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President Bruininks Throws in the Towel, Sort of...


Bob Bails

From a blanket campus email:

Dear Colleagues and Students,

For the past two years, I have said publicly that next year (the 2010-11 academic year) will be my last as president of the University of Minnesota. I have informed the Board of Regents that I intend to step down as president at the end of my current contract, which expires June 30, 2011. I have truly treasured this opportunity to serve for the past 13 years as provost and president, but I look forward to returning to the best job I have ever had at this great University--that of professor--and Susan and I look forward to pursuing our personal interests and spending time with family, including our grandchildren.

I made this announcement early to provide more time for planning this leadership transition. This is a time of substantial change and numerous challenges on our campuses statewide, and I believe that setting a clear direction for my own future will help the institution plan for its needs and priorities in the coming months.

[But not early enough. Given the financial disaster that will occur at the U coincident with the President leaving, this is an example of incredibly bad succession planning.]

On Thursday, May 13, the Board of Regents will convene a work session to discuss its plans for conducting the search for the next president of the University of Minnesota. It is the Board's responsibility to oversee and administer the search, which will be managed by the Board office. I am certain that many of you will be engaged in the process. This is a critically important opportunity to shape the University's future, and I encourage all of you to offer your best advice to the Regents as the search commences.

[My best advice is to get someone from outside. That is how the big boys and girls do it. But there is a soft underbelly of about 40 people with vice-president in their title who would probably prefer that an insider be picked, again.]

In the meantime, we have much to do, and I plan to work diligently with you to strengthen the academic mission and resources of the University, to finalize and approve a new budget, and to refine and begin to implement a long-term financial plan. During the next 14 months, my focus will continue to be on strengthening the University's academic excellence and financial vitality as outlined in this year's State of the University Address. We must set priorities, both locally and at the all-University level; reduce overhead and operating costs; improve service and productivity; redesign academic and support programs and services; and eliminate activities that are not producing significant return on investment in terms of the University's core academic mission of education, research, and outreach. The changes we have yet to make are neither easy nor obvious and will require all of us to be fully engaged in making decisions that advance the University of Minnesota as a whole--as an academic community and a statewide system.

[Rather hard to engage the academic community and the legislature as a lame duck president?]

We also have other significant changes to manage--including the transitions of Senior Vice President Frank Cerra and University of Minnesota Duluth Chancellor Kathryn Martin, as well as the departure of Vice President Rusty Barcelo to become a college president. With regard to these changes, I will work to maintain strong leadership for our public mission while ensuring that my successor has an appropriate level of engagement and flexibility in shaping the University's senior management team.

[These are contradictory statements. You should not be involved with the replacement of Frank Cerra. This should be the responsibility of the next president as he or she will have to work with this replacement and you will not.]

I take pride in what we have accomplished together. I want to thank you all--faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and Regents--for your hard work, especially in these challenging times, and for your continued support of the University of Minnesota. All of you continue to make the University of Minnesota one of the best public research and land-grant university systems in the world.

[Bob, this last statement is an example of the hubris that has gotten us in trouble in the first place. My hope is that we be one of the best schools in the BigTen. You've called me a "doubter" for saying this. Wake up. I think most of the people in the state would endorse such a goal and try to help us in achieving it. Your "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top public research universities in the world [sic]" are a major reason why we are in the mess we're in. Time to start taking care of business in the here and now?]


Robert H. Bruininks

I sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement, President Bruininks. It is several years overdue.

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