« July 2010 | Main | September 2010 »

August 24, 2010

The Farce That is Faculty Governance in the AHC Continues


Faculty Consultative Committee
Thursday, August 12, 2010
1:00 - 3:00
238A Morrill Hall

Professor Campbell commented that the timing of the adoption of Appendix A was confusing.

Faculty in the Academic Health Center had received an email message that the Appendix had gone through the 30-day consultation period, but no one knew anything about it.

He said that the Appendix had not been brought to the Academic Health Center Faculty Consultative committee and that he did not know with whom there had been consultation.

Ms. Zentner said she had not been involved in the consultative process that took place in the AHC regarding the Appendix but understood that Dr. Cerra had met with the deans, who in turn were to have taken the Appendix to their schools for consultation. He then met with the deans again.

Professor Campbell said the process had been unsatisfactory.

It is not consultation if Dr. Cerra talked only to the deans, after which all the faculty receive an email saying the 30-day comment period had ended.

He said he did not blame Vice President Brown or Ms. Zentner but observed that only a small group in the Academic Health Center had seen the Appendix before it was put in place. That is not usually the way the University operates, he commented.

Vice President Brown agreed Professor Campbell's criticism was fair
and pointed out that the document can be changed in the future as the need arises.

Professor Luepker noted that he is a faculty member in the Academic Health Center and had not seen Appendix A prior to its adoption; it appears the faculty were not consulted, he said.

Professor Curley said, apropos of Professor Campbell's comments, that it is a matter of concern if Academic Health Center faculty have not seen Appendix A. When the policy comes to the University Senate, will Appendix A be a part of it? Vice President Brown said they can be separated and that she did not want controversy about Appendix A to serve as a bar to adoption of the institutional policy as laid out in the main document.

But what happens when there is a direct disagreement about the application of a term or phrase in the policy, Professor Hancher asked? The policy will not be "policed," Vice President Brown said. If a question about COI arises, it will go to one of the COI committees, where there will be discussion and the issue worked out.

The behavior of the University of Minnesota administration in this case is just one further example of the farce that is faculty governance. Sad.

Making a Killing - The Death of Dan Markingson


From Mother Jones:

(to appear in September 2010 issues)

Clinical trials have become marketing exercises for Big Pharama- and cash-strapped universities are helping make the sale. Too bad for Dan Markingson.

It's not easy to work up a good feeling about the institution that destroyed your life, which may be why Mary Weiss initially seemed a little reluctant to meet me. "You can understand my hesitation to look other than with suspicion at anyone associated with the University of Minnesota," Mary wrote to me in an email. In 2003, Mary's 26-year-old son, Dan, was enrolled against her wishes in a psychiatric drug study at the University of Minnesota, where I teach medical ethics. Less than six months later, Dan was dead. I'd learned about his death from a deeply unsettling newspaper series by St. Paul Pioneer Press reporters Jeremy Olson and Paul Tosto that suggested he was coerced into a pharmaceutical-industry study from which the university stood to profit, but which provided him with inadequate care. Over the next few months, I talked to several university colleagues and administrators, trying to learn what had happened. Many of them dismissed the story as slanted and incomplete. Yet the more I examined the medical and court records, the more I became convinced that the problem was worse than the Pioneer Press had reported. The danger lies not just in the particular circumstances that led to Dan's death, but in a system of clinical research that has been thoroughly co-opted by market forces, so that many studies have become little more than covert instruments for promoting drugs.The study in which Dan died starkly illustrates the hazards of market-driven research and the inadequacy of our current oversight system to detect them. >

---------------------Article continues------------------

The complete article may be downloaded here.

In the event this link no longer works.


August 17, 2010

Third greatest public university in the universe?


Not this year...

From USNEWS (2011 Rankings)

Best Colleges: Top Public Schools: National Universities

University of California--Berkeley
Berkeley, CA

University of California--Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA

University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

University of Michigan--Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC

College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA

Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA

University of California--San Diego
La Jolla, CA

University of California--Davis
Davis, CA

University of California--Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA

University of California--Irvine
Irvine, CA

University of Washington
Seattle, WA

University of Texas--Austin
Austin, TX

University of Wisconsin--Madison
Madison, WI

Pennsylvania State University--University Park
University Park, PA

University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign
Champaign, IL

University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

Ohio State University--Columbus

Columbus, OH

Purdue University--West Lafayette
West Lafayette, IN

University of Georgia
Athens, GA

University of Maryland--College Park
College Park, MD

Texas A&M University--College Station
College Station, TX

Clemson University
Clemson, SC

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey--New Brunswick
Piscataway, NJ

University of Minnesota--Twin Cities
Minneapolis, MN


University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA

Maybe we could shoot for being in the top half of the BigTen?

