Sunday, September 30, 2007

Spread Far the Fame of Our Fair Name (apologies to NU)
Graduation Rates Again Under the Spotlight

Everyone at BigU knows that we have serious problems with graduation rates. As was reported lately: " Professor Sirc said he talked to Dr. Howard, Director of Institutional Research, about what would be the single best measure to improve the University's rankings; Dr. Howard said it would be to improve the graduation rate."

A website devoted to college admissions reports:

Two economists at William and Mary will be publishing an article that they think improves on the "overperformance/underperformance" in US News.

Here is the link to a draft of the article:

They compare graduation rates after adjusting for four things:

(1) SAT 25th percentile

(2) percent of freshmen in top 10% of HS class

(3) percent of faculty who are full-time

(4) expenditures per student

They ranked 187 schools based on how well they exceed expectations in getting students to graduate. They produce a "technical efficiency" score for each school that tells the actual graduation rate divided by the expected graduation rate (determined by the four inputs above). For example, a technical efficiency score of .95 means that the actual graduation rate is 95% of the expected graduation rate.

This is, in effect, a ranking based on "value added." How well do schools do given the students they enroll?

nfortunately, this method indicates again that there are some severe deficiencies at BigU with respect to graduation rates as our ranking and that of some neighbors is indicated below, as well as that of some of our competition:

1 Indiana University Bloomington 1.
1 Pennsylvania State University 1.
1 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 1.

39 University of Wisconsin Madison .995.
47 Northwestern University .985.
49 University of Michigan in Ann Arbor .981.
56 Michigan state University .973.
92 Purdue University West Lafayette at .916.
94 University of Iowa .914.

140 Ohio State University Columbus .837.

179 University of Minnesota Twin Cities .700.


Our closest competitor in the BigTen is Ohio State, the other BigTen Megaversity. But they are nearly 40 slots above us. A gap of more than 40 separates OSU from the rest of the BigTen. With the exception of Minnesota and Ohio state, the BigTen performance by this measure seems pretty respectable. Particularly interesting are the outstanding performances by Indiana, Penn State, and Illinois. There are certain geographic similarities in those institutions, but clearly having an outstanding football team does not seem to correlate with this measure of graduation rates.

So here we are again, folks. Last in the BigTen in graduation rates. Brushing this off by saying "we are improving" will not cut it. There IS literally no place to go but up - we are 179 out of 187 schools studied. Institutions clobbering us include: Universities of Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Wyoming, Idaho, Toledo, Montana, Miami [sic], Missouri, etc., etc., ad nauseum. There is something fundamentally wrong here that needs to be attended to before we should be dreaming about being one of the "top three public research institutions in the world [sic]." The Science Class Room situation, posted on earlier, is just another example of the unreal world in which our administration seems to live. Tearing down large classrooms - required for efficiently processing the large introductory courses that are necessary at a BigU - and not replacing them is wrong-headed, especially in opposition to faculty who are actually using the present Science Classroom Building.

While the Gophers are in Indiana next weekend, maybe OurLeader and ET (Indiana Law is his alma mater) should go down a day early and talk to the folks in Bloomington about how they do so well with graduation rates? Then next Saturday they could cheer on the Gophers, in whom they have so much invested.

Ciao, Bonzo

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Natives Are Restless, or

Does BigU Have the Money to Fulfill Our Ambitious Aspirations?


University of Minnesota Senate Committee on Finance and Planning

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

* These minutes reflect discussion and debate at a meeting of a committee of the University of Minnesota Senate; none of the comments, conclusions, or actions reported in these minutes represents the views of, nor are they binding on, the Senate, the Administration, or the Board of Regents.

Tuition Increases on the Horizon

Will the Regents support a 7.5% tuition increase, Professor Martin asked? They have been told it is part of the budget plans, Mr. Pfutzenreuter said. Professor Chapman suggested that 7.5% will be seen as quite high. Mr. Pfutzenreuter agreed but pointed out that for Minnesota residents the legislature provided funding to buy down the increase by 2%, so it will only be 5.5% (for students from households with an income of up to $150,000). Professor Chapman said he was sorry to see such an increase in an election year; Mr. Pfutzenreuter said the other choices are increased state funding or less new investment.

