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April 23, 2011

For the record: Chair of Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee to AAUP President

Subject: Re: Academic freedom & tenure committee discussion
From: Barbara Elliott

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2011 15:05:22 -0500

Cc: Carl Elliott ,
S Charles Schulz ,
Aaron Friedman ,
R Mulcahy ,
""AF+T" >" ,
Kathryn VandenBosch ,
Christopher Cramer ,
Gary Engstrand
To: Naomi Scheman

Dear Professor Scheman--

Thank you for your interest in AF+T's work--and attending our meeting this morning. I do understand how our work and our minutes would be of interest to you. As reflected in our committee charge, we consider a broad range of policy issues related to academic freedom and to tenure rules.

As was discussed specifically this morning, the question we have been asked to address regarding the issues you raise in your email, is whether the exercise of academic freedom by some individuals may silence (and therefore implicate the academic freedom of) others, and what responsibilities we have as an institution and as faculty to assure that all voices are heard (none are silenced) and that ideas (not people) are the focus of interest. We do not and have not made presumptions or judgments about particular cases or the circumstances of particular cases.

Whatever continuing discussions ensue regarding the question brought to us by FCC, which solicited the question from the General Counsel, will of course focus in ways consistent with our charge--on the policy concerns, not on individual cases.

[BTW--consistent with my commitment to transparency, I am copying the AF+T committee members as well as Drs. Elliott and Schulz on this email.]

For the record: AAUP Chapter President to Chair of Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee

On Apr 20, 2011, at 9:51 PM, Naomi Scheman wrote:

Dear Professor Elliott,

I'm writing as the president of the University's AAUP chapter to
convey a concern about the Committee's discussion of issues arising
from the Markingson case. It is unclear what the academic freedom
issues are, since, one would assume, defamatory speech is not
protected and non-defamatory speech is.
The questions at issue in this
case turn on whether what has been reported is, in fact, defamatory;
and a necessary first step in determining that is determining whether
what was reported is or is not true. What we have at this point are
two conflicting claims about that question. What I find disturbing is
that some of the discussion at the last meeting seemed to be presuming
that the claims made against the researchers were false; but the
committee cannot work on that highly prejudicial presumption-- it is
precisely what is at issue in the case.

I understand that the general questions raised by this case (whatever
they might be) are to be taken up again by the committee, and I trust
that, as chair of the committee, you will be careful that there is not
a presumption being made about the truth or falsity of the charges in
this particular case.


Naomi Scheman
Professor of Philosophy
President, University of Minnesota chapter of the AAUP

April 22, 2011

Another Disturbing Discussion - Senate Commitee on Academic Freedom and Tenure

Added later:

A careful reading of this discussion is sickening. Yesterday, Good Friday, the next in the series of meetings of this committee took place. Preliminary accounts indicate that a forceful attack took place on some of the positions related below. Hopefully this discussion will be included in the meeting minutes when released. They will be posted on this site when available.

Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee
Friday, April 8, 2011

2. Academic Freedom and Allegations Against Faculty Members

Professor Elliott welcomed Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy to the meeting to help the Committee discuss a question framed by General Counsel Mark Rotenberg and referred to this Committee by the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC): What is the faculty collective role in addressing factually-incorrect attacks on particular University faculty research activities? The question arose in the context of the case of the young man who committed suicide while participating in a clinical trial, Professor Elliott noted, and Committee members had been provided with materials related to the case as background, including the letter from the bioethicists to the Board of Regents and the responses to it from Regent Allen, General Counsel Rotenberg, and Vice President Friedman.

Professor Gaugler inquired what this issue had to do with academic freedom.
Is it not an ethical question, rather than academic freedom? And if so, why is it before this Committee? If he were accused of doing something wrong in his job, and exonerated, but continued to be accused, what should he do, Professor McLoon asked? It is a question of the limits of academic freedom, Professor Elliott said, the notion that one can continue to pursue an idea but not to the point of defaming someone. In part the Committee is also addressing the question because it was asked to do so by FCC.

Professor Gaugler said that it is his take that the letter from the faculty members to the Board of Regents, asking that the case be reopened, was based on a lack of information, given the response of General Counsel Mark Rotenberg, and was not defamation. The events have included continuing publications with factually incorrect information in the media since the Regents,' General Counsel Rotenberg's, and Vice President Friedman's responses, Professor Elliott responded.

