planet:

It's important to Smith that his team has a practice facility.

"We're also working on a basketball practice facility," Bruinicks [sic] said. "We've authorized through the Board of Regents the schematic design, which is the first step, and some really good work has been done."

"I think coach (Tim) Brewster has hired a great offensive coordinator in Jeff Horton," he said. "He's got a lot of experience as a head coach as well as a coordinator.
I feel we've got stability in the coaching corps right now. "(Brewster) is bringing 20-some players off a redshirt season, which should be a strength.

"We play a tough, competitive schedule, which in some ways is tougher than last year."

"Coach Lucia, in my judgment, is one of the best college hockey coaches in the United States and in the world."

I understand the practice facility is going to cost $36 million.

Mr. President, you should be ashamed of yourself.

March 28, 2010

UTube Response to President Bruininks on Faculty Salary Reduction

March 26, 2010

Videos of the Faculty Senate Meeting on Salary Reduction

If you want to see a low quality video of the faculty senate meeting yesterday on salary reductions, please click the links below. They are for first and second half of the meeting. Unfortunately you are going to have to use Windows media player. It seems to work on pcs. Supposedly there is a Mac version of Windows media player, but I don't know anything else about it. I tried - and failed - to convert to a Mac readable format. Sorry

Speaking Truth to Power: Step up, Mr. President

Lest the President take too much comfort in the apparently strong support for his salary reduction motion. He might want to consider carefully what Joe Konstan - an IT prof - had to say yesterday. The following transcript and video are from someone who supported the president's motion.

From yesterday's faculty senate meeting:


Joe Konstan, IT. Faculty senator.

We stand here alongside our beloved university, beaten up and slashed in recent years, short on blood with more attacks on the way. The ambulance pulls up, but we're offered no surgery, no transfusion of blood, not even a tourniquet.

No, we're offered a band-aid and asked to take up a collection to pay for it.

That's what this paycut is, it's a band-aid that will not save the University. It will not even stop the bleeding.

Perhaps it is better than nothing. Perhaps it is better to chip in than to have stood by and refused to help. Perhaps the symbolism is valuable by itself. I think so and I will vote to support it.

But I am disappointed and I am angry. And I fully understand my colleagues who will vote against the band-aid in a desperate cry for a more serious solution.

I'm mad. I'm mad at our governor and legislature for their shortsightedness, but mostly I'm mad at our own leadership - a leadership that has too rarely made the hard decisions to prepare for these tough times. A leadership that has yet to offer us a compelling vision or plan to reduce the scope of the university to maintain excellence. A leadership that frankly has so badly bungled this very proposal, confusing the issues, making it hard to get meaningful and consistent information and losing the trust of so many faculty.

Over the past three weeks, I've listened a great deal and spoken perhaps too much. I have come to appreciate that the 27 pay period was mostly a red herring, though it has real financial and equity issues we'll discuss later.

The real problem is not how we get through fiscal 2011, the real problem is what happens in 2012, 2013 and beyond.

I've not heard a single faculty member oppose a temporary pay cut if that would solve the problem.

But all I've heard about the future is "Trust me." I've heard some half-completed plans for the coming year. Plans that seem to keep changing. And I've heard that 2012 will be worse.

I wish I had that trust in our leaders. I wish the last few years have convinced me that we had a vision and a strategy, but they didn't and I don't.

I want to be perfectly clear. Simply parceling out across the board cuts or proclaiming vague goals of excellence is no vision, no strategy, and no leadership.

I'll vote for the motion, I value our staff too much to put more of their jobs on the line. But I vote this way to support the University and its employees.

I vote for this motion clinging to the faint hope that the year this buys us is really used to do it right and not just have us in the same place a year from now.

This is a critical point for our University. The decisions made in the next months will determine whether we sink towards mediocrity or become a smaller but still shining gem for our state.

We need vision and strategy and most of all we need leadership.

This is the time for leaders to step up. To lead us in setting critical priorities and making those hard decisions.

Mr. President, we need vision and leadership now. Step up.

Step up Mr. President. Step up or step aside.

March 25, 2010

I will fight no more forever ...

ChiefJoseph.jpeg


Chief Joseph

I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohulhulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead.

It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are--perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead.

Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

I'm almost there, but not quite. I was disappointed by the faculty vote: 130 - 26 for this sad resolution of our good, parachute-equipped, president. Well, see you next year, folks, when things will be even worse and you will have to take a lot bigger hit than a couple percent.

Some people covered themselves with glory and some with dung. Eva von Dassow and Pat Schlievert caught my ear. Thank God for their honesty.

So let's suck it up. The hard part is coming.


March 24, 2010

Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education (FRPE) Letter to U of M Faculty Senate

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dear Senators,

The president of the University proposes to declare a state of financial stringency.

Accordingly, at a special meeting of the Faculty Senate called for March 25th, he will be asking senators to give their assent to a temporary reduction of faculty compensation in accord with Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure:

4.5 Reduction Or Postponement of Compensation.

If the University of a collegiate unit is faced with financial stringency that does not amount to a fiscal emergency, the president may propose a temporary reduction or postponement in compensation to be allocated to faculty in accordance with a mathematical formula or similar device. If approved by the Faculty Senate or the appropriate collegiate assembly, respectively, and the Board of Regents, the recurring salary of all faculty members in the University or in the designated collegiate units shall be reduced temporarily in accordance with the formula or device. The reduction may not continue for longer than two years, unless renewed by the same procedure.

This vote is part of a larger plan that affects the whole University, with similar pay cuts and furloughs proposed for all salaried employees of the University. Numerous faculty and staff have objected to the regressive flat rate structure of the proposed pay cuts, and to the lack of meaningful student, staff and faculty participation in determining how the budget shortfall should be addressed.

University of Minnesota faculty are privileged in having a strong tenure code that requires the administration to negotiate with us before cutting our pay. It is important that we exercise our role in University governance responsibly and work for a plan that preserves the University's primary missions of education and research while protecting its most vulnerable workers. This requires access to information and a strong commitment to equity.

In this spirit, we offer two resolutions that will appear on the agenda for the special March 25th meeting. The first resolution, the Resolution on Financial Stringency, calls for the administration to provide faculty with complete information on expenditures and the relationship of these expenditures to the core mission of the University before asking faculty to give their assent to a temporary reduction of faculty compensation. The second, the Resolution on Salary Reductions, calls for the administration to introduce a sliding scale of pay cuts, should the need for pay cuts be demonstrated.

Resolution on Financial Stringency

The President has asked faculty to endorse his proposal to cut faculty salaries by 1.15 per cent. Given the threat budget cuts pose to the University's core teaching and research missions, we believe that the discussion of faculty salary reductions needs to take place within the context of a wider discussion about budgetary priorities. Such a discussion requires full disclosure of the University's budget, including a detailed account of all expenditures, as well as reductions already made or considered, that explains how each expenditure relates to the University's primary missions of education and research. It requires further that the faculty have the opportunity to propose reductions other than those contemplated by the administration, and that the administration consider such proposals, justifying their adoption or rejection in terms of sustaining the University's mission.

To date, the administration has only provided the Faculty Senate and the University community at large with information on decreases in revenue, increases in costs, and figures on savings projected to be achieved through its proposed reductions to employee compensation, without explaining how resources are expended or attempting to demonstrate that all reasonable reductions consistent with the University's primary missions have already been made. The University currently spends millions of dollars on projects of questionable value to our core mission, including expenditures on controversial programs such as its Driven to Discover marketing campaign, its Wellness Initiative, and its proposal to develop UMore Park on the city's suburban fringe. As has been reported in the media, administrative positions and costs at the University have also increased dramatically in the past decade. The administration must justify these expenditures before increasing tuition, imposing pay cuts, or laying off staff.