Austerity at BigU

Professor Chapman inquired of Mr. Pfutzenreuter if, based on his experience, this will be perceived as an austerity budget. Between the tuition increases and the cuts, it looks pretty austere to him, he said. Mr. Pfutzenreuter said it is austere.

Professor Martin said there is no sense of this coming austerity in the University community after all the discussion about how much support the legislature provided for the biennium. This will be a big surprise, she said.

Professor Martin reminded Professor Konstan that while the University can get rid of a college, it cannot get rid of the faculty, who hold tenure in the University. It seems, however, that the University has closed units and not saved money, Professor Konstan said.

Later, Professor Konstan asked whether the universities it seek to join--top public institutions like Michigan and Berkeley--share Minnesota's model of continuously squeezing units. Does this squeeze really lead people to think efficiently, or does it just add stress that saps productivity?

Mr. Pfutzenreuter said he had proposed the approach of putting the burden on the cost-pool owners. Last year they were told to talk to their customers; this year they have an obligation to reduce costs or find more productive ways to do business—and not, for example, by closing four libraries. At some point almost all at the University will say there is nothing more that can be done more efficiently, Professor Martin commented, and people may be close to that point now—and cannot respond in a rational way to directives for greater efficiency.

Professor Konstan related that his back-of-the-envelope calculation was that his department spent $20,000 in faculty time debating whether to hire a faculty member into an open slot versus saving that slot to offset an uncertain upcoming cut. Multiplied across the University, that's a lot of research, teaching, and service not being done that could lead towards top-three status. "We may be spending more time and energy to find cuts than the resulting savings yield in gains.”

More generally, Professor Konstan asked, is $8.5 million in reallocation providing more advancement of the University towards the top-three goal than the amount that University-wide agonizing, stress, and wasted effort over these cuts moves it away from the goal? Mr. Pfutzenreuter agreed that the University may be trying to invest too much in new programs or activities

UMorePark – Gold Mine or Money Sink?

He has been asked a number of times how to pay for this, Dr. Muscoplat related; the goal is to make a lot of money for the University that would be captured in an endowment to support University's academic mission, but it must spend some money to make money. There is several million dollars set aside for UMore Park; there are options for funding, including the mineral rights for the gravel and hiring a developer to sell land, for example. He said he believes the University can finance the project, but at this point they have only a vision, not a plan.

Dr. Muscoplat said he has talked with Dean Bailey about whether the University could develop a different educational system at UMore Park. The question is how to get there; it will not happen at the academic level without resources, such as research assistants and faculty lines. Any plan can be futuristic and scholarly, Dr. Muscoplat said, but if it does not make money for the University, it will not be built.

There is a lot of benefit to the University to invest in real estate as a growth vehicle; the Harvards of the country are doing it. That is a political decision that the Board of Regents must decide, Professor Martin said, but the University does not have a good record as a landlord.


With respect to the top-three goal, if the University does not have the financial foundation to make it work, it is unwise to pursue the goal. Only the Academic Health Center has said what it needs to get into the top three, which is 500 additional faculty and new space for them. CLA could say that it needs 200 additional faculty but it has no place to put them. Ambitions may be outranking the ability of the University to achieve them.

Professor Konstan said it would help to identify what the top-five institutions do, whether they have continuing stress. If they have financial stability, the University is in a losing game.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

BigU Bumbles On

Left Hand/Right Hand Problems Continue

For some reason, Mr. B. receives numerous blanket emails of minutes from various BigU committee meetings. Almost every time he reads one of these, interesting things jump out. I have previously posted on the Science Classroom Building. Many of the other issues raised seem worthy of some sort of dialog. But our administration continues merrily along, safe in the knowledge that they know best. I wonder? Tid-bits below.