Vice President Mulcahy said that he presumed the reason he and Vice President Friedman were at the meeting was because of the circumstances surrounding this particular case. He has given thought to what happened, he related, and from his perspective, this event--seven years ago--was dealt with appropriately by the University, by the legal system, and by the medical system. Where academic freedom comes into play, he said, is that others are free to formulate positions even after the results of the various evaluations. He said he viewed the letter from the bioethicists as a legitimate expression of concern that disagreed with the record and said they have the right to express those views. It is uncomfortable for the University, makes it more difficult to conduct research, and is unfair to the faculty members accused, but it is a part of academic freedom.

Dr. Mulcahy said he has heard General Counsel Rotenberg talk about academic freedom, and Mr. Rotenberg has made the point that academic freedom is not boundless and it does run up to legal boundaries (e.g., defamation). Dr. Mulcahy said that he is not a lawyer so cannot comment on whether what has been said is defamation, but the point is that one cannot defame another and rely on academic freedom for protection from consequences. His view is that the statements that have been made are not legally defamation, and even though they make people uncomfortable, they must defend the right of those who make the statements to do so.

His role, and that of the University, Dr. Mulcahy said, is to be responsible for putting out the facts and letting reasonable people decide. There was a presumption the administration should respond to the charges; his view is that academic freedom should level the playing field for controversial issues and that faculty members should respond when alternative interpretations or positions are espoused by their colleagues. They wanted to defend the University, and the academic-freedom message is important, and Professor McLoon's point is also important: How would one feel if constantly put in a poor light, with academic freedom protecting those casting aspersions? Members of the faculty must play a role in responding to criticisms of other faculty or their academic work, he said. The University has an obligation to put the facts into play.

This is academic freedom, Dr. Mulcahy concluded. There is criticism of some part of the University enterprise; faculty members have the right to make those criticisms but it is also a faculty responsibility to respond. The University can only do so much, and few take his word for things because he's an administrator. Faculty views will be taken much more seriously. There is academic freedom in both directions; people can make statements and others can counter them, as long as neither side runs up against the legal limits on academic freedom.

Vice President Friedman said that there are two issues at hand. One, was the process appropriate? One of the complaints is that it was not. The University's position--and it is responsible for process--is that there were X number of investigations conducted from outside the University that reached conclusions, so the claim that it was a whitewash are not accurate. Two, there is a continuing examination of a set of faculty members, and one question is whether the IRB is good enough to protect human subjects. The claim is made that it is not. The University, however, has a large number of tenured faculty members on the IRB; the claim is that they are not good enough to protect human subjects. The faculty members on the IRB should say that is not true. If the University says the process works, that is seen as the University defending its position. If the faculty members on the IRB say so, that statement goes into the marketplace. It is not only a question of what to do when faculty members take on other faculty members, it is a question of what to do when faculty members take on other faculty members and do not like the outcome. This has dragged on for a number of years, and the position taken by the faculty members on the IRB is more important than what University administrators may say.

Professor Abul-Hajj commented that faculty members read about these issues and say that it is the opinion of those individuals, but most faculty members will say it is not their responsibility to get involved. They will say those faculty members have the right to speak their minds, but most will not spend hours responding.

Dr. Mulcahy agreed and said it was not incumbent on any faculty member to invest time to develop and publish an opinion. But there are subsets of faculty members who could, such as those on the IRB who are aware of the history--they could be vocal. The point about academic freedom was well made: In the court of public opinion, faculty debating with faculty is very different from University administrators with vested interests, who are seen as taking a defensive position. With faculty members who have less of a vested interest, there can be academic dispute. Professor Abul-Hajj suggested that the Academic Health Center FCC could look at the issues and response on behalf of the AHC faculty.

Perhaps this has to do with IRB policy, Professor Loken said, not the IRB faculty, and perhaps policy could be reconsidered. It might not be faculty versus faculty but rather faculty versus policy. Vice President Mulcahy said what he deals with most frequently in his position is faculty versus policy, and there are legitimate issues in many cases. In this case, however, it is not IRB policy. There was a statement made that the IRB is not providing adequate protection to human subjects and that there was a need for outside review. The University participates in a rigorous IRB accrediting process and has gone through it three times; the University's program is recognized as one of the best in the country. When the attack is on practice, that is different from a dialogue about policy, but the University has been told by an external group that it has an excellent program. This case goes beyond policy. Dr. Mulcahy said he has seen cases elsewhere where, after lengthy review, a faculty member is exonerated; the federal government requires in those cases that institutions do all they can to protect the reputation of the accused. The faculty members involved in the case here have been exonerated over and over again and the University is obligated to defend them. That is why the message from Vice President Friedman is important: It points out that the faculty members have been exonerated and they should not be bothered further about the case.

