Monday Minute, December 14, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

The economics profession certainly seems to be living up to its attribution as "the dismal science." Tom Stinson, the state economist and a University professor, told the Regents on Thursday that the state will "collect less money in the 2010-11 biennium than in the 2008-09 biennium. This is not going to be over with quickly," with an extended slump followed by a slow recovery beginning most likely in the first quarter of 2010. "It's certainly dire," he said. "And it's something we should all be concerned about."

At a deans' meeting today, President Bruininks outlined his work plan for the steering committee he has assembled to deal with the long economic slump. The plan calls for protecting and strengthening the core of the University, while finding new sources of revenue, controlling costs, and developing incentives to improve performance and productivity. The President would welcome any suggestions we might have about how the University could become more efficient and effective.

The President seems particularly intent on pursuing what he called "a new covenant with the State of Minnesota." I think that covenant has to involve some sort of commitment from the state that we not be punished with budget cuts when we attract more research funding or private donations. Instead, the state needs to reward our hard work and success, perhaps with some sort of equity stake in the prosperity of the state. I can imagine all sorts of difficulties in such an idea, but it is the kind of paradigm shift that we need. And it certainly beats sitting around listening to the dismal scientists.