From Minutes

University of Minnesota Faculty Consultative Committee

Thursday, September 13, 2007


"These minutes reflect discussion and debate at a meeting of a committee of the University of Minnesota Senate; none of the comments, conclusions, or actions reported in these minutes represents the views of, nor are they binding on, the Senate, the Administration, or the Board of Regents."

Faculty Discipline?

Professor Durfee, although unable to be present at the meeting, had sent an email message about the strike; he suggested the Committee discuss what punishment the University is contemplating when it makes official statements such as "faculty who move class away from picket lines may be disciplined."

In response to a question, Professor Balas suggested the Committee not issue any statement on the strike because it should not get in the middle of the bargaining process. The Committee should, however, discuss with the Provost the language used about disciplining faculty members and what might be done. Committee members assented.

Faculty Input On Decisions About Classroom Configuration?

The Committee turned to the proposed design of the science-teaching-and-student-services building, which will replace the Science Classroom Building at the northeast end of the Washington Avenue Bridge. A number of Committee members expressed considerable dismay at the configuration and size of classrooms in the new building. (The current lecture auditoriums that seat 200+ students (4) and 70-seat classroom will be replaced with six smaller 117-seat interactive classrooms, six 90-seat interactive classrooms, and seven 30-seat seminar classrooms.) Department heads in IT have protested the configuration as not appropriate for their needs.

The question, Professor Windsor said, is how academics closest to a facility are integrated into the planning for that facility. She said this reminded her of the decision about the new CSOM/CLA building, decisions about which were made at a high level, not with the faculty.

With the budget model as it is, and many departments increasing class size, not reducing it, the new lay out seems counterintuitive.

She expressed concern that the right hand doesn't always pay attention to what the left hand is doing. She observed that she teaches a large 3-XXX lecture course, including in the Science Classroom Building, that is a prerequisite to other more advanced courses, and if they cannot find enough lecture halls to teach large numbers of introductory students, the students don't have the prerequisites for other courses, and their progress in the major is stymied. "So much for 5-year graduation rates in that case." Professor Durfee commented in an email on the subject that perhaps someday classroom design planning would be done in collaboration with faculty, perhaps through the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, so that issues of classroom size and what constitutes an "interactive classroom" have faculty input.

The Committee agreed it would raise questions about the new facility with the Provost next week.

Is BigU Still a Land-Grant Institution?

The Board of Regents has seen the data on the increasing qualifications of incoming freshmen, Professor Wambach said, and a couple of Board members have asked how far the University can push on increasing the high-school rank metric. What will be the tradeoffs if 90% of the students are in the top 10% of their class? Is that a realistic or politically-desirable goal? Some Board members, Professor Balas added, suggested that this may be the wrong metric; the University is a public, land-grant institution and it should seek to educate students from many parts of society. The Provost, however, has said that the University will continue to use as a metric the academic quality of incoming students.


Professor Balas turned next to the question of metrics and measurement, a major topic of discussion at the retreat in late August. He reported that he took away points from the September Regents' meeting that made him realize this is an issue about which the Committee must be assertive. One of the Board members focused on the comparison group: who does the University want to be like, and why. Tracking metrics generates policies; if the University is tracking something, why?

The Committee, he concluded, must disregard the advice it received at the retreat not to worry about the metrics and measurements, because they will clearly have an effect on decisions and policies.

Committee members made it clear at the retreat, Professor Martin commented, that they are not happy about the metrics currently being used.

(Professor Balas observed that there is only one metric related to research in the current set: dollars.)

Professor Sirc said he talked to Dr. Howard, Director of Institutional Research, about what would be the single best measure to improve the University's rankings; Dr. Howard said it would be to improve the graduation rate. It is not clear what any individual faculty member can do about that. In the case of his department, it has sought to hire new and interesting faculty but has been told that will not happen.

One can measure and re-measure, Professor Windsor said, but unless one identifies what is driving any comparative advantage, the measures don't by themselves help achieve outcomes. What is it that higher-ranked universities do, she asked? For example, do they have lower student-faculty ratios, do faculty teach fewer/more classes, do they admit students with better academic records, do they provide more/different advising support, do they recruit more outstanding faculty, do they have better retention mechanisms for faculty and staff, etc.? Knowing these types of pivot points would help to identify where resources might be directed.