What have been the responses to the message Dr. Friedman sent to the AHC faculty on this issue, Professor Elliott inquired? With one exception, he has received a "thank you" from the investigators and support for his position, but nothing beyond emails sent to him. The University took a position: Enough is enough. For whatever reasons, that is insufficient for some. And there is the attitude out there: "I don't have a dog in this fight and I'm not going to get involved."

Professor Gaugler said that he has read a considerable amount about the case, as an individual faculty member, and then saw the responses from Regent Allen and Mr. Rotenberg. He is not willing to go on blogs and get in the muck, but the responses gave him some understanding of the history and particulars of the case.

Dr. Friedman said that the individual faculty members who have been through this scrutiny--he has spent time talking with them--did not hear from other faculty members on the campus until they wrote the letters. They were unclear where the rest of their colleagues stood. He and Vice President Mulcahy spent a lot of time in the public arena on this matter. There were no new facts in the last two years, but the accused faculty members were bombarded by the media without any indication of faculty support. Academic freedom is not only the freedom to complain but also the opportunity to support fellow faculty members.

Professor Gaugler said this is an issue of the environment in academe: When a faculty member is under investigation, other faculty members keep their distance. This is true across the country. No one wants to touch the issue. Professor Elliott agreed and said there is a parallel with bullying: It is a cultural issue. People see what is happening and do nothing about it.

Professor Elliott asked if Dr. Friedman had brought the matter to the AHC FCC. He has not, Dr. Friedman said, simply because they have been dealing with other issues. He can do so.

Professor McLoon said, apropos of becoming involved, that she would never feel she had sufficient information. She could not spend hours reading all the materials, but if she said she supported the accused faculty members, and received questions she could not answer, it would not look good. Could this Committee act?

Professor Miksch said, apropos of the comments of Vice Presidents Friedman and Mulcahy, that the limits of academic freedom have not been met in this case. Controversy is what academic freedom is about, but there is also academic responsibility. If this has not stepped over the defamation line, faculty members have the right to question actions and policies, and other faculty members have the right to question those who ask the questions.

Professor O'Loughlin commented that in political science (her discipline), they call it "the spiral of silence." When someone voices a minority opinion and gets shouted down for it, others of like minds silence themselves. In this case, it appears that people are comfortable stating opposition to what is being done to their colleague privately, but not publicly, for some reason. "This is not what we usually talk about when we speak of academic freedom and responsibility, but it is part of our community responsibility. Tenured faculty members, who have academic freedom and responsibility, all can speak to it without knowing all the facts. We make assumptions all the time that if something has gone through x amount of review, it is credible. Every faculty member with or without specific background could speak up when they feel that these standards are being ignored. Indeed, it is our responsibility to do so." She said she did not know if the issue belonged in this Committee, but it is a part of academic freedom and responsibility.

Professor Gaugler agreed. The accusers should not be censored, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. This is an academic-culture issue and one can see it happen over and over.

The last sequence of events was initiated by the letter to the Board of Regents demanding a new investigation, Dr. Friedman recalled. This is a perfect time for faculty members to respond. If it had been kept in that domain, the Board of Regents should have heard from the faculty that after this much time and effort they did not believe it a good idea for the University to spend time investigating the case again. They did not hear that, so they needed to respond on behalf of the University. He thought he was responding on behalf of both the University and the faculty, but it is a risky business to have administrators respond on behalf of faculty on academic freedom.

They asked the University to respond, Professor Porter pointed out, and that response was seen as inadequate. That charge is debatable, Dr. Friedman responded. This was not something hidden for a number of years with a lot of faculty not knowing about it. Dr. Mulcahy said he would point out that this is a position he frequently sees people take: "The University" means him, Morrill Hall, Johnston Hall, the deans; when he says "the University," he means all of us. This is a University issue: administration, faculty, and staff. He said he would also observe (and not just in this case), when one sees debates in the media, the reporters can get validation but they are not motivated to gather all the facts in order to reach a conclusion--they want to sell newspapers. The accused faculty members wanted an opportunity to respond, but they could not do so because of legal matters, so no one was voicing their views. So their voice is not heard.

A question came to him recently related to the case, Dr. Mulcahy said. Some faculty members took exception when there was a seminar related to this case scheduled with a title along the lines of "How the pharmaceutical industry dupes innocent victims into clinical trials." He was asked how the University could let someone use such a provocative title; one which could damage the entire clinical-trial enterprise. His response: academic freedom. It is not their role as administrators to try to manage controversial perspectives. However, it might have been appropriate for the sponsors of such a seminar to consider the implications of such a title--how it might damage all clinical trials. That would be an example of how "responsibility" might factor into the academic freedom realm. Academic freedom provides two opportunities: the freedom to express opinions that express a contrary view, and the freedom to respond. He would not say one cannot express views, and would be even more concerned if anyone did say that.