We do not contest that reductions in state funding have worsened the University's present situation. But poor planning and misplaced priorities are also to blame, and further underline the need for budgetary transparency. Next year's allocation is about the same as state funding in 2007. During the last two years, a hiring pause and salary freezes have been in effect. Academic units have already suffered painful cuts and numerous staff have been laid off. Given these cost cutting measures, with prudent administration, the University's operating costs should not have increased so dramatically as to make a return to 2007 funding levels so catastrophic. Moreover, according to President Bruininks's March 16, 2010 e-mail message to faculty, the present budget shortfall consists of the following three components: (1) increased annual costs, including a proposed 2% raise (44%); (2) the 27th pay period, a calendrical artifact of the bi-weekly payroll system (31%); (3) the governor's proposed budget cut through unallotment (25%). The first and second components were not merely foreseeable but planned. Only the third, the governor's unallotment, could be characterized as unforeseen.

The Regent's Policy on Faculty Tenure gives faculty the power to insist on a transparent and inclusive approach to addressing the university's current financial difficulties
. The Resolution on Financial Stringency asks that the administration provide a detailed account of all current and projected University expenditures and savings, justifying each item and amount in terms of its relationship to the University's primary missions of education and research. In addition, it requests an independent audit of the finances of the University, with a view to identifying areas where additional economies might be realized with minimal impact on the University's primary missions. For a transparent budget process that protects the University's core missions, we urge you to vote 'yes' on the Resolution on Financial Stringency, and 'no' on the president's request for faculty to endorse pay-cuts.

Resolution on Salary Reductions

The administration has presented a plan for salary cuts that is projected to yield savings of $18.5 million. Savings will be achieved through the reduction of the salaries of all faculty and P&A employees by 1.15%, academic and administrative officers by 2.3%, and a three-day furlough for staff. We appreciate the administration's revised proposal as an effort to respond to concerns faculty have expressed about equity in dealing with the University's financial troubles. Nevertheless, the administration's proposal of a uniform pay cut is inherently regressive in its disproportionate effect on lower-income members of the university community. A 1.15% pay cut (or three day furlough) represents a far greater portion of expendable income for someone earning $45,000, than it does for someone earning $200,000. Moreover, the 2.3% pay cut for academic and administrative officers is offset by the payment of the 27th pay period for those administrators on 12-month contracts and thus represents no cut at all (faculty on 9-month contracts do not benefit from the 27th pay period).

Should reduction of compensation be shown to be necessary, the Resolution on Salary Reductions seeks to distribute the burden of salary reductions in an equitable and progressive way while protecting employees who are the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of our community. There is a strong precedent for this. In a comparable period of economic duress in 1932, the Regents of the University of Minnesota imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above a certain threshold and imposing no reduction on salaries below a certain threshold. According to a May 1932 news release by the University News Service,

"The regents put into effect a slash of 20% on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15% on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10% on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure$1200 [sic] a year."

In 1932 the Regents demonstrated a strong commitment to equity and to protecting the most vulnerable staff at the University. The same principles should inform decisions today. The imposition of a sliding scale, down to zero for salaries below a certain threshold, would readily achieve or exceed savings projected to be achieved through the small reduction of faculty salaries currently proposed. In the Resolution on Salary Reductions we offer several examples for how this can be done. If our proposal is accepted, there would be no need to reduce salaries of the University's lowest paid workers or to make deeper cuts to academic units.

Although the Faculty Senate can only approve or reject cuts to faculty salaries (i.e. not for other employees), by voting 'yes' to the Resolution on Salary Reductions we send a strong message to the university administration that a sliding scale cut should apply to all employees at the University.

What You Can Do on March 25th

On March 25th the Faculty Senate will be asked to give their assent to the president's proposal for a reduction in compensation. We are bringing forth these resolutions in order to bring about a more transparent process for dealing with the university's financial troubles that protects the university's core mission and shelters its most vulnerable employees.

To demand a transparent and inclusive budget process that protects the university's core mission, please vote 'no' to the president's request and vote 'yes' on the Resolution on Financial Stringency.

To support a sliding-scale pay cut that protects the university's most vulnerable employees, should a reduction in compensation be deemed necessary, please vote 'yes' to the Resolution on Salary Reductions.

Sincerely,

William Beeman, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

Bruce Braun, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, College of Liberal Arts

William Messing, Professor, School of Mathematics, Institute of Technology

Steven Ostrow, Professor and Chair, Department of Art History, College of Liberal Arts

Karen-Sue Taussig, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

A Plan for a Better U

Any University citizen who wishes to sign the following open letter may do so at:


To: Robert Bruininks, President, University of Minnesota

Open Letter to President Bruininks

from the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education


We are dismayed at the inequity and short-sightedness of your plan to address financial stringency by imposing temporary reductions in employee compensation. Moreover, we deplore your threat that if the Faculty Senate does not approve your plan to cut faculty compensation, deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses, will be made (e-mail message to faculty, March 16, 2010). There are better ways to reduce expenditures at the University, and better models for salary reductions than what you have proposed.

Faculty are willing to accept reductions in compensation sufficient in magnitude to protect the lowest-paid employees at the University from suffering any cuts at all, provided that the plan is equitable rather than regressive, and that expenditures bearing the least relation to the University's mission are cut first.
Because it is faculty alone who have the privilege to vote on whether to accept a reduction in compensation, it is incumbent on faculty to demand that such cuts be equitable and that they be proposed in accord with applicable University policy.

Your proposal calls for the following compensation reductions: a three-day mandatory furlough for all civil service and union-represented staff; a uniform reduction of 1.15% in the compensation of all faculty; and a uniform reduction of 2.3% in the compensation of academic and administrative officers (numbering 85 positions total). Contrast the cuts made in 1932, when the University and the nation faced a comparable situation of economic duress. At that time, the Regents imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above a certain threshold in graduated increments while leaving salaries below that threshold untouched. We quote the University News Release of May 1932 on this matter:

The regents put into effect a slash of 20 percent on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15 percent on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10 percent on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure $1200 [sic] a year.

In our view this should provide the model for reductions in compensation now. A similar sliding-scale cut would easily achieve greater savings than the $18.5 million that your plan would yield.

Any cut to faculty and staff compensation, however, should only be considered in the context of a long-term plan for dealing with the budgetary crisis, after cutting expenditures that are not essential to the University's primary missions of education, research, and public service.
Faculty should be provided full access to all available budgetary information, be apprised of the measures under consideration to reduce the budget, and have the opportunity to propose alternative reductions. These principles are embodied in the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure, which accords faculty a participatory role in determining how best to address any financial crisis. Instead, the administration merely informs faculty of cuts in state appropriations, and provides only piecemeal information on how the University is spending the funds at its disposal. The administration has not sought broad faculty participation in determining what to cut; when staff or faculty point out excess spending to reduce, we are ignored.

Instead of demanding only that faculty vote to approve whatever your administration proposes, invite us to contribute to identifying where cuts could be made with no harm to the academic mission. Here are a few suggestions.

Driven to Discover What does this branding scheme cost? What good does it do for instruction, research, or the citizens of Minnesota?

Wellness Initiative While programs that help employees improve their health may be valuable in principle, it makes no sense to continue producing abundant glossy advertising for this initiative, and paying employees $65.00 each time they participate in it, at the same time that the administration keeps on raising the tuition students pay.

UMore Park Millions of dollars have been invested in the proposed development of a sustainable community of 20,000-30,000 people at this site on the suburban fringe. Although UMore Park does host some research projects, funding a speculative real estate development can hardly be justified as part of the University's core mission.