Professor Martin commented, apropos Professor Windsor's point, that they have known for a long time that Minnesota's faculty is 20% smaller than the faculty of its peers given the number of students. It appears that CLA faculty teach more students per faculty member than other CIC liberal arts colleges, for example. Of all the discussion about getting into the top three, she has only heard one part of the University say it needs more faculty: the AHC has been forthright in saying it needs an additional 500. The rest of the University does not make that kind of statement because there would be no place to house them if they could be hired. It is an odd ambition to be really good without the wherewithal to get there.

What is excellence, Professor Balas asked? Professor Windsor responded that some would say one knows it when one sees it; departments are just excellent. His concern, Professor Balas said, is that the Regents are set on metrics and measures, and if there is nothing there about teaching and scholarship, they will be lost in the message. He said he would prefer that the Board not just talk about metrics but have a much richer conversation about what it takes to make the University great. If there were three additional metrics that would be easy to measure and that would go beyond what is being proposed, what would they be, Professor Yust asked? The University collects a lot of data; there must be some that say something about faculty excellence.

Professor Martin urged that Professors Balas and Hoover bring up the concerns about metrics in their meeting with the chair and vice chair of the Board of Regents and convey the faculty discomfort with metrics that are missing important parts of faculty activities. And that do not correspond to faculty perceptions of what it means to be a top-three university, Professor Balas added. It is the faculty's sense that other things are going on that matter but that are not measured. To the extent that Institutional Research is disconnected from the academic mission, Professor Martin said, the faculty will not see what they believe appropriate in the metrics. That is why Professor Balas is correct, Professor Kane said: the Committee must take an active role in identifying what it believes should be measured.

Professor Wambach asked if it mattered "what most of us do or what a few of us do." The University has 45 National Academy members; its peers have 65 or more. So what the University needs to do is hire 25 National Academy members who will bring a lot of grant money and reputations. That would solve the problem without worrying about the rest of the 3000 faculty. Or hire three Nobel Prize winners, Professor Martin added. The metrics reward the star system, Professor Wambach maintained. People are brought in after they have established their reputation; schools with high reputations recruit stars. That is why the Committee should develop metrics it can embrace, Professor Balas said, because the star system is divisive; do some get everything and the rest nothing? Its metrics should be ones the Committee believes are right and the discussion should start with them.


Up to now the Committee has been a strong advocate but it and the administration have been two ships passing in the night, Professor Balas commented.

Things have not changed this year; sometimes he (a department head), as a member of this Committee, knows more than his dean, but sometimes his dean knows things that he would have expected to know as a member of this Committee. The faculty generally are clueless about many things; they know that budgets are increasing but that costs are up 10% so that the departments must make cuts.

Professor Yust said it has been her sense that Minnesota has been among the most consultative institutions; in the past there was one person responsible for certain kinds of decisions and one could call that person to get an answer. Now responsibility is diffused over a number of people and it is difficult to identify responsibility.

A lot of faculty were involved in strategic positioning, Professor Martin observed, but they are no longer. The Provost created a culture of consultation with the task forces that has since diminished.

The Committee should have a conversation with the Provost to express its views that the measures the colleges are being held to do not fit what faculty do and that the process as constructed did not have enough academic participation.

There was so much time and money spent on the task forces, Professor Yust said, and the disconnect between their work and what has happened may lie with whomever was charged to carry out the recommendations. One question is the extent to which those obligated to carry out the recommendations were also obliged to consult.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

September is the best month in ColdState...

Mr. B. is taking a little breather after the tense period of the AFSCME strike, two two-hour lectures per week, a bad bout with bronchitis, kvetch, kvetch, kvetch...