The ideal outcome from their perspective, Professor O'Loughlin said, is that other faculty members would engage their academic freedom in this discussion. Dr. Friedman said they are regularly involved in issues that faculty members bring up--procedural questions--and most others are not directly implicated in the outcome. This is different: Faculty members saying the University should investigate other faculty members because there is a scandal. Faculty members have the freedom to say that another faculty member is not performing well, and is killing people, but the responses should not be email messages to him asking "how can you let them say that?"

They are at the point that the faculty members have been exonerated, Professor Elliott said, and it seems they are still asking whether those faculty members should be able to do their work. They are not saying the system is a problem.

If there three options (or doing nothing), to move this out of the Committee, what would they be, Dr. Craig asked? Vice President Mulcahy returned to Professor O'Loughlin's point: It could identify the role of responsibility in the context of academic freedom and the need for it to be exercised if the system is to work. He and Dr. Friedman are of the view that faculty must engage in a dialogue or debate and it should not just be one side that takes a position. He said he could imagine faculty members who are experts in the field writing something.

Why haven't they, Professor Abul-Hajj asked? He does not know, Dr. Mulcahy said. There is a greater expectation that the administration will respond. He is not saying that faculty have to do this, but they should keep it in mind. He said he was also surprised at the number of people who rushed to judgment without all the facts; he said he thought "all of our training" is to verify facts before reaching a conclusion. Some hear the "facts" the first time as presented in seminars or the media and rush to judgment.

Dr. Craig suggested giving FCC a summary of the statements and letting it decide what to do.

Dr. Friedman said he wished to take his point farther. The point of academic freedom is to give faculty members the freedom to weigh in on the events of the day. What if the exercise of that freedom is aimed at someone else on the faculty? That is where FCC could think about the responsibility and ability to respond. He said he understands that one can go up to the point of defamation; what is unique here is that a group of faculty members is going after other faculty members and saying the University's process needs changing, but in the meantime have done something seriously wrong because those faculty members have spent years in the spotlight as part of what was called a scandal.

Vice President Mulcahy thanked the Committee for the opportunity to have the conversation. He said it is his first time in his experience with this case to have a meaningful discussion; he has not had the opportunity with any faculty group before this to talk about limits and what principles should apply.

Professor Elliott thanked Drs. Friedman and Mulcahy for joining the Committee.

Following the departure of Drs. Friedman and Mulcahy, Professor McLoon inquired what the Committee would do. It was agreed that the Committee would return to this matter at its next meeting.

April 21, 2011

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning - Disturbing Discussion

On the Record

Our Numbers Good, Your Numbers Bad?

Disagree? You're full of beans...

High Level Discussion at University of Minnesota

Finance and Planning Committee

Senate Committee on Finance and Planning
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
2:00 - 4:00
238A Morrill Hall

1. Inaccurate and Misleading Data

Professor Luepker convened the meeting at 2:00, welcomed Professor Cohen, who is serving while Professor Chambers is on sabbatical, and turned to Dr. Radcliffe to discuss data drawn from the Delta Project and recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Those data have received a lot of attention, he noted, but many who have examined it say it is not correctly done.

The data published in The Chronicle came in an article titled "Education Financing for Major Public Universities: Which Ones Get the Most and the Least," and purported to report the "subsidy for education and related expenses per student in 2008." The figure for each institution is said to be "the share of educational spending not covered by tuition," and "for many but not all flagships, state appropriations finance a significant portion of this subsidy." UNC-Chapel ranked first on the list, at a $26,373 subsidy for education and related expenses per student; the U of Washington was second, at $19,575, UC Berkeley was third, $16,165, and so on; the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities was eighth at $13,616.

Dr. Radcliffe said that he has examined the methodology used by the Delta Project; it is not reported as clearly as one might wish
. They use data similar to that reported by colleges and universities to the federal government (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS), which is good for high-level aggregate analysis. People use the data, however, to answer questions the data are not organized to answer. The data for any institution, for example, will depend on the mix of programs it offers.

Professor Luepker said he did a rough calculation when he first saw these data: He divided the state appropriation by the number of students on the campus and came up with a number similar to that in The Chronicle. It sounds like a simplistic approach.