If the University is truly in a situation of financial stringency, programs like these should see funding cuts before academic programs do.

Reductions in state funding have worsened our present situation. But poor planning and misplaced priorities are also to blame. Next year's state appropriation is close to that of 2007. During the last two years, a hiring pause and salary freeze have been in effect, while academic units have suffered successive cuts and numerous staff have been laid off. Given these cost-cutting measures, with prudent administration, the University's operating costs should not have increased so dramatically as to make a return to 2007 funding levels catastrophic. Moreover, the present budgetary shortfall cannot be described as unforeseeable. According to your March 16 e-mail message, the shortfall consists of the following three components: (1) increased annual costs, including a proposed 2% raise (44%); (2) the 27th pay period, a calendrical artifact of the bi-weekly payroll system (31%); and (3) the governor's proposed budget cut through unallotment (25%). The first and second components were not merely foreseeable; in the case of the raise (which many faculty oppose), they are planned. Only the amount of the governor's unallotment was unforeseen. University workers should not be made to pay the price of the administration's poor planning.

As faculty, we are responsible for carrying out the University's teaching and research missions, and we accordingly share responsibility for University governance. We repeat that we are willing to accept compensation reductions, should they be necessary, as part of a coherent strategy to rectify the University's financial situation. We do not accept your administration's proposal to impose uniform pay cuts, forcing the lowest-paid employees to bear the burden of financial stringency, while failing to reduce expenditures that do not contribute to the fulfillment of our core mission.

Sincerely,

David Bernstein, Associate Development Officer, Theatre Arts and Dance
Bruce Braun, Associate Professor, Department of Geography
Teri Caraway, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Jigna Desai, Associate Professor, Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies
Francis Harvey, Associate Professor, Department of Geography
Kathleen Hull, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
William Messing, Professor, Department of Mathematics
August Nimtz, Professor, Department of Political Science
Gilbert Rodman, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies
Karen-Sue Taussig, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
Eva Von Dassow, Associate Professor, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies

March 23, 2010

Outrageous Article About New Science Classroom Facility

"University of Minnesota Embraces Experiential Science Teaching Paradigms"

The University of Minnesota is abandoning the traditional teaching methods of yesterday in favor of providing students with interactive and technology-laden instruction in the science disciplines. The new mindset facilitates innovative teaching paradigms that replace the old-fashioned lecture format with an environment that offers hands-on learning.

"Our objectives are very ambitious because we want this to be the best facility of its kind in the nation," says Robert Kvavik, who recently retired as the University's associate vice president for planning.

"The new teaching paradigms will emerge faster than we can imagine with the new technologies and this building will be adaptable to the necessary changes," says Kvavik. "Keeping pace with the future teaching paradigms and ever-changing technologies will provide an environment that enables students to learn and better comprehend scientific concepts."

The days of cramming hundreds of students into a tiered classroom to hear a lecture are disappearing at the University of Minnesota.
This type of teaching is especially outdated at a time when students can be easily distracted from a monotone lecture by indulging themselves with their own technology, such as cell phones and iPods.

"We're offering the foundational skills needed for success in science and future careers in terms of problem solving, data analysis and interpretation, laboratory skills and experimental design, teamwork, communication, and quantitative reasoning," says Kvavik. "We already have empirical evidence that students who learn in an interactive environment have a better understanding of science.

The previous Science Classroom Building,
which was constructed at the end of WWII on the bridgehead over the Mississippi River, was not designed to offer the modern teaching paradigms. Therefore, it was demolished to make room for the new building. Faculty members in the Chemistry Department suggested building a new facility that would house six large traditional tiered classrooms. However, the University's administration managed to obtain buy-in from a sufficient number of stakeholders after explaining why the auditorium-style classrooms are no longer suitable for today's innovative teaching methods. The state legislators agreed to provide funding for the Science Teaching and Student Services Center, having first rejected a proposal for a building with tiered classrooms.

The University had gathered data to verify that large classrooms in the old building were underutilized because departments were abandoning this type of teaching.

The evidence was clear that students' grades improved by as much as one point in the hands-on teaching environment. The students also expressed greater satisfaction with the environment and the faculty members. Students and faculty innovators became primary advocates for the construction of the state-of-the-art building.

Another fallacy that surrounded discussions about the new building was that departments would not have enough faculty or resources to implement the new paradigms. However, this was quickly addressed by pointing out that the Biology, Nursing, and Public Health departments made the change with no additional faculty. As an added bonus, higher enrollment numbers generated by the new teaching paradigm mean more revenue that could be used, if necessary, to hire additional faculty members.

"The interactive classroom is more expensive in terms of space, faculty, and electricity,'' says Kvavik. "However, if you are serious about being a top university that can attract the best students, you have to provide this type of environment or you are simply going to lose."

There are so many errors and false claims in this piece that I don't know where to start. Anyone who has followed this situation closely can spot them immediately.

March 20, 2010

A Primer for the March 25 Faculty Senate Meeting

My friend and fellow alum, Mr. Michael McNabb, provides the following information:


A temporary reduction or postponement of faculty compensation is the subject of both Section 4.5 and Section 11.4 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure.

See:

http://www1.umn.edu/regents/policies/humanresources/FacultyTenure.pdf


The relationship between Section 4.5 and Section 11 is the subject of
Interpretation No. 3 on p. 27 of the Regents' Policy.

The interpretation states that the "financial difficulty" under Section 4.5 is less severe than the "fiscal emergency" outlined in Section 11. The drafter should have used a more specific reference here because Section 11 as a whole is NOT limited to only a "fiscal emergency."

Section 11.2 expressly states that "the following general principles of priority apply IN ANY FINANCIAL CRISIS." The sentence in Interpretation No. 3 is accurate as long as it is read as a reference to Section 11.5, the part of Section 11 that relates to a "fiscal emergency," the third and final stage of a financial crisis.

It is likely that Section 4.5 and Section 11.4 were drafted by different persons (or, worse yet, by different committees) and at different times. Later yet another person drafted Interpretation No. 3 with less than precise language.

This happens all the time with legislation, so the legislature and the courts have developed rules of construction (to make sense of the statutes and amendments that are the result of the legislative sausage making process). Some of those rules are relevant here:

The legislature intends the entire statute to be effective and certain. Minn. Stat. 645.17(2). (Here the Regents intend ALL of Section 11 to be effective, including Section 11.4 on the temporary reduction of faculty compensation.)

The doctrine of in pari materia is a tool of statutory construction that allows two statutes with common purposes and subject matter to be construed together to determine the meaning of ambiguous statutory language. In re Welfare of Children of N.F., 749 N.W.2d 802 (Minn. 2008) (Here it would be erroneous to read Section 4.5 in isolation from Section
11.4.)

The headnotes printed in boldface type before sections and subdivisions in editions of Minnesota Statutes are mere catchwords to indicate the contents of the section or subdivision and are not part of the statute. Minn. Stat. 645.49. (Here the "Fiscal Emergency" heading on Section 11 does not limit the scope of the express provisions of that Section.)

Section 4.5 refers only the approval of the Faculty Senate for a temporary reduction of faculty compensation; it does NOT set the voting standard for that approval. Section 11.4 sets the voting standard for such a temporary reduction: an ABSOLUTE MAJORITY of the members of the Faculty Senate or a TWO THIRDS vote of the members present and voting (assuming that a quorum is present).

In any financial crisis the Regents' Policy REQUIRES the administration to proceed in the sequence of stages described in Section 11. In the first stage of a financial crisis the administration MUST consider "alternative measures" that do NOT impair faculty rights. The alternative measures include reductions in expenses, increases in tuition, sales of assets, and borrowing. See Section 11.3.