Momo is also exhausted and depressed and in need of self therapy. Thus, she has posted a nice picture of her cat, inspiring a post of the above picture taken by Mrs. Bonzo. Mr. B. discovered Momo's blog and likes it very much since she seems to be the appropriately left wing kind of person that Mr. B. admires.

Mrs. Bonzo has been complaining about lack of notice lately, but then again she is in the throes of finishing another book, something about John Stuart Mill and interior decorating [sic]. A project of many years that will, hopefully, be submitted for publication to YUP (Yale University Press) soon.

The Bonzos stepped out last night to see the preview of a pretty good play at the Guthrie by Brian Friel, "The Home Place." This will be its American premiere. It is directed by Joe Dowling, who ought to know how to do Irish plays. My current favorite local actress, Sarah Agnew, has a major part. The StarTribune has an article about the play, not a review, that appeared today. When the full review appears, I'll post selections and a link.

I'll wait until the final vote on the AFSCME strike has been tallied to make some comments about the strike, its aftermath, and future implications. Although I am sorry for the workers, this strike has helped to further clarify the position, goals, and values of the current BigU administration. The more scrutiny and questioning they receive, the better.

Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood and if Mr. B. does not do some porch painting today, Mrs. B. will kill him.



Friday, September 21, 2007

This just in from the Pioneer Press

Union says U strike is over

Paul Tosto
Pioneer Press

Clerical, health and technical workers at the University of Minnesota have ended their two-week old strike and agreed to a settlement offer by the U, union officials said early this afternoon.

The deal appears to be identical to the last offer made by the University. Union officials said they were not happy with the deal and will bring it to their members for a vote without recommendation from the negotiating committee.

"We are forced back to work because we can no longer sustain the loss of salary and a looming end to our health care coverage," one union leader said.


University of Minnesota General College Alum Norman Borlaug

From the Daily:

Nobel-winning alumnus feted

the father of the Green Revolution returned to his alma mater yesterday to be honored just a few hundred yards away from the hall bearing his name.

The plant pathology department honored Norman Borlaug for his outstanding work to cap off their three-day centennial celebration.

When Borlaug introduced a more productive wheat grain in the 1940s, he helped end famine in Pakistan and India, sparking the Green Revolution - a shift in agricultural practices that yielded significantly larger harvests.

Over a four-year span Borlaug and fellow scientists doubled the wheat production in Pakistan.

In 1970 Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for his accomplishments.

From Wikipedia:

"Through a Depression-era program known as the National Youth Administration, he was able to enroll at the University of Minnesota in 1933. Initially, Borlaug failed the entrance exam, but was accepted to the school's newly created two-year General College. "

Something to think about?

Striking U of M union suspends picketing

Associated Press

Last update: September 21, 2007 – 7:27 AM

There's no word yet on how talks went between the University of Minnesota and its striking clerical, technical and health-care workers.

But two union Web sites say all picketing is suspended, and a rally planned for ten this morning also is canceled.

The university said in an e-mail this morning that they decline to comment on the strike negotiations.

Strikers are asked to come to a noon meeting at strike headquarters for an update on what happened during Thursday's mediation.

The union workers -- represented by AFSCME -- have been on strike since Sept. 5.
Money is the biggest issue in the strike.

Fingers crossed - bonzo

Thursday, September 20, 2007

U continues talks with striking union

Last update: September 20, 2007 – 9:52 PM

The two sides were still talking when this edition of the Star Tribune went to press.

Strikers, U return to bargaining table

By Jeff Shelman, Star Tribune

From the Star-Tribune

Last update: September 20, 2007 – 11:22 AM

The University of Minnesota and striking clerical, health care and technical workers are returning to the bargaining table today.

University spokesman Daniel Wolter said that the AFSCME-represented workers requested the meeting.

The workers have been on strike since Sept. 5. Since then, the university made one contract offer, but it was rejected by the union. Slightly less than 1,000 workers of the approximately 3,100 workers covered by the contracts remain on strike.

The biggest issue in the strike is money.

