Forty People at the President's Open Forum?
I wasn't there myself so perhaps criticism is unfair. Certainly if I were on campus I would have been there and asked questions.
But from what I've seen in the Daily report of the event, I'm disappointed:
"Faculty, staff and students had one hour Thursday to question the president."
That's not really very much time, given that President Bruininks' specialty is killing the clock.
"Clarifying previous statements, defending recent decisions and asking for collaboration, University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks fielded questions before an audience of about 40 people Thursday."40 people? Third greatest yadda, yadda? In your dreams.
"The crowd's critical statements and questions were met with equally passionate answers that had Bruininks leaning forward in his chair in Coffman Memorial Union's theater and talking about finding common ground."At least it sound like those who were there gave President Bruininks an earful. And I'd like to point out that finding common ground does not mean "my way or the highway" which is the management philosophy of the Morrill Hall Gang.
"It seems to me that open conversation spiced with passion and some controversy is indicative of a healthy institution," said Karen Himle, vice president for University Relations and the forum's mediator.
I am a big fan of Ms. Himle. She is intelligent and brings a certain amount of class to the U's PR efforts. Unfortunately passion and controversy could also be a description of a pro wrassling match. NOT necessarily indicative of a healthy institution!
"Faculty asked the president how he could ensure that the University wasn't "recklessly" spending money on non-academic activities like athletics. This led into questions of how the University evaluates programs to determine which can be eliminated in the near future.
Bruininks responded with a challenge to University faculty and staff to involve themselves in the task of cutting the "bloat" from the University's budget."
Bloat, Bob? Surely you jest. What some people might call bloat is what you call investment. I won't even go in detail into the absurdity of a statement like this. The stadium. The cultural czar. MoreU Park. Unnecessary buildings. The list goes on.
"Certainly it's preferable ... for academic units to examine their own missions to decide what we may be able to eliminate rather than having the administration do it from the top down," professor Eva von Dassow said. "But after years of cuts, you're essentially asking us which of our body parts we can amputate."
Well said, Professor von Dassow. We need more people like you.
Yes, the Morrill Hall Gang likes to spend money on what they consider to be good investments. Then they can take credit for new buildings and revamping the undergraduate experience and such-like. Let the groundlings do the cutting, there is no glory in that. We'll cut your budget by x% and you figure out how to do it? That's real leadership, Mr. President? Not.
"She, on behalf of a number of faculty, said they would like to see the central administration experience cuts first."
"I don't have a problem looking at central administration," Bruininks said.
Mr. President, this simply won't do. You have been saying this for years. Show us you're really serious. Do we need a cultural czar? There is an easy cut of ONE MILLION DOLLARS in the medical school administration, alone. Walk the talk.
"I welcome the debate," he said. "I'm going to be around here for 14 months, and until the last day I'm going to be working on these issues."
Poor succession planning is a big part of the problem. We should not be simultaneously replacing the president and going over a financial cliff. This is incredibly bad timing. And the president would do best - if we are able to hire a new one by the next legislative session - to step back and stay out of the way. Enough damage has already been done.
And let's get someone from outside who has a fresh perspective on things and demonstrated leadership skills. As a colleague at another institution who is on a presidential search committee put it: The most important qualification is integrity.
To make the same mistake twice at the University of Minnesota would be inexcusable.
"Diane Odash, a College of Liberal Arts teaching specialist, asked Bruininks to address comments he made at a March 25 Faculty Senate meeting. She said the remarks made it appear that he favored higher-paid staff over the rest, which justified a flat 1.15 percent pay cut instead of a scale cut. Bruininks denied that interpretation."
"If you knew anything about me, you'd know that was very far off the mark," he said.
I simply don't understand this response. Despite Bruninks' claim his plan is in fact what is called a flat tax. This is widely acknowledged as being unfair to those on the lower end of the economic totem poll. To claim that his solution is progressive - which he did in his interview with the Daily - is absurd.
"Bruininks said recent attacks on University students were "dramatic" and "disturbing," but noted that crime rates are actually decreasing. Still, he said safety remains a high priority and the continued partnership with surrounding neighborhoods is a step in the right direction."
Mr. President, once again, you just don't get it. To note that crime rates are actually decreasing simply indicates how little you understand about public perceptions of potential danger of being a student at the U. When someone gets shot right in front of a well-lit university dorm, knowing that the crime rate is really decreasing is not very helpful.
"He also addressed Minnesota Student Association 's desire to see student participation similar to that at the University of Wisconsin. In that system, a legislative policy called shared governance places students in some non-standing university committees, ensuring they have input in major decisions."
"Bruininks said he believes students have an active voice on campus and would support improvements, though he thinks the University can handle that on its own rather than doing it through legislation."
Mr. President, once again your position is absurd. You've admitted that the Wisconsin system is a good one and that it does, in fact, ensure that students have input in major decisions. That is not the case here at Minnesota now and you know it.
Why does the legislative option scare you so much? For the same reason that you settled the light rail situation punkt when the legislature threatened to step in with eminent domain?
I keep hoping against hope, Mr. President, that you will see the light some day.