Vice President Pfutzenreuter said his comments about the data in the article were less kind. He noted that the data are for "education and related expenses" per student. He also pointed out a second, later article that appeared in The Chronicle that explains why the data in the earlier article are not accurate. He said he believes that the Delta Project has an agenda--and one that is not friendly to higher education.

To get to the $13,616 figure for the Twin Cities campus, Mr. Pfutzenreuter explained, "education and related expenses" are defined as a proxy for the full cost of education, which includes direct expenditures plus an estimate of support. "Education and related expenses" is not a common term in higher education. The Delta Project pulls data from IPEDS and manipulates them (in a way that is not clearly explained) to arrive at their definition of "education and related expenses," take net tuition (which is not clearly defined) and subtract it from "education and related expenses," to get a subsidy figure. The graph in the report is titled "A snapshot of state subsidy patterns for education and related expenses--public research sector," but The Chronicle article points out that the "subsidy figure is not necessarily finance by state appropriations at all flagships." (The author of the second article points out that for the University of Washington, the Delta Project reported a subsidy of $19,575--but the state-funded subsidy per student in 2008 was $9,797 per student, which put Washington at 28th among the 50 flagship institutions.) But as a result of the publication of these data, Mr. Pfutzenreuter concluded, people (including legislators) think the University is well-subsidized. There are people passing the Delta Project numbers around to claim that the University is over-funded.

Professor Martin noted that the number for the University of Michigan is very close to that for Minnesota, $13,309, and anyone who knows anything about the financing of the University of Michigan knows that number is ridiculous if it is claimed it represents state support. Mr. Pfutzenreuter said that the University of Minnesota spends a lot of non-state money to support the educational mission. There is no reason to pay attention to these numbers, he said; they are just bad numbers.

Professor Roe said the University needs to put together its own numbers. If one wants to determine state support for education, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, one could divide the state support of the University by full-year-equivalent students, but the University's mission is research, public service, and education, so many of the state funds are not for education.

Professor Cohen noted that both SUNY-Buffalo and Nevada at Reno have subsidy amounts greater than Minnesota, and those are not institutions with which the University competes, so it may be hopeless to try to clarify the fallacies in the numbers. If the University puts out good numbers, it looks self-serving. Is the AAU or any other national organization preparing good data? They are not, Dr. Radcliffe said, and it is difficult to assemble comparable data.

Mr. Pfutzenreuter said they struggle with how to respond to the use of bad numbers. The University has not done much about responding to them and he asked whether it should be more aggressive in doing so. There are those who write blogs and commentary, and what they write appears to be the truth, but there is no fact-checking so they define the numbers. Mr. Driscoll asked when Mr. Pfutzenreuter's office might be able to respond; not until after the budget is completed. Mr. Pfutzenreuter responded that his office is working on identifying what pays for research, education, public service, financial aid, and so on, based upon the attribution of both direct and indirect costs, in order to determine the "fully-loaded" cost of instruction and other mission activities.

Professor Zaheer suggested it would be useful to have comparable numbers from peer institutions. Mr. Pfutzenreuter said he did not know of any other institution that was calculating a fully-loaded cost of instruction, so it would not be possible to compare data. Professor Martin asked about the CIC. Dr. Radcliffe said that all of the institutions use IPEDS data, which are problematic for these kinds of analyses. The University is able to do the analysis because revenues are coded and because of its budget model, so there is a reasonable methodology for the attribution of indirect costs, and they will do the analyses by college. Professor Roe commented that the University should be doing these kinds of analyses anyway so that it knows more about its cost drivers.

The Delta Project data, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said, represent the usual "garbage in, garbage out" phenomenon. They particularly disadvantage research universities, Dr. Radcliffe said, because they massage IPEDS data to reach the conclusion they wish. If institutions code data consistently, what goes into IPEDS is good, but it is not clear that institutions code consistently. Ms. Patil asked if other institutions have responded. The second Chronicle article was a response, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Dr. Radcliffe said he has listed "providing accurate and comparable data on administrative costs" as one of the top concerns for the roundtable discussion at next month's meeting of the AAU Data Exchange.

Professor Luepker observed that "things happen fast," and by the time the University gets numbers out, the damage has been done. And when data like these come out, they are damaging--they achieve currency as reality. The University responds four months later. University Relations is in transition, but the University needs a system to respond. While it is not within this Committee's purview to respond, it can ask questions about how the newly-appointed Chief of Staff proposes to deal with the need for a response. Professor Roe suggested it would be useful for the University to have a website with data that people can look at.