The administration may proceed to the second stage of a financial crisis (the temporary reduction of faculty compensation) ONLY if the University has implemented ALL of the measures that are required to be considered in the first stage and has determined that such measures are not adequate. See Section 11.4.

Is the administration able to demonstrate that it has taken the actions required in the first stage (the prerequisite for proceeding to the second stage)?
Have available alternative measures be taken, such as:

(1) substantial reductions in the costs of administration at the University (now at 40 vice presidents with combined salaries of $8.4 million--see:

http://www.mndaily.com/2010/01/26/share-sacrifice

(2) substantial reductions in the costs of legal services ($5.7 million to outside counsel in 2009 in addition to the salaries and benefits paid to the 18 attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel at the University--see p. 13 of the Annual Report of the General Counsel at:

http://www.ogc1.umn.edu/stellent/groups/public/documents/webasset/da_029600.pdf


(3) the elimination of the annual multi-million dollar subsidy to the athletic department ($4 million in 2010--see p. 5 of the September 3, 2009 report of the Faculty Consultative Committee at:

http://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/54354/2/09-09-03%20_II_%20FCC.pdf

(4) the sale of UMore Park (on which the administration has spent more than $9.3 million since 2006--see p.7 of the December 2009 report of the Finance & Operations Committee of the Board of Regents at:

http://www1.umn.edu/regents/docket/2009/december/finance.pdf

(5) the sale of other assets of the University that are not essential to its academic mission.

Such alternative measures could be implemented as part of a long term solution to the financial crisis rather than the one year band-aid proposed by the administration.

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

RESOLUTION ON FINANCIAL STRINGENCY

golden-parachute3.jpg

Downloadable pdf: financstringres.pdf

Please see the post on the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education site for details about the following resolution:

WHEREAS: The president of the University proposes to declare a state of financial stringency, and accordingly asks the Faculty Senate to vote its assent to a temporary reduction of faculty compensation (while also proposing to reduce the compensation of all other salaried employees of the University), in accord with Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure;

WHEREAS: The administration has failed to provide to its employees, the Faculty Senate, and the public at large sufficiently detailed information to enable the Faculty Senate to confirm that all reasonable economies short of reducing compensation of employees at all salary levels have been, or are in the process of being, implemented;

BE IT RESOLVED: That, prior to asking the Faculty Senate to vote on its proposal to reduce faculty compensation, the administration provide to the faculty and the public a detailed account of all current and projected University expenditures and savings, justifying each item and amount in terms of its relationship to the University's primary missions of education and research

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the Faculty Senate requests an independent audit of the finances of the University, including specifically an independent itemized analysis of the expenses of administrative overhead, with a view to identifying areas where additional economies might be realized with minimal impact on the University's primary missions of education and research.

COMMENT: The president proposes a reduction in faculty compensation, and requests that the Faculty Senate vote its assent to his proposal, under Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure. Informed assent requires full disclosure of the University's budget, including a detailed account of all expenditures, as well as reductions already made or considered, explaining how each expenditure relates to the University's primary missions of education and research. It requires further that the faculty have the opportunity not only to scrutinize expenditures but to propose reductions other than those contemplated by the administration, and that the administration consider such proposals, justifying their adoption or rejection in terms of sustaining the University's mission. To date, the administration has provided the Faculty Senate and the University community at large with information on decreases in revenue and figures for savings projected to be achieved through its proposed reductions to employee compensation, without explaining how resources are expended or attempting to demonstrate that all reasonable reductions consistent with the University's primary missions have already been made.

The faculty are willing to accept temporary cuts in compensation as part of a long-term strategy to rectify the University's financial situation, if and only if the administration first implements cuts that do not impair the University's primary missions of education and research, and provides access to all budgetary information, detailing both expenditures and revenues, in order that the faculty may scrutinize the budget, participate in determining what expenditures to cut, and, should it become necessary, provide informed consent to a reduction in faculty compensation. Faculty alone are empowered to grant such consent by vote. However, the allocation or withdrawal of financial resources affects all members of the University community. It is therefore incumbent on the faculty to require financial transparency of the administration, and to demand that measures be taken to address the present budgetary shortfall that involve neither inequitable reductions to compensation, nor potential termination, of the lowest-paid employees of the University.

RESOLUTION ON SALARY REDUCTIONS

golden-parachute3.jpg

Downloadable pdf: salaryreductionres.pdf

Please see the post on the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education site for details about the following resolution:

WHEREAS: The administration asks the Faculty Senate to vote its assent to the temporary reduction of faculty salaries, while also proposing to reduce the compensation of other employees of the University, in accord with Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure;

WHEREAS: The reduction of faculty salaries on the plan currently presented (1.15% for all faculty and 2.3% for academic and administrative officers) is projected to yield savings of $18.5 million;

WHEREAS: In a comparable situation of economic duress, in 1932, the Regents of the University of Minnesota imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above certain thresholds and imposing no reduction on salaries below a certain threshold;

WHEREAS: The imposition of a salary reduction on a sliding scale, down to zero for salaries below a certain threshold, would readily achieve or exceed the savings projected to be achieved through the minuscule reduction of faculty salaries currently proposed; for example, a reduction of 20% on the increment of all salaries above $200,000 per annum, a reduction of 10% on the increment of all salaries above $150,000 per annum, a reduction of 5% on the increment of all salaries above $100,000 per annum, and a reduction of 2.5% on the increment of all salaries above $70,000 per annum might yield savings equivalent to those that the present salary reduction plan would yield;

BE IT RESOLVED: That in place of its proposal to reduce salaries of all employees of every category and salary level, the administration develop and present to the Faculty Senate an alternative plan that calls for temporary salary reductions on a sliding scale, with no reduction for salaries below a certain threshold, in order to achieve the same savings.

_____________________
Comment regarding resolution from Karen-Sue Taussig, Bill Beeman, and Steven Ostrow:

We appreciate the administration's revised proposal as an effort to respond to concerns faculty have expressed about equity in dealing with the University's financial troubles. Nevertheless, we are disappointed with the administration's proposal of a uniform pay cut since this will be inherently regressive in its disproportionate effect on lower income members of the university community. With this resolution we offer an alternate proposal with two primary aims. First, we seek to distribute the burden of salary reductions in an equitable and progressive way across the faculty. We offer one of a number of possible strategies for achieving the same savings as the administration's current proposal that would protect salaries under a certain threshold. Second, we seek to establish a model that protects employees who lack the privilege of tenure, who are the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of our community, and who are not given representation in this forum, from any salary reduction, job loss, or layoffs at all. A 1.15% pay cut seems to be a relatively small amount, but we know that such a cut represents a far greater portion of expendable income for someone earning $45,000, than it does for someone earning $200,000.

During the financial crisis of the 1930s the regents implemented salary reductions on a sliding scale similar to the one we now propose. According to the minutes of the April 21, 1932 Board of Regents meeting, at that time "The regents put into effect a slash of 20% on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15% on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10% on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure $1200 [sic] a year."

The following is an illustration of a sliding scale model for salary reductions, with a 20% reduction on increments above $200,000, a 10% reduction on the increment $150,000-$200,000, a 5% reduction on the increment $100,000-$150,000, and a 2.5% reduction on the increment $70,000-$100,000:

Someone earning $70,000 or less would not take a reduction.

Someone earning $100,000 would take a $750 salary reduction (.75%)

Someone earning $150,000 would take a $750 reduction (on that portion between $70,000 and $100,00) + $2,500 reduction (5% on that portion above $100,000) for a total salary reduction of $3,250 (2.17%)

Someone earning $200,000 would take a reduction of $3,250 (on the increment between $70,000 and $150,000) + $5,000 reduction (10% on the increment above $150,000) for a total salary reduction of $8,250 (4.125%).

