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It's Critical to Make the Case for the U

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by Liz Boyle (Sociology), Faculty Legislative Liaison

The 2010 elections swept out many veteran state legislators and swept in a large new cohort. We need to make it clear to this new group how important the University is to the state of Minnesota. An investment in the U is an investment in the future.

They need to see that U professors and staff are hardworking, approachable, and interested in contributing to the state, nation, and broader global community. They need to hear that we care about students. Truth be told, we need to dispel stereotypes held by legislators and their constituents that faculty members are arrogant and self-absorbed.

The need to send a clearer message is evident from the first round of budget proposals that came out this week. For 2011, the University was allocated $642.2 million, but because of Governor Pawlenty's unallotment, the U received only $591.2 million. Here are the current proposals for 2012 from Governor Dayton and the House and Senate Higher Education Committees:


CLA and a few other colleges will be disproportionately affected if the House or Senate appropriations bills become law. Those bills call for smaller percentage reductions, or even increases, for other parts of the University, such as the health sciences. It is likely that the Governor will veto whatever compromise bill the House and Senate send to him, and then negotiations will begin.

This is an ideal time to provide legislators and the Governor with specifics about what these cuts (plus previous cuts) mean for the state and for the U. Letters that give details about how the U will lose out on grant opportunities or diminish what it can do for graduate and undergraduate students will be generally more effective than letters saying faculty and staff will have to work harder. (Common sense: "poor me" messages sound self-serving and are therefore less effective).

Some facts that you might want to consider including:
• The University educates over 40,000 undergraduate and over 18,000 graduate and professional students each year.
• We continue to make progress on increasing four- and six-year graduation rates.
• University faculty and staff brought $823 million in research grants to the state in 2010.

Where to send letters:
Governor Mark Dayton
Senator Michelle Fischbach, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee
Senator Jeremy Miller, Vice Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee
Senator Amy Koch, Senate Majority Leader

the address is:
Capitol Building, 75 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155

Representative Bud Nornes, Chair of the House Higher Education Policy & Finance Committee
Representative Bob Dettmer, Vice Chair of the House Higher Education Policy & Finance Committee
Representative Tom Rukavina, Ranking Minority Member, House Higher Education Policy & Finance Committee
Representative Kurt Zellers, Speaker of the House
Senator Sandra Pappas, Ranking Minority Member, Senate Higher Education Committee

the address is:
State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155

Any questions or comments? Contact Liz Boyle from Sociology, a Faculty Legislative Liaison.

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