Professor Durfee commented, apropos of the "education and related expenses" developed by the Delta Project, that the University could ask the legislature what numbers would be useful while also responding to data like these. Dr. Radcliffe commented that the best numbers are those closest to direct costs; while there is a need to measure indirect costs, there are problems with doing it accurately.

Mr. Pfutzenreuter turned next to an explanation of "Institutional Support" in the University's budget from 2005-2010. He first noted that there are function codes grouped into various categories: instruction, research, public service, institutional support, academic support, operation and maintenance of plant, student services, auxiliary enterprises, scholarships and fellowships, and agency activity. Function codes "answer the question, 'How does this transaction accomplish the mission of the University?'" and they serve to track expenditures. He said he wished to speak about the "institutional support," which has been the subject of public comment, including "garbage that damages the reputation and integrity of the institution" and that is not checked for facts. Some of what has been published has led the public and the legislature to believe that administrative costs are out of control, but people have not bothered to check the facts.

"Institutional support" function codes identify expenditures for such activities as "(1) central executive-level activities concerned with management and long-range planning, . . . such as the governing board, planning and programming, and legal services; (2) fiscal operations including the investment office; (3) administrative data processing; (4) space management; (5) employee personnel and records; (6) logistical activities that provide procurement, storerooms, safety, security, printing, and transportation services to the institution, (7) support services to faculty and staff that are not operated as auxiliary enterprises; and (8) activities concerned with community and alumni relations, including development and fundraising." It also includes, in addition to central administrative offices, cash management, institutional research, insurance, property accounting, payroll, equal opportunity and affirmative action, the patent office, human resources, legal proceedings, Sponsored Projects Administration, public relations, and so on.

From 2005 to 2010 the institutional-support expenditures rose from $107.8 million to $234.3 million, which has led to statements that the cost of administration has exploded at the University, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. He explained the major categories in "institutional support" and the increases that occurred over the six years 2005-2010; they have increased, but not for the reasons that have been identified by those who have not checked the facts.

1. Salaries:
increased from $88.7 million to $121.0 million (+$32.3 million). This increase reflects the fact that the University installed a new enterprise system (EFS) and salary costs in the Office of Information Technology increased noticeably as a result ($5.1 million). The remainder of the increase, $27.1 million, reflects pay changes and modest growth in number of employees in a few central units.

2. Fringe benefits: increased from $7.8 million to $51.9 million (+$44.1 million). The increase reflects growth in the cost of fringe benefits but also reflects a change in federal rules regarding reporting of fringe benefits. This change is booked to a central account and represents $19.1 million in volatility of reporting according to federal rules, not a growth in administration. There are increases in direct department charges (which correlate with salary expenses) of $12 million, and the University also offered an early-retirement program, the cost of which shows up in this category as $11 million.

3. Supplies: increased from $21.2 million to $62.4 million (+$41.1 million)
. One benefit of adopting the new financial system is that they discovered several accounting practices that were wrong, Mr. Pfutzenreuter explained. The implementation of EFS provided the University with an opportunity to review old budgeting and accounting practices. One major adjustment was related to the accounting for royalty distributions from Glaxo for the HIV drug Ziagen; the correction to the accounting practice resulted in a jump in expenditures of $29 million which had previously been netted against revenues in the same account. This category also includes new software license fees at $3.7 million; the University bought a new financial system. This category also includes $3.4 million in endowment fees for the Consolidated Endowment Fund, which began to be accounted differently beginning in 2009, and a change in the accounting practices related to addressing and mailing services, which also resulted in a $2.1 million increase in the recording of expenditures. Mr. Pfutzenreuter explained that the four examples outlined account for $38.2 million of the $41.1 million increase.

4. All Other: increased by $8.9 million and related to a variety of accounting entries and minor changes in expenditures over time.

In total, Mr. Pfutzenreuter concluded, of the $126.5 million increase in "institutional support" expenditures over the period, $80.3 million had nothing to do with a growth in the administration, despite what outside commentators may claim. A majority of the remaining $46.2 million growth in expenditures relates to pay changes and associated fringe benefit costs along with minor changes in supplies and service spending.

Professor Luepker asked that a comment made later in the meeting by Provost Sullivan also be reported at this point in the minutes: When President Bruininks took office in 2002, there were 74 individuals in executive positions (deans, vice presidents, associate vice presidents, etc.). When he leaves office on June 30, 2011, there will be 74 individuals in executive positions. There will be no change in the number even though the institution's budget has increased by about $1 billion, enrollment is up by one-third, the number of degrees granted is up by 40%, and research funding has reached about $823 million.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely anyone will pay attention to these explanations, Professor Martin commented.
Ms. Stahre agreed that people do not find it interesting that there was a change in the reporting system for royalty income.