Someone earning $250,000 would take a $8,250 reduction on the increment between $70,000 and $200,000) + $10,000 reduction (20% on the increment above $200,000) for a total salary reduction of $18,250 (7.3%)

This example is meant to be illustrative: If a sliding scale was deemed suitable in the 1930s, it should be deemed so today.


March 18, 2010

Important Message from U of M Faculty Liaison on Upcoming Faculty Salary Reduction Vote

I thank Professor Martin Sampson for his permission to post a recent email that he sent to the University of Minnesota faculty list.

I make no editorial comments. This is the full message:

17 March 2010

Colleagues,

As a faculty legislative liaison to the State Legislature, I and my colleague Caroline Hayes attend legislative hearings on behalf of the U of M faculty and send occasional information bulletins on legislative decisions on U of M budget issues and other matters. We are part of the faculty governance system and are ex officio members of the Faculty Consultative Committee.

Yesterday in St Paul at the State Senate Higher Education Committee hearing an event happened that I think is important to share with the faculty.

Unexpectedly I was called out of the audience by the committee chair to comment on the forthcoming pay cut issue. I explained the procedures, the reason for the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting, and the provision that requires the administration to secure faculty approval of pay cuts. I also said that in my view many of the faculty are prepared to make sacrifices on behalf of the wellbeing of the University but that it is not clear how the vote will turn out or what kinds of adjustments we will have to make to get us through the next biennium.

A flurry of hands went up for recognition from the chair to speak. Both Democratic and Republican Senators asked pointed questions in regard to whether the faculty "gets it" that huge numbers of people are unemployed, that Minnesota is in a very deep recession, and so forth. The tone of a wide ranging discussion was not friendly. The clear, ardent message is that the U of M faculty voting against a temporary pay cut would be a statement that the faculty does not "get it."

Two observations of my own.

(1). The State Senate Higher Education Committee has been a crucial defender of U of M budget requests and U of M priorities of other kinds at the State legislature. Many of the hands in the air were from people who have voted again and again to support U of M requests. They will be very critical if the faculty rejects a temporary pay cut.

(2) Whether U of M faculty, many of them tenured, are willing to endorse a temporary pay cut or are not willing to endorse a temporary pay cut is the only message that most of Minnesota will get from the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting. The complexities that concern many faculty about how a pay cut should be handled will likely be irrelevant.

Other comments yesterday. As a long time employee of the Mayo Clinic, one Senator told the story of Mayo employees in the 1930s agreeing to take a 10% pay cut, which both saved the Mayo Clinic and produced a sense of community among Mayo staff that became an important part of Mayo's subsequent success. Another Senator observed that rather than identical percentage cuts there is something to be said for gradations so that people with lower salaries get lower percentage cuts. I commented that this latter point is part of the discussion among faculty.

Should I have sent this message?
Whether or not to send this message has troubled me. The risk of sending this is that the message looks like an effort to manipulate the vote next Thursday. The risk of not sending the message is that faculty go into next Thursday's meeting insufficiently aware of a crucial aspect of the atmosphere at the state legislature. I think this latter risk is contrary to the role of the legislative liaison.


Martin Sampson
Faculty Legislative Liaison

March 16, 2010

Latest from President Bruininks on Furloughs

I post this here for information. It is available on the U's web site, but the outside world may have trouble finding it.

[I will not comment on, or highlight, very objectionable parts of this message.]

Dear Colleagues,

In January, I shared with you the sobering fiscal realities the University of Minnesota faces as a result of the global economic downturn and the state's significant budget shortfall through the next biennium. As expected, the governor's February 15th budget recommendation included an additional cut of $36 million to the University of Minnesota's budget. This comes on the heels of an $80 million cut last year and erases 10 years of incremental state funding increases, reducing our state funding base to the lowest level since 2001 ($591 million). The new proposed state cut and our ongoing financial obligations create a total budget shortfall of $132.2 million for 2010-11:

* 44 percent ($59 million) of this shortfall results from increased annual costs, consisting of $32 million to address compensation, including a 2 percent compensation pool increase and payments to the fringe pool; and $27 million to support financial aid and scholarship commitments, academic investments, facilities costs, and other essential expenditures.
* 31 percent ($41 million) results from a 27th pay period necessitated by the payroll calendar every 11 years. (The impact of this cyclical expense was magnified by the economic downturn and deep state budget cuts; nevertheless, a long-term plan to resolve this problem on an ongoing basis will be in place within the next year.)
* 25 percent ($32.2 million) results from the governor's proposed budget cut. (The actual number here is smaller than the governor's reduction of $36 million due to this year's appropriation being $3.9 million lower than next year's appropriation; the governor was required to reduce from next year's larger number.)

As a result, the leadership of the University has spent the past several months modeling a number of solutions to the challenges related to compensating our employees. After extensive analysis and discussion, we narrowed the alternative compensation options to a proposed plan, and last month, we began to consult with the University community--including the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs, the Senate Committee on Finance and Planning, the Faculty Consultative Committee, the Civil Service Committee, the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators, and our union-represented faculty and staff. On March 4, we presented the initial plan to the entire University Senate for consultation. A number of robust discussions following that meeting have yielded a new option, which we believe strikes a good balance between meeting our immediate budget objectives and impacting all of our employees in a moderate and equitable way.

Under this new plan, proposed by faculty leaders late last week, all employees systemwide would take the equivalent of a 1.15 percent decrease in pay for fiscal year 2011 (FY11), July 2010 through June 2011. As proposed, this is a temporary reduction for FY11 only and would be implemented differently based on employee group:

* In the case of hourly (civil service and union-represented staff) employees, this reduction in pay would be implemented in the form of a mandatory, three-day furlough during the last week of December to facilitate a weeklong shutdown of our campuses (except essential facilities and services) in order to reduce energy and operating costs with minimal disruption to students. A three-day furlough is roughly equal to the 1.15 percent decrease in pay that staff groups will be asked to absorb. Hourly employees would not be expected to work hours for which their pay has been reduced.
* All other employee groups, including all faculty and academic professional and administrative (P&A) employees, would see a 1.15 percent reduction in pay with no reduction in their assigned duties. These employee groups would be expected to address with their supervisor or responsible administrator how their duties will be accomplished during the campus shutdown in late December.
* Senior administrators systemwide (including deans, associate and assistant vice presidents, vice provosts, vice presidents, vice chancellors, chancellors, senior vice presidents, and the president) would take an additional 1.15 percent decrease in pay, bringing their total temporary reduction in pay to 2.3 percent.
* Additional voluntary furlough days would be available to all employees (not to exceed the equivalent of a 10-day reduction in pay).
* The savings realized by these reductions in pay will remain in the appropriate campuses, colleges, or units.

It is important to consider this plan in the context of the overall budget plan for next year and the financial outlook for 2012 and 2013. As referenced above, next year's budget plan includes funds to pay the 27th pay period for all eligible employees and to offer a 2 percent compensation pool. This compensation pool delivers a 2 percent increase for all union-represented staff employees and all civil service employees beginning with the new pay year this summer. It also provides for increases determined at the collegiate or unit level for faculty and academic professional and administrative employees, effective January 2011. A 2 percent compensation increase is in line with increases provided to state employees and many local units of government. The six-month delay in compensation increases for faculty and P&A employees provides substantial savings to the colleges and units while still enabling us to offer permanent increases in base compensation.

One additional note about process: You may be aware that the Faculty Senate must vote to approve any proposed reduction in faculty pay. For that reason, the Faculty Senate will take up this proposal at a special meeting on Thursday, March 25, and will be asked to approve a temporary reduction in salary of 1.15 percent for faculty next year. It should be noted that those faculty members currently covered by a collective bargaining agreement are not impacted by this vote, and separate discussions are underway with them. If the faculty pay reduction is approved, we will proceed to implement the plan as outlined. If there is not a vote in support of a reduction in pay for faculty, our budget plan going forward will necessarily include deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses.