The union says the university's contract offer of a 2.25 percent annual raise for clerical and technical workers and a 2.5 percent raise for health care workers isn't sufficient. The U's position is that when combined with step raises for experience, most AFSCME represented employees will receive raises of at least 8.5 percent for the contract's two years.

On Friday, the union turned down an offer in which workers would have received a $300 lump sum during each year of the contract while keeping the base increases the same.

AFSCME has said that if the university bumped the salary increases to 3.25 and 3.5 percent, the strike would likely end.

On Monday, a number of students and faculty members and union supporters began a hunger strike.

Those people have gone nearly four days and consumed only water and juice. Marion Traub-Werner, a graduate student in geography and one of the hunger strikers, said the group has been in contact with a nurse as one of the participants is being impacted by not eating.

Adding Hunger to the Strike

More Great Publicity for BigU and Further

Unhelpful Comments by OurLeader's Spokesperson

We make Inside Higher ED - This is just great publicity for a university in the midst of becoming "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]."

To repeat the message of an earlier post - the hunger strike is wrong on many levels. AFSCME members at the U should vote to request the students to stop the hunger strike.

Stefano Bloch has an excellent explanation of why this is so in today's Daily.

Nevertheless, excerpts from the article are given below because they provide some insight into what the striking workers are dealing with at the university, particularly the inappropriate comments of one Mr. Wolter, OurLeader's spokesperson.

Two weeks into a workers’ strike at the University of Minnesota, a group of students has jumped on board with a strike of its own — a hunger strike.

“We’ve been pushed to take a more somber approach to force the administration to listen,” said Sofi Shank, a freshman at the university who is helping to organize the student response. The move comes after an earlier attempt to make the university listen — when 75 to 100 students stormed a Board of Regents meeting on Sept. 7 — ended in five arrests.

The student-led hunger strike is not being coordinated by the union, Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, although the student organizers are being housed in the same church as the one being used as a headquarters for the strike committee, according to Jennifer Lovaasen, a spokeswoman for AFSCME.

The university, for its part, views the hunger strike as “theatrics” by a “cadre of activists looking for a cause, and this is their cause,” according to Wolter.

“Figuratively, we’re still at the table because we never left,” Wolter said.

“We’re not known for a rigid level of discipline with faculty members,” Wolter conceded, although he said there were discussions about the possibility of financial repercussions for some departments or temporarily replacing instructors. Some students, he said, have had to drop classes because of the inconvenience of attending class at a church or theater.

Ah, you must be new around here, Mr. Wolter or you would realize the irony of that statement and wouldn't make it... But of course, you were until recently a spinmeister for Governor Pawlenty. You should realize that needlessly insulting people you are going to have to work with in the future is not a good idea.

You are no longer a Republican trying to badmouth DFLers. Google "tenure wars" and "University of Minnesota" when the strike is over and you will realize how ignorant your remarks are about faculty members and discipline. We are still trying to recover from the damage done to the University by its administration and the then regents in attempting to weaken tenure at Minnesota.

Dismissing people of conscience, especially students, who disagree with your handlers as "a cadre of activists looking for a cause" is truly despicable. Read some selections from Mark Yudof's inaugural address as president of the University of Minnesota. You might learn something, especially:

"In recent years, too many in the academy have abandoned community, with its commitment to fairness, willingness to sacrifice for the good of the entire enterprise, and a sense that we are all in this together. They have played the politics of distrust, envy, cynicism, and self-advancement.

It is fundamental--as Emmanuel Kant beautifully explained and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States embody--that the individuals in our community be treated with equal respect."

Saber-rattling by our Provost should remain just that. Use of heavy handed tactics in dealing with well-respected, principled, faculty members like Paula Rabinowitz would be a very serious mistake in your pursuit of "world-class greatness [sic]."

There are people other than Mr. Wolter who bear responsibility for his statements. Those include OurLeader, for whom Mr. Wolter serves as mouthpiece. I suggest to OurLeader that he put his attack dog on puppy chow for the foreseeable future. Mr. Wolter's past and present statements do not augur well for putting the university back together once this strike is over.