Professor Luepker observed that there are two large categories of apparent cost increases: accounting changes and swings in fringe benefits. Mr. Pfutzenreuter agreed and noted that the Retirement Incentives Option and rules governing reporting fringe benefits account for about $30 million of the $44 million in that category.

Professor Zaheer commented that one can also demonstrate that the University is a larger enterprise than it was six years ago, so these expenses are likely not a larger percentage of the total budget. But much of the increase is simply due to changes in accounting practices, Mr. Pfutzenreuter pointed out. Professor Seashore suggested that one could look at the amount salaries increased, which have grown some and are 65% of the budget, and then look at all the rest, which is accounting procedures.

The core dilemma is whether it is worth the effort to refute erroneous claims, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Several Committee members were emphatic in responding that it is. Professor Cohen said this happened before and the University needs to get the numbers out. Professor Zaheer observed that they may have to hire someone to do the work; Professor Olin said that any comment needs to take into account the increase in the number of students.

Professor Seashore said that anything Mr. Pfutzenreuter says will be viewed with suspicion. This Committee, however, is a representative group of faculty, staff, and students, and it needs to say something. Individuals may blog or comment publicly to express opinions about the University's budget, but the Committee members have looked at the data and know that those expressing the opinions are "full of beans."

There is also a need for a discussion about how to fund things, Mr. Driscoll commented, a subject in which students are very interested. But without common facts, it is difficult get through the noise-driven discussion created by the Delta Project and bloggers. It is dignified not to respond but it may hurt the University not to do so. It would behoove University Relations to provide a responsible faculty/staff/student voice.

Professor Martin said there would be value in having the Committee come up with a response. Committee members pay a lot of attention to the budget over a long period of time and they know the numbers much better than outside commentators. Professor Roe agreed, pointed out that the views from the Committee must be genuine, and suggested that a subcommittee look at Mr. Pfutzenreuter's numbers and certify the Committee's support.

Professor Seashore commented that is not just a local phenomenon and noted that Inside Higher Ed had an article about a national effort to paint higher education as an easy target: All universities need to do is cut the number of vice presidents they have. While one would like to think Minnesota would be immune, it will not be. Note the events in Wisconsin and Michigan, she pointed out. The Committee can respond to a national trend of misunderstanding administrative costs. Or purposefully misrepresenting them, Professor Martin added.

Professor Luepker asked for volunteers to serve on a small subcommittee that would also include representation from University Relations. It would not be just about facts but about how to deliver the message, he said; Committee members are not experts in that arena. Professors Martin and Roe agreed to serve, as did Mr. Driscoll. Professor Luepker said he would contact Ms. Phenix, the new Chief of Staff, about other membership, and would also draft a charge to identify what the Committee would like to see at the end of the effort.

Professor Luepker thanked Vice President Pfutzenreuter and Dr. Radcliffe for joining the meeting.

April 1, 2011

The U of M "Sets the Record Straight" on Dr. Dennis Polla or Driven to Dissemble (SM)


In another shameful attempt at damage control we find a submarine attack over another obviously fishing smelling situation at the University of Minnesota.

For background, please see: Another University of Minnesota Professor With Two Jobs What Would Jimmy Williams Say? Some Pigs Are More Equal Than Others?

As well as the original Star-Tribune article: U prof's past and 2nd job get scrutiny - Forced from post 11 years ago, he still gets $112,660 a year despite working full time in Maryland.

The U's spin-doctor on this one is Doctor Massoud Amin who is the chair of Dr. Polla's department.

From the University of Minnesota web-site:

TLI sets the record straight on Dr. Dennis Polla

We've been receiving a number of inquiries about the University of Minnesota's Technological Leadership Institute (TLI) after a recent Star Tribune article about a member of its faculty.

I'd like to specifically address some of the issues raised in the Star Tribune article about TLI faculty member Dennis Polla. It's unfortunate when important facts are omitted or manipulated in news coverage with the intent of creating a false sense of outrage. That is the case with the March 13th article. Dennis Polla's service to the U of M and our state is something we should be proud of and that gives us a unique and rich educational experience.

Dr. Amin, if this is true, why did you not write a letter to the editor or ask for the opportunity to respond in an op-ed? I'll answer that question myself. Because if you did, you would be the laughing stock of the state.

Here are the facts

* Professor Dennis Polla is a part-time employee of TLI, who teaches courses on Fridays and Saturdays and serves as our director of graduate studies, advising a cohort of about 50 students and interviewing nearly all potential students for the program;
* Professor Polla is a full-time employee of the federal government -- currently at the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) and formerly with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is part of the Defense Department. He has the permission of the federal government for his part-time employment at the University.