All of the options we explored involved serious trade-offs, especially when facing the real prospect of more budget cuts, which may impose additional limits on our ability to compensate our employees in the next biennium. I understand that this plan poses administrative and personal challenges for all of us, but it also moderates the impact of necessary one-time budget cuts on any one unit or employee group, retains and rewards hard-working colleagues over the long term, enables us to maintain our quality and competitiveness, helps to avoid additional unplanned job losses, and reduces our budget challenge to a much more manageable sum.

The Office of Human Resources has begun to address many of your questions and concerns in these frequently asked questions (FAQ). We will continue to refine and expand the FAQ as the compensation and budget plans roll out and new questions arise. I want to assure you that we are working hard to address our current and long-term budget challenges. Thank you once again for all of your hard work--it is my privilege to serve with you.

Sincerely,

Robert H. Bruininks
President

March 14, 2010

Rankings (Academic) are for losers...

Despite considerable evidence to the contrary our provost again cited the extraordinary progress being made at the U in ascending the greasy pole. He did this at the most recent Board of Regents meeting on March 12. I've got a post up on the other site that includes his boast:


Board of Regents Meeting - March 12, 2010

"...we also see substantial progress and momentum...

Absolutely and relative to our peer institutions as well.

We can always see that in the best measure, the best ranking which I think is the Shanghai ranking, and one can always quibble with methodology, but we think it's the best ranking that's there and it still has the university somewhere between seven or eighth or ninth best public research university in the US and in the top twenty public research universities in the world." E. Thomas Sullivan

See my link above for further deconstruction. Shangai's best? Why might that be, Tom? Because of all the rankings available, it is the only one that makes us look good? This is what is called selective presentation, Tom. You should know better. You presented data at the September Board of Regents meeting that does not support the Shanghai ranking. Recall: Accountable to U 2009 University Plan, Performance, and Accountability Report? In many important aspects we rank 10/10 or 10/11 in comparison with our self-selected peer group.

And of course the place where most folks thinking about going to college/university - and their parents - look is:

USNews Best National Universities
2009 Rankings

1. Berkeley 21

2. UCLA 24

3. Michigan 27

4. Illinois 39

5. Madison 39

6. UDub 42

7. Penn State 47

8. Florida 47

9. Texas 47

10. tOSU 53

11. Minnesota 61

The academic ranking game is for losers, Tom.

It must be embarrassing to make your argument when you know full well that almost all other rankings, including data you presented earlier in the year, differ markedly from the Shanghai ratings.

My piece on the Periodic Table explains why this is so and why the Shanghai rankings are so off base.

New Board of Regents Conflict of Interest Document

I've been asked by several people to provide the document. It is included in the docket section of the March 12 meeting, embedded in a large pdf file.

Here is the policy by itself in a single three page pdf for download.

BoReCOI.pdf

March 13, 2010

Violation of the Tenure Code in Faculty Senate Vote on Furloughs

My friend and fellow alumnus, Michael McNabb, writes:

This message from Professors Gonzales and Oakes refers to Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy and states that a simple majority affirmative vote is sufficient to approve a temporary reduction in faculty compensation.

Section 4.5 refers only to approval of the Faculty Senate; it does NOT set the voting standard for that approval. Section 11.4 sets the voting standard for such a temporary reduction: an ABSOLUTE MAJORITY of the members of the Faculty Senate or a TWO-THIRDS vote of the members present and voting (assuming that a quorum is present).

The voting standard should be reviewed with the officers of the Faculty Senate, and a commitment should be obtained now to use the voting standard required by Section 11.4.

If the officers do not make that commitment, then that procedural issue should be discussed and voted upon at the Faculty Senate meeting prior to any vote on the substantive issue of a temporary reduction in compensation.


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

Once Again, the Morrill Hall Gang Tramples Faculty Rights

From a Blanket Email by the President:

March 12, 2010


Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Thank you for the robust discussion on the proposed faculty furlough plan that took place at the March 4 University Senate meeting. As you know, the Faculty Senate will be asked to vote on a temporary reduction in salary at a special meeting scheduled for Thursday, March 25.

Under Section 4.5 of the Tenure Code (which can be found online at http://www1.umn.edu/regents/policies/humanresources/FacultyTenure.pdf), the president determines, in consultation with the executive leadership team, that the University faces a financial stringency. (This is quite different from a state of fiscal emergency, which requires a formal declaration of the Board of Regents.) In such circumstances the president may propose a temporary reduction or postponement in compensation for faculty, and the Faculty Senate must vote to authorize a temporary reduction in faculty compensation. It is my considered judgment that we do, in fact, face a financial stringency...

[President Bruininks, you cite section 4.5 of the tenure code and ignore other sections of it that are directly relevant to the present situation. Please see below. Bottom line: you have ignored required actions in this matter and this is just another instance of trying to sidestep legitimate faculty input which is required. This behavior is a continuing disgrace to your administration.]

I would like to share a few additional thoughts. Some of you have raised concerns about paying the 27th pay period, the cost of which is included in this plan. I believe that paying the 27th pay period honors our legal and ethical commitments to compensating our employees for their work. I want to emphasize that the challenge of the 27th pay period will be solved within the next fiscal year to ensure that we do not face this dilemma in future years.

[Bob, this 27th pay period problem was forseeable. To do nothing about it is gross negligence. Why should we trust an administration to chart the best financial course for the institution when it performs in this manner? Other examples of extremely bad financial judgment are evident, e.g. MoreU Park, new unnecessary construction, EFS, I could go on.]

Some have also raised concerns about providing a 2 percent compensation pool in this budget environment. Doing so ..

[So basically I will ignore the almost universal feeling that an increase is uncalled for - especially since it isn't really an increase for most employees but merely administrative sleight of hand.]

The proposed faculty salary reduction is a critical piece of a larger plan to balance the University's budget. I cannot reduce faculty pay without an affirmative vote by the Faculty Senate. If there is not a vote in support of a reduction in pay for faculty, our budget plan going forward will necessarily include deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses.

[Blackmail much, Bob?]

Sincerely,
Robert H. Bruininks
President


A good description of the President's failure to follow the procedures outlined in the Tenure Code follow:

The president fails to read Section 4.5 (on the temporary reduction of faculty compensation)in conjunction with Section 11.4 (on the same subject).

However, Section 11.2 expressly states that "the following general principles of priority apply IN ANY FINANCIAL CRISIS." A temporary reduction in faculty compensation may be taken in the second stage of a financial crisis. See Section 11.4.

In the first stage of a financial crisis Section 11.3 REQUIRES the president to identify measures to alleviate the situation that do NOT impair faculty rights.

The president must give the senate consultative committee FULL ACCESS to all available information and must RESPOND SPECIFICALLY to additional proposals suggested by the committee. The University MUST consider reductions in expenses, increases in tuition, sales of assets, and borrowing. Such alternative measures MUST be implemented.

Here the proposal of the president violates the Regents' Policy because it goes directly to the temporary reduction of faculty compensation, the second stage of a financial crisis under Section 11.4. Yet Section 11.4 authorizes that measure to be considered only AFTER the University has implemented ALL of the measures that are required to be considered in the first stage and has determined that such measures are not adequate.

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

Provost Sullivan, Counsel Rotenberg, what say you?

March 11, 2010

It's called blackmail, and the U will pay a great price for it

from Finance and Commerce:

A very public fight broke out Wednesday afternoon pitting the Metropolitan Council against the University of Minnesota during an otherwise routine meeting of the Central Corridor Management Committee.