Ciao, Bonzo

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On the Approaching Tenth Anniversary of Mark Yudof's Inauguration

As President of the University of Minnesota

Mr. Bonzo has been associated with BigU since 1970. During this time he has observed the reign of presidents Malcom Moos, Peter McGrath, Kenneth Keller, Nils Hasselmo, Mark Yudof, and Robert Bruininks.

Of these presidents, the one whose influence on the university will be the most lasting and who did the best job was Mark Yudof. It is possible that Ken Keller might have had a larger influence if he had served longer but his presidency was cut short by a harmless mistake or overweening arrogance depending on what you thought of his Commitment to Focus program.

Now Mark Yudof was an outsider and he did not stay at the university for very long. Some apparently feel that this is bad for the university and seem to be willing to settle for a lifer who knows the institution well and will stay as president for a long time. Hasselmo, Keller, and the present occupant are examples of this lifer type.

Mr. B. is not a great fan of administrators but in his career he has observed two excellent presidents, Yudof at Minnesota and the late Howard Swearer while at Carleton. Swearer later served at Brown University where he did an outstanding job. They were both great writers, articulate, cultured, and comfortable in dealing with students, janitors, secretaries, and faculty. Yudof knew how to deal with state legislators and other politicians including Jesse Ventura. Swearer didn't have to, but I am sure he could have picked it up. Both individuals were scary smart but did not take themselves too seriously.

Events of the past ten years are indeed depressing, e.g. the destruction of General College, the prostitution of the University to Coca-Cola, Twin City Federal, and Pepsi Cola, addiction to consultants and the latest management fads, disgraceful treatment of workers. Now in cynical moments when ugly things happen at BigU courtesy of our administration it can be consoling to think: "It's this way everywhere." Don't believe it. Leadership matters.

What follows are some excerpts from Mark Yudof's Inaugural Address. They make you want to go out and labor mightily to keep the University of Minnesota a great university. Let's hope that some day we have another leader of Mark Yudof's caliber in the Big House.

Inaugural Address ( October 17, 1997)

I am deeply honored by my appointment as the 14th president of the University of Minnesota and by all of those assembled today in Northrop Auditorium to celebrate that ascendancy. I accept that honor with gratitude and humility. I accept it with the certainty that I would not be standing here today but for the family that nurtured and guided me.

Today marks a transition or passage in my own life and in that of my family, and it may also evidence a further evolutionary stage in the life of this great University, an accelerated evolution toward higher levels of excellence and service to this state and nation. I certainly hope so. I will do my absolute best in the years ahead. I approach the 150th anniversary of the University with a confidence borne of deep respect for our government leaders, the Board of Regents, and our splendid faculty and staff. Most importantly, I have faith in our students, those sons and daughters of Minnesota, who are our sole reason for being.

One critical value is community. The University should be a functioning community in which students, staff, and faculty are part of a larger whole, in which there is a sense of social obligation that transcends self-interest, and in which there is a culture of civic responsibility, civility, and tolerance.

In recent years, too many in the academy have abandoned community, with its commitment to fairness, willingness to sacrifice for the good of the entire enterprise, and a sense that we are all in this together. They have played the politics of distrust, envy, cynicism, and self-advancement.

It is fundamental--as Emmanuel Kant beautifully explained and the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States embody--that the individuals in our community be treated with equal respect.

The need for integrity permeates every aspect of the University. The education mission of the University must be taken seriously--not just the way to get state funding.

Administrators should tell the truth, keep their word, implement what they promise, and not dissemble. My point is plain enough: Without integrity, the phrase higher education is an oxymoron.

Within our resources and true to the multiple purposes of a great land-grant institution, the hydraulic that drives the University should be the quest to be outstanding, to do things as well or better than any other institution in the nation.

We should always nurture a climate in which academicians are not intimidated by outside forces, other faculty members, students, or administrators.