Did the Strib claim otherwise?

* The statement that Prof. Polla lost his tenure is inaccurate. The truth, as noted in our response to all 34 questions from the Star Tribune, is that he voluntarily resigned from his tenured position in 2007 to stay at DARPA;

Dr. Amin, this statement is disingenuous. Technically it is true that Drs. Sainfort and Jacko did not lose their tenure at Georgia Tech. This is because they voluntarily resigned from their tenured positions before their tenure revocations were finalized.

* Just last month, Professor Polla received the "Medal for Exceptional Public Service" from the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, which said, "America's national security is strengthened by his efforts.";

and the relevance of this is, exactly?

* Professor Polla pays his own travel expenses to and from his home state of Minnesota and his federal government workplace in the Washington, DC metropolitan area;

Did the Strib claim otherwise?

* The salary paid to Professor Polla is driven by the marketplace for an expert in defense technology and is also less than a scientist of his caliber could make in the private sector. He is an asset to our program and to the educational experience provided at TLI;

If Dr. Polla were attending full time to his responsibilities at the U this would not be an issue. The pay differential with industry is irrelevant because this can be said for most technical people at the U.

* As an instructor and advisor at TLI, Professor Polla meets and exceeds the requirements of his position, bringing one of the world's top defense technology experts into our classrooms to educate the next generation of technology industry leaders for Minnesota. Professor Polla received a national teaching award (W.M. Keck Outstanding Engineering Educator Award). In addition he previously received 7 teaching awards in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota.

Once again, I don't understand the relevance of this to the matter at hand. No one is arguing that Dr. Polla is a poor teacher.

Your attempt to camouflage what has happened here is obvious, Dr. Amin. The Strib was actually kind to you and Dr. Polla. Let's just review a few facts. Dr. Polla lost his job as head of the Biomedical Engineering Institute. Problems with his grants were the reason. As the University's own investigation put it:

"This investigation also concluded that Dr. Polla has engaged in four types of improprieties in his private consulting activities.

First, he failed properly to disclose and obtain prior approval before proceeding with arrangements where there may be a conflict of interest.

Second, he improperly used U of M resources for the benefit of his private clients, and failed to provide the U of M an opportunity to oversee use of its resources.

Third, he concealed or attempted to conceal from the U of M relevant information regarding his private consulting.

Fourth, as a result of the manner in which he conducted his private consulting, Dr. Polla created problematic situation involving intellectual property interests of the U of M and some of his private clients."

What in the world is a person like this doing in a department that claims to: "With an eye on helping high-tech firms maximize their growth potential, TLI shows high-tech companies how to move more adeptly within the gray zone..."

Does Dr. Polla teach students how to behave ethically, or does he teach them how to move adeptly within the gray zone, meaning "don't get caught?"

Dr. Amin, your attempt to somehow paint the Star-Tribune as the bad guy and to deflect attention from your own whited sepulcher is despicable.

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Some Preliminary Numbers on the Net Yield for the Sainfort Jacko Double Dipping Debacle


Georgia Tech has furnished documentation confirming that the couple were paid by Tech during the months of October, November, December, and January. A monthly accounting for 2007 and 2008 was provided within eight working days of my request under the Freedom of Information Act.

My request to the University for similar information has not been complied with so far. I was sent a copy of Sainfort-Jacko offer letters and working from this I can make some estimates. If these are incorrect it is because the University declined to provide the requested information. The University did confirm, however, that Jacko and Sainfort were paid by the University during the time in question.

The offer letters indicate that the couple would be paid an annual salary that in total is $501,000. This may actually be a low ball figure, because there are certain augmentations in the offer letter and it is not clear how these might translate into salary.

So the gross "take" is: 1/3 (4 mo.) of $501,000 = $167,000.

The penalty - which the university only announced in December - was $59,000. The penalty included a payment of $25,000 for the investigation. The University claims that my request for the total cost of the investigation is privileged information and refuses to provide it. They also had to return benefits, but not salary for the period, thus leading to the total of $59,000.

Thus the net "take" is: 167K - 59K = $108,000.

This is more than many University of Minnesota faculty and staff make in a whole year.

Also, Jacko and Sainfort were given an interest free loan and several years to pay off this penalty.

Professor Zahavy, by contrast, was fired for double dipping.

I note that faculty in Religious Studies do not usually bring in large amounts of outside grant money. Put another way, some pigs are more equal than others, especially golden pigs.

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