Those of us who proposed this some time ago were characterized as "doubters" by the Morrill Hall Gang...

Tweet from our former president, Mark Yudof:

Congratulations Berkeley, nation's top-ranked public university per USNews. Five UCs among the top 10 publics: UCLA, UCSD, UCD, UCSB, UCI.

Time to stop the baloney slicing in Morrill Hall? Time to be honest, get real, and get back to the business of being a true land grant institution? Time for new leadership and not simply a continuation of business as usual in Morrill Hall by another internal hire?

Recall the hubris:

"Serving Minnesota Through World-Class Greatness."

"Starting in 2004, the University began the first comprehensive strategic planning process it had undergone in almost 15 years. Under the leadership of Provost Sullivan, the University community articulated an ambitious aspiration for the University--to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic] within a decade."

August 15, 2010

The Problem with iCollege

iCollege is all the rage, no thanks to our absentee governor.

Professor Fogarty at St. Kates has an op-ed on the matter in today's Strib. Margaret Soltan at GWU has commented on this excellent piece. And I've excerpted them both on the Periodic Table. Below is a down loadable pdf of the post:


August 14, 2010

New Post Up on Community Voices at the Star Tribune


What Portion of Educational Costs Is Covered By Tuition at University of Minnesota?
| StarTribune.com http://bit.ly/cDhKOd #UMN #Minnesota


Related to this post is an earlier one on UThink:

Letter from Lake Wobegon U

From that post:


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

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

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

University of Minnesota Defends Conflicts Policy

From Pharmalot:

Last week, the University of Minnesota finally released its long-awaited conflicts of interest policy

But some present and former faculty argue the rules come up short. They say the new policy lacks sanctions; there is no ban on consulting fees; there is no requirement for public disclosure of ties or holdings that may represent a conflict, and industry-funded continuing medical education is permitted, despite proposals to eliminate such financing.

"Read the fine print,"
says Bill Gleason, an associate professor [in the medical school], who has blogged about the process (take a look). "This is not the cutting edge policy they talked about."

And Gary Schwitzer, a former associate professor the in School of Journalism and Mass Commucniaton, and former director of the Health Journalism graduate program, says "there was an opportunity to be a world-class leader. This is not world class."

The initiative has been controversial from the start. For instance, a professor who initially led the effort was disciplined in 2004 for secretly steering a $501,000 research grant to his own company. Leo Furcht was reprimanded for a "serious violation" of university conflict-of-interest policies in connection with a grant from Baxter Healthcare for stem cell research at the meed school. Interestingly, the med school dean chose him because of his transgression. "That seemed to me to be a compelling reason to appoint him to that role," she said (see here).

And late last year, two committee members were found to have ties to drug or device makers. One was Scott Crow, a professor in the medical school's psychiatry department, who reportedly received about $273,000 from various drugmakers between 2002 and 2008. Another was David Polly, a nationally known spine surgeon at the university who was under fire for his consulting relationship with Medtronic (back story).

He [General Counsel, Mark Rotenberg] says the effort took as long as it did because officials belatedly decided the policy should encompass the entire university, not just the med school and related health centers.

He also maintains sanctions will be in place when the policy is finally adopted later this year and punishments will vary according to "workforce classifications," although he could not offer specific examples of any proposed disciplinary measures.

He then argues that a state law, the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, prevents state government employers, such as the university, from requiring its state employees to disclose certain private info.

[You wouldn't want to go over to the State Legislature and get that fixed, Mr. Rotenberg?]

And what about CME?

"The general practice, to our knowledge, at most major academic medical centers is to allow other entities to support CME, but they have certain limitations. We know the University of Michigan has just decided to bar that support entirely. But we don't believe that's necessary to ensure integrity and transparency of our research and teaching."

[That's a comfort... Trust us? After all that has happened? Why, Mr. Rotenberg, why?]

His remarks concerning CME suggest there will be no changes to this portion of the policy and, of course, the details regarding violations are likely to be closely scrutinized, given the history of undisclosed conflicts - such as the psychiatry chair who promoted Seroquel as better than other drugs in its kind, despite data showing no such evidence existed, and while he consulted for AstraZeneca, the manufacturer.