I pledge today that I will always defend academic freedom. After all, whatever the titles, I am first and foremost a member of the academy and a fellow professor. All I ask in return is that the faculty never accepts mediocrity, that it hold itself to the highest standards of intellectual and pedagogical excellence, and that it police itself for those few colleagues who fail to uphold the highest standards of our profession.

Minnesotans expect us to be fair in providing access to the University for their sons and daughters. If we do not provide reasonable access--including access for those who are underprepared and historically underrepresented in higher education and in the upper levels of our socioeconomic life, the taxpayers and state government of Minnesota will turn their backs on our graduate, research, and outreach functions. Simply stated, it is imperative that we continue to embrace our land-grant roots if we are to thrive.

When making decisions, I view shared governance and consultation with constituent groups as only fair because of the enormous stake they have in the University. Without fairness there is no legitimacy and no buy in to the institutional vision.

To the best of my recollection, no great scientific discoveries, no insightful social science tracts, and no novels have been produced in Morrill Hall. No classes are taught in Morrill Hall. No patients are made well in Morrill Hall. My point is that we must value delegating academic and other decisions to campuses, colleges, schools, departments, and faculties. Administrators can facilitate, they can help the deans to build better English or physics or public health programs, but they cannot actually do the building. Help, or get out of the way! The great universities of the world--whether Bologna 900 years ago, Trinity College-Cambridge in the 17th century, or Stanford and Berkeley today--are highly decentralized. Without authority invested where the real work of this University is done, the light of excellence will only grow dimmer.

If war is too important to be left to the generals, then education is too important to be left only to professional educators. University administrators have not yet cornered the market in acumen and foresight; a monologue will not suffice.

We must also value our obligation to reach beyond the boundaries of our classrooms, libraries, and laboratories. We must value using our vast stores of knowledge to help solve the great public policy issues of the day; to help alleviate suffering; to assist in the development of aesthetic sensibilities; and to preserve the ecology of the planet. This is outreach and service where it touches and can be touched.

As a newcomer, let me tell you a great secret about the University of Minnesota, one that you may have overlooked. It is a secret that makes me very proud to be here. The University of Minnesota system, with its 48,000 students, varied campuses and programs, University and General Colleges, partnerships with MnSCU institutions, plans for distance learning, and more, has created the best balance between access and excellence that I have observed in any public university in the country. Self-doubts are inevitable in higher education, but in this case Minnesotans should be patting each other on the back.

Some would urge the University to pull back on its land-grant responsibilities, to rein in the access programs, to abandon the General College, to minimize the importance of the University of Minnesota Extension Service and other outreach programs, tone down our efforts to strengthen elementary and secondary education, or renege on the promise of U2000 for undergraduates.

But at what cost? To save so little and destroy so much? I will not support such efforts. Any short-term gain to research or graduate and professional programs occasioned by cutbacks to the core will be self-defeating.

The result will be a decreased level of public support for the entire University enterprise. There will be less to share. The University is built on its undergraduate program, though it rightfully aspires to and has achieved much more. If the foundation cracks, the whole edifice is in jeopardy.

At an inauguration there generally is unbridled optimism for the future and a sense that all is possible. I am honored by your confidence and good will. But I also am reminded of what Clark Kerr once said of university presidents:

The university president in the United States is expected to be a friend of the students, a colleague of the faculty, a good fellow with the alumni, a sound administrator with the [regents], a good speaker with the public, an astute bargainer with the foundations and federal agencies, a politician with the state legislator, a friend of industry, labor, and agriculture, a persuasive diplomat with donors, a champion of education generally, a supporter of the professions. . . , a spokesman to the press, a scholar in his own right. . . a devotee of opera and football equally, a decent human being, [and so on]. . . .

No one can be all of these things. Some succeed at being none.

At the crossroads of expectation and reality, human fallibility and aspiration, individual will and institutional inertia, I hope that you will forgive my inevitable lapses, take joint responsibility for the nurturing of values and goals, and find comfort in the progress we make together.

God bless all of you and God bless the University of Minnesota.

Amen - Bonzo

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Don't squander good will," lawmakers tell BigU

MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota is jeopardizing its