The battle about a temporary easement that was really about larger negotiations between the Met Council and the U of M over the $957 million light rail project prompted one official to compare these negotiations unfavorably with those that led to the SALT II nuclear power treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the late 1970s.

"Peter is trying to use this public forum to put pressure on the university to get this done, and I don't believe that will be very effective," said O'Brien.

The exchange started when Beckwith mentioned an upcoming March 24 deadline regarding "Advanced Traffic Improvements" that the Central Corridor project will be incorporating along the part of the LRT's path scheduled to cut through the middle of the U of M campus along Washington Avenue.

To do the work, the Central Corridor needs to obtain a temporary easement from the U of M, something that the U of M has not yet granted.

Bell clearly and repeatedly let his frustration be known about the lack of a temporary easement, saying it echoed much larger and more difficult disagreements between the Met Council and the U of M that could scuttle the entire project.

"I am frustrated that it has taken the U over a week to respond [to the Met Council's formal request for the temporary easement]," Bell said, characterizing the easement as a relatively very small thing.

"I am increasingly pessimistic that we will be able to get a deal done in part because of the U's inability to make a decision on the temporary easement.

"If the U can't give us this easement, one that will save the project money and avoid delays, it makes me increasingly pessimistic that we will be able to negotiate [successfully] the substantive issues we have before us."

O'Brien responded by saying that the university wants an agreement in place on the bigger issues of the safeguards before it will grant any easements.

"There are some difficult issues ... regarding exceedances of vibration standards and what will happen and what are the actions that need to be taken," O'Brien said. "And I believe that's where our tension [sic] should be."

After the meeting, Steve Dornfeld, head spokesman for the Met Council, who has attended more than 20 of the ongoing negotiations, said, "I think the SALT II treaty was resolved more quickly than this will be."

March 10, 2010

The Shame of the Commons - Light Rail at the U?

From the Daily:

"The fact is, we're not trying to site a nuclear reactor, we're siting a tremendous transportation amenity," Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said.

"In these final weeks, everyone has to come to the table with the assumption that they will do everything humanly possible to get us together to get this done right now," he said.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, who has hosted multiple meetings as a mediator to speed negotiations, criticized the University's actions.

"I don't know if the University understands what horrible shape they're in," she said. "Many members of the public have become disenchanted."

Aaron Isaacs, who worked as a planner for Metro Transit from 1973 to 2006, opposes the University's stance as well.

"It's like the U's attitude is exactly the opposite of what it ought to be," he said. "The U ought to embrace light rail."

Although those involved are optimistic about the line's completion, deadlines for federal funding are fast approaching.

Three lawsuits and a heap of unresolved issues don't help.

For instance, although the Obama administration has softened some of the rigid requirements for federal funding, critics say requirements are still too stringent to be workable.

"That's the catch-22 of taking federal money," Hausman said.

She is particularly concerned because the Met Council said the project's problems can't be fixed without delaying it.

In an attempt to keep the project on track, local funding is already being used to jumpstart preliminary construction in St. Paul, with the assumption that federal financing will reimburse the costs later on.

Unless the issues can be resolved quickly, however, there are no guarantees.

"If people approach these last few months of negotiation by selfishly trying to get everything they can for their own interests, we'll comfortably stay in the stone ages of transportation," Rybak said.

Additionally, budget deficits at both the state and federal levels add to the uncertainty surrounding the project's completion.

The state and federal elections this fall pose perhaps the biggest risk of the train plans going awry.

"There could be dramatic changes in the political landscape," said Met Council spokesman Steve Dornfeld. "There's no guarantee that this project will remain a priority for the governor or the Legislature or even for Congress."

And so it goes...

March 9, 2010

TERI Logic? How To Improve Schools...

From today's Boston Globe:

globfireteachers.jpg

This cartoon should remind us of the difficulties to be faced by anyone who claims to be in the process of reforming education.

Much has been made at the College of Education and Human Development of their TERI program and the Bush funds that have been obtained for its support.

Susan Heegaard, vice president and educational achievement team leader for the Bush Foundation, commented, "As part of their agreement with the Bush Foundation, each of the schools has agreed to guarantee that its program will produce effective teachers. The key to the guarantee is that they each will partner with the K-12 schools where their graduates will teach, and the university will provide continued support to the teachers for several years after graduation. This type of guarantee has never been offered before that we know of."

And wisely so.

How might this be measured?

From the TERI site:

We will measure progress made by the students taught by teachers who have completed preparation with us and guarantee that these P­-12 students will experience at least one year of academic growth in one year of instruction.

How will this be accomplished? Make it so, Spock?

The TERI folks have the answer? What is it? Cultural competence?

Just make sure not to place your students in the Minneapolis school system.

Unfortunately, there are these dirty little realities that stand in the way of educational theorists:


From the Strib:


Only 34 percent of the Minneapolis district's black students graduate from high school in four years, compared with almost 70 percent of whites, according to the latest state figures. Last year, only 8.6 percent of black students were proficient on state science tests, compared with 61.4 percent of white students.

Which brings us back to the cartoon at the top.

March 8, 2010

The University of Iowa Sets a Good Example for the Morrill Hall Gang?

Despite disparaging remarks that were unfortunately made by one of the U of M's deans, Iowa seems to have made a lot more headway than Minnesota at cutting down the underbrush to be found in higher administration.

From the Daily Iowan:

Top-heavy bureaucracy?
Fortunately the UI has effectively avoided that pitfall

For the sake of the economy and for the welfare of generations to come in this state, it is imperative we improve the quality of public higher education. This is no simple task. In University of Iowa Provost Wallace Loh's words, "There is no formula."

But here's a start: Focus on hiring high-quality faculty rather than adding to the upper-level administration.

The UI has one of the leanest top offices in the Big Ten. Last fall -- the most recent data available -- university faculty outnumbered administrators 2,276 to 264. And some of the other Big Ten universities with higher administrator ratios are looking to cut back. Between the fall 2007 and the fall 2008, the percentage of UI administrators, executives, and managerial staff decreased from 2.07 to 1.87. The rates of the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, the Ohio State University, and the University of Indiana all increased.

Ahem, President Bruininks...

"I think we have more administration than we need," he said. "We need to simplify processes ... and ask whether we need all the administration at all the levels." President Bruininks - Daily, December 4, 2008

We need to do more than ask, President Bruininks?

You need to do something about it!


March 6, 2010

U to Sponsor Forum on State's Future - Curiouser and Curiouser...

alice.533.gif


From the Strib:

University of Minnesota will host three forums begining on March 23 that aim to bring research findings to bear on the big decisions ahead for the 2010 Legislature and voters.

The first session, on March 23, will feature a discussion of how to improve the Minnesota economy, led by state economist Tom Stinson. Session two on March 30, "A Heathy Minnesota," will be led by School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan; session three on April 6 will be about education and workforce development, led by Kent Pekel, executive director of the College Readiness Consortium.

The stated rationale for the forums should register with every voter: "Minnesota now faces critical challenges that threaten its vaunted quality of life," the meetings' official announcement says. "This was one of the nation's most economically vibrant states. Now Minnesota's economy underperforms the nation as a whole, demonstrated by lackluster income growth, surging unemployment, and anemic job creation. As we look to the future, how should we address our enormous challenges? What, specifically, should Minnesota do?"

Obviously we should give more money to the University of Minnesota. People like John Finnegan will know what to do with it...

But seriously, folks-

I'm in Boston but If I were in Minneapolis, I would be there with bells on to ask people like John Finnegan some questions.

Should you be criticizing the University of Iowa's attempts to get their house in order?

People in glass houses and all that.