So expect the criticism to continue when the university re-opens for business at the start of the fall semester and faculty return. As one faculty member noted, the policy was disclosed in the middle of the summer when faculty are mostly absent, which was perhaps an effort to blunt criticism and further negative publicity.

Governor Pawlenty's former chief of staff bails at U in less than a year

Academic and Corporation Relations Center

Director Kramer Bails in less than a year -

Leaving University of Minnesota

With Egg on Face After

Contra-(hiring freeze) Hire...

About a year ago, in the midst of a hiring freeze - or is that pause? - the U of M took aboard another poor ship-wrecked Pawlenty person.

For background, please see my post of about a year ago: "If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em."

From MedCity News:

Kramer's exit from the University of Minnesota
raises tricky questions

In the end, Matt Kramer's departure from the University of Minnesota was a lot more low key than his hiring less than a year ago.

[not with a bang, but a whimper]

With great fanfare, the school had hired Kramer in July 2009 to run what was then known as the Academic and Corporate Relations Center. The university had good reason to crow: at the time, Kramer was chief of staff to Gov. Tim Pawlenty and a former commissioner of the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

Eleven months later, Kramer bolted the university to become president of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. In truth, Kramer was already thinking about his departure last December, a mere five months on the job, after a recruiter contacted him about the St. Paul job.

[Sounds like a Pawlenty sort of guy. It is all about ME.]

In an interview, Kramer said he enjoyed his time [and his salary?] at the university but needed to seize a "great opportunity" in St. Paul. Through his brief tenure, Kramer said he helped establish a firm foundation for the school to build upon.

[Uh, huh... as Ray Charles would say]

As Kramer himself noted, at the university, he was one person trying to carry out a mission in a large institution full of missions.

But "in St. Paul, I am the mission," Kramer said.

And the university's relationship with the business community still remains very much a work in progress. In my previous interview, I asked whether the school had made any progress in that area.

"I can't really answer that question,"
Kramer said at the time. "I've only been here six or seven months. We are starting to make a difference. It's a start. If I had to measure, we went from here beneath my shoe to a little bit up."

[Firm foundation? Ya, fersure.]

New Paradigms in Adminspeak

Our Provost is a master of adminspeak. My favorite example of his prowess in this area:

"Our fundamental mission as a University must be deployed in service of the broader transnational learning process."

For more of the same, please see: "Hiring Pause, Thinking Freeze."

The Times Higher Ed has a good time with adminspeak:

Mary Evans laments the growing use of 'university-speak' in the academy - otherwise known as a part of the 'knowledge economy'

Navigating the bog of "robust policies", "dynamic research" and "developing the enhancement agenda already under way" (all recent examples of current university-speak) adds a new demand to academic life: the ability to continue to wage what Martin Amis has described as the "war against cliché".

Of these clichés, the "knowledge economy", the value of "private" money in higher education and the centrality of "skills" to the university curriculum are among the most pervasive. The idea of the "knowledge economy" has now become a defining sentence in university creeds: it is an assumption that has acquired an almost religious authority. But if we consider it for a moment, we have to ask about the understanding of history and social change that informs this idea: do those who believe in the "knowledge economy" seriously think that pre-industrial societies had no knowledge, or that the incremental accumulation of knowledge (and particularly technological knowledge) is synonymous with human progress and emancipation?

Yet every time a vice-chancellor trots out the graduation ceremony litany of "going out equipped with the necessary skills for the knowledge society", a picture of the past as lacking in skills and knowledge is enforced, a picture that both obscures much between Plato and NATO and reinforces the view that only contemporary (and Western) knowledge is of any use.

As universities increasingly surround higher education with clichés about skills and the knowledge economy, so they distance themselves from an ideal of passionate involvement with ideas that should be at the heart of the academy.

Students and staff often long for precisely this kind of message about higher education, yet instead we are fed empty slogans that diminish and curtail the very possibilities of universities.

Amen, Mary.

True Cost of Education at a Research University

Bob Samuels - who is at UCLA - has an interesting piece on the above topic. It is something that I have been harping on for some time. See for example: "Dirty Little Secret Finally Acknowledged Research Funding From Outside Federal Grants
Requires Additional Subsidy."

From the Samuels piece:

As I have argued elsewhere, the problem is not that the universities have taken on many different functions; the issue is that these institutions engage in false and misleading accounting practices that result in escalating costs and decreased educational quality.

For example, most schools argue that they lose money on each student because the true cost of education is much higher than the price of admission; however, when universities make this claim, they are secretly arguing that everything a university does should be paid for by each undergraduate student.

By concentrating on the true instructional cost, I have argued that universities could easily freeze tuition and increase enrollments and still turn a nice profit,
but in order to do this, schools have to be honest about how they spend their money.

Since schools do not want to acknowledge that undergraduate students subsidize external research, they end up secretly stealing money from instruction to pay for research and administration. For instance, the University of California currently receives $10,000 from each undergrad and $14,000 from the state for each student, but only $5,000 of this amount goes to instructional costs. This means that the majority of undergraduate funds goes to pay for research, administration, and other activities that are not directly related to undergraduate education. In other words, undergraduate students and the state are unknowingly subsidizing the research mission.

Say it isn't so, Mr. President and Mr. Pfutzenreuter.

Please show us the true cost of undergraduate education at the U. I know it may be difficult, but please make an honest attempt and put the numbers out for all to see in a way that can be understood, discussed, and argued about.

This is what is called transparency or being open. Recall your own words, Mr. President?



The Shanghai world university rankings are out. (post at other site)

These rankings are the favorite of our provost.

Unfortunately it is almost impossible to get on the website to check them out, but the good folks at Wikipedia have the new numbers posted along with a table that contains results for the last ten years for the top one hundred universities.

[They initially had Penn State listed at 15, which must have raised a lot of eyebrows. Number has been fixed.]


To summarize: not much has changed in the rankings.

When dead Nobel Prize winners factor into the rankings there is a certain amount of inertia. Ancestor worship is very important in Shanghai.

August 6, 2010

The Ten Worst University Endowment Managers


The Daily has quite an amazing story about how badly the University of Minnesota endowment has tanked. I've got a commentary up on that piece at the Periodic Table.

We are actually in the big leagues as far as losing money goes:

The 20 Worst Managed Endowments

1) Harvard, down 30% and $10.9 billion

2) Yale, down 29% and $6.5 billion

3) Duke, down 28% and $1.7 billion

4) Brown, down 27% and $730 million

5) Syracuse, down 33% and $327 million

6) University of Minnesota, down 27% and $312 million

August 5, 2010

New Conflict of Interest Policy at Academic Health Center

Strib article - states the policy went into effect - yesterday!

Link on U's web site

Down loadable pdf of policy:


August 3, 2010

Alumni Blues

So there is an article in the Strib today about the U of M alumni association and the trouble it is having connecting with new graduates. It is written by one of our own, Jenna Ross, who is a J-school and Daily product.

From the article:

Alumni blues: Grads aren't lining up for Ski-U-Mah

The University of Minnesota's alumni association is getting creative in its efforts to reach younger grads. But it's a tough sell.

But it is the comments on the article that are scary. We have a problem folks. And all the caterwauling about third greatest yadda, yadda, is not going to get us out of it.

There is going to have to be a fundamental change in attitude in Morrill Hall. It is not the fault of the alumni association that people feel this way. And the improvements that need to be made so that the alumni association is going to be able to recruit more heavily - which is necessary - are not going to be made by the association.

Selections from the comments:

Could it be that recent grads are working for minimum wage and can barely pay student loans? Old alumni felt a bond to their alma mater that was forged in memories and education. Now it is forged in interest rates. Is anyone surprised participation in alumni events is low?

I'm 39 and think I paid too much.

Student Loans Have Been A Disastrous Way To Fund Higher Education This whole system needs to be re-worked.

My daughter just completed her BA at the U after five years with majors in Global Studies and Political Science and a minor in Econ. She received a good education but is resentful that each year she was there tuition rose anywhere from 10 to 15% each year without a corresponding value in her degree.

I graduated decades ago but I vividly remember having the distinct impression the college was soaking me for all I was worth, and then some. combine that with how utterly useless their placement office was and the result is NO desire WHATSOEVER to send them money, and no warm fuzzy feelings either.

Eight out of 10 graduates under age 35 feel they've already paid too much in tuition to donate to their alma mater and are up to their ears in loans paying off that tuition.. OK, let's see - pay off the money the U loaned to you and took in tuition and general fees and lab fees and ads and parking tickets, or give the U more money..

I will become a member when they can convince the other alumni to stand and cheer at football games like the fans from WI or IA!

I Survived the U and Want nothing more to do with it
I graduated despite the best efforts of the U. I graduated and never looked back. It will be a cold day before they get another dollar out of me. I have made sure that all three of my kids have gone anywhere but the U.

This is some sort of surprise? The reason is pretty clear.... They may not think that their degree was worth the tuition and effort it took to complete it. There may be some marketing efforts that could help the U increase the amount of contributions it gets but overall I think the real story is that college grads especially in that age range feel they haven't gotten their end of the bargain yet.

Lower rating than Congress: After read all of the posts, I have concluded that the U of M has a lower approval rating than the United States Congress. I did not think that was possible.

I have a degree from the University of Minnesota and I am proud of that fact. I worked hard for the degree and paid a great deal of money to attend the school. That said, the "college experience" at the U of M will be remembered as cold, bureaucratic, impersonal, and hardly worth any monetary contribution beyond my tax dollar.

I realize now I am not the only one frustrated with the U of MN. I was elated to go to the U of MN, my mom went there, my sister, and my brother too. For us it was more of a family thing, a proud tradition. Unfortunately; unless you're Greek, it is a cold, anti-social environment. I don't blame the U, per se, but the student morale there is dismal. There is no pride in attending the U... crappy sports teams might be a reason, tuition hikes every year, thousand dollar classes taught by an imbecile TA, or a professor whose accent is so thick you can't understand a word they say (and I speak four languages).

As a current student
... I'm just waiting for the association to not give me a choice in the matter, but to add another "fee" on to my tuition to cover the cost of membership. How is the following even possible (see below)? Why don't they just call it all what it is - tuition! $1044.36 in mandatory "fees" every semester - this is disgusting... Undergraduate Tuition: $4,560.00 University Fee: $600.00 Student Services: $348.41 CCE Collegiate Fee: $38.00 Capital Enhancement Fee: $25.00 Transportation Fee: $17.00 Stadium Fee: $12.50 MN Student Assoc Fee: $2.26 Council of College Boards Fee: $1.19

I agree with mckensm0 - I also went to the U, and am constantly barraged by emails and calls asking for more money. It is a huge, cold and uncaring place. They raised my tuition for the football stadium that I will never visit, among many, many other things. The alumni association is nothing but a business to increase their revenue - nothing else. As if they haven't taken enough from me.

Comment about tuition only paying for 20% of the U's operating budget seems a little misleading. Although it is true, there are many things unconnected to expenses for the education of students that go into the U's operating budget. I've been trying for years to get a number out of the administration for the actual cost of educating an undergrad for one year at the U. No dice, so far. BUT they are now claiming that the bargain basement - not reciprocity - cost to out of state residents covers the FULL cost of education. This means that in state tuition plus about twenty percent is the true cost according to the admin. The state gives in support of the U about the same amount of money as tuition revenue. This should be more than enough to make up the 20%. In the end if the U wants to regain the trust of the citizens and the alums, more transparency and different priorities are in order.

Any alum's beef may be first and foremost with the administration and the Board of Regents, but in my experience the alumni association has been little more than a mouthpiece for the administration, trying to move alumni to back the administration's goals. It has never served as an honest sounding board to solicit and consider the views of alumni. Perhaps if it did, both it and the U would garner more support

The first step toward solving a problem is to recognize that you have one. If remarks like those above don't convince the Morrill Hall Gang that we have a problem, then I don't know what it is going to take. Of course remarks like these are nothing new. They have been blown off for years by the MHG.

August 1, 2010

The Academic-Industrial Complex

The University of Minnesota recently had a sitting dean of the medical school on the board of Pepsi (I know that is hard to believe), so today's article in the New York Times is very relevant:

While academics can often bring fresh perspectives, managerial experience and the imprimatur of a respected institution to a board, they are also serving in an era when corporations wrestling with fallout from the financial crisis (think Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs) or very public mishaps (think BP, Johnson & Johnson and Toyota) have raised the stakes for board members expected to guide corporations.

Some analysts worry that academics are possibly imperiling or compromising the independence of their universities when they venture onto boards. Others question whether scholars have the time -- and financial sophistication -- needed to police the country's biggest corporations while simultaneously juggling the demands of running a large university.

According to James H. Finkelstein, a professor in the George Mason School of Public Policy, probably the biggest reason companies have sought out academics is the prestige they bring. Universities are among the few institutions trusted by the public, he says, and companies believe they can associate themselves with this quality by installing an academic on the board.

John Gillespie, who has written a book on corporate boards, "Money for Nothing," says academics are often selected for another reason -- because they are less likely to rock the boat than directors from the business world.