Is cost effectiveness a sometime thing?

How are those double dippers, John?

Think there is any money to be saved there? Ethical and reputational capital available for doing the right thing?

How about process? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? You seem to have different opinions at different times on the matter.

Should the public be interested in advice from the U given their track record on light rail obstructionism, foot dragging on medical ethics, MoreU Park, and generally bad priorities?

Or is this just another sad attempt to extract more money from the state legislature?

As Shania Twain famously said: That don't impress me much.

March 5, 2010

Report From the Front - Faculty Senate Meeting

FRPE members report on budget discussion at University Senate meeting, 3-4-2010
This report was composed by Bruce Braun and Eva von Dassow, who were both in attendance at the Senate meeting (Eva as alternate for Karen-Sue Taussig), as was William Messing. It focuses only on the budget discussion, which was Item 11 on the agenda, and which was allocated a full hour together with the president's report (Item 12).

Instead of giving a report following the discussion (as in the sequence on the agenda), President Bruininks opened with ten or fifteen minutes' worth of remarks. He stressed that the successive unallotments and stagnant state appropriations had produced a "new normal" of reduced financial resources for the U. He stated that in budgeting the administration's core principles were to "advance the University's quality and competitiveness through timely and targeted reductions" as well as investments; to "keep the talented workforce of the U together"; and to ensure "access and affordability" by increasing the amount of scholarships available, financial aid being the institution's "bedrock responsibility in a high-tuition era." He talked of replacing state support with revenue from other sources, mentioning in particular UMore Park. He then mentioned that it would be necessary for the university to decide "what things we should stop doing." Then he noted what reductions have already been achieved by not replacing 150 faculty positions in the last two years, reducing staff, and - here he went into a bit of detail - reducing and consolidating offices in administration, as well as turning out lights and so on, concluding this portion of his remarks by highlighting the provost's initiative in "e-learning."

The floor was then opened for comments. First, Marti Hope Gonzales informed the assembled company of the additional Senate meeting scheduled for March 25, at which the vote to declare fiscal stringency and therefore allow furloughs would be taken, and apologized that people hadn't been informed about this extra meeting sooner. Several people then spoke on various points, including William Messing, who deplored the unseemly cost of the president's office, the enormous salary disparities across the U, and the folly of propaganda campaigns (not his words) like Driven to Discover; he also called for opening the U's books. Others variously volunteered to be furloughed, discussed details of how a furlough would affect different employee groups, or pointed out the unique character of many of the U's programs and urged that criteria for determining what is essential and what can be cut are needed.

At that point Eva stood to make a statement to the following effect. 1) If we are to assent to a declaration of fiscal stringency, allowing the administration to impose mandatory furloughs, our decision must be an informed one; it cannot be now, because we do not have full information about how the U spends the resources at its disposal and we cannot have any confidence that the administration has indeed exhausted options for what to cut besides faculty and staff compensation. 2) We therefore call for an independent audit of the U administration and call for all budget information to be made openly available to the faculty and the general public, in advance of any vote on furloughs. 3) Before any such vote we need to know, furthermore, exactly what else it would empower the administration to do - for example, take back the 2% salary increase they have promised, some months ahead? 4) We do not want a 2% raise at the expense of our students or our colleagues. Rather, we assert that the temporary imposition of a sliding-scale salary cut for all University employees whose salaries are above a certain threshold would close the budget gap and make it unnecessary to furlough anyone or make any more cuts to the curriculum and programs that students were promised when they decided to come here. 5) We reject the idea that excellence can be achieved through excising elements of the body of knowledge and inquiry that constitute the University.


Bruce reinforced several of the points Eva made, in particular the need for faculty to have adequate information about university finances before any vote is taken, questioning whether this could be achieved before the scheduled March 25th vote, and suggesting that the whole process was revealing because it was consistent with the administration bringing proposals forward to which faculty are expected to give consent, rather than faculty having meaningful participation in developing proposals.

Several other people also spoke, including from coordinate campuses, again presenting a mix of attitudes: some are happy to sacrifice for the institution by taking furloughs; some think increasing compensation now makes no sense either in budgetary or public-relations terms; some wonder why furloughs, which require staff time and thus money to administer, would be a good plan for saving money.
Joe Konstan objected to the demand for budgetary transparency and faculty involvement in decision-making, stating that various senate committees had in fact been discussing these matters with the administration, and if any of us "wanted to get up to speed" we had only to read the committee minutes. To this Eva replied that the fact that a faculty committee had talked to the administration did not suffice to inform the faculty at large, much less the public at large, and most financial information remains completely inaccessible. An astronomer asked, "What exactly does it mean to close the campus? Will I be unable to get into my office? My lab? My e-mail?" and, met with silence, pressed repeatedly, "Does anybody have an answer?" but the best that was offered was Bruininks's assurance that they would produce an answer in the next few weeks. Another faculty member pointed out (reinforcing Eva's third point above) that faculty need to know what are the ramifications of the vote we are being asked to take at the hastily-called additional Senate meeting on March 25.

In transition to the next item on the agenda, Bruininks remarked that he'd have more to say about the matter of transparency since he thinks those who raised that issue are wrong.

Minnesota Faculty for the Renewal of Public Higher Education

A new blog has been started that is relevant to the mess that the Morrill Hall Gang has made of the University of Minnesota.

From:



RECLAIM THE U!

As the administration has come to dominate instead of to serve the university, intellectual and educational values have been displaced by market ones like "efficiency" and "productivity." Faculty and students have been commensurately marginalized in the governance of the institution. We do not say that the university ought to be inefficient or unproductive, but we do demand that values central to scholarly and scientific inquiry and education be restored to the center of the university's endeavors, including (indeed, especially) the management of its finances. Our efforts have a fivefold focus:

1. Governance. The university should be governed by those who carry out its mission of teaching, research, and public service. At present faculty have little meaningful role in making decisions that are handed down from central administration. This state of affairs results from manifold causes, faculty in generations gone by having ceded governance responsibilities to an ever-growing body of administrators. We the faculty must resume our proper role in making, rather than merely reacting to, the decisions that govern our work and our workplace.

2. Transparency in budgeting. The administration should make all information about the university's finances, including expenditures as well as revenue sources, readily available to the public in comprehensible form. At present it is difficult or even impossible to find out how the university spends most of the funds at its disposal, effectively prohibiting people without privileged access and knowledge from scrutinizing the administration's allocation of financial resources. (N.B.: All these resources are public funds once they enter the land-grant institution's coffers.) We recommend an independent audit to open the university's budget to such scrutiny.

3. Accountability for the administration. Every office within central administration should be required to provide to the public an account of what it does, what relation its work bears to the university's mission, and why it costs what it does.

4. Workload. The administration demands greater "productivity" from faculty and staff at the same time that it reduces the resources we need to produce anything and increases the burdens that hamper our work. If resources are withdrawn, our workload must be reduced, not increased. We do not want to do less teaching or less research, rather, we demand that unfunded mandates handed down by the administration be eliminated. Meanwhile, adequate support must be provided to enable efficient and productive work.

5. Integrity of the university. We reject the notion that the university can somehow achieve excellence by cutting programs, faculty positions, and curriculum. All disciplines and all modes of inquiry are interrelated, whether directly or distantly; to excise one element affects others, and ultimately damages the whole. This principle of intellectual integration is encapsulated in the motto of the University of Minnesota, commune vinculum omnibus artibus, which is a phrase derived from the argument of Cicero that the study of poetry is essential to a career in law. To unbind the arts from one another, as if any form of human inquiry can stand in isolation from every other, violates not merely the motto but the principle of the University's existence.

This document is not a result of a Morrill Hall directive and a list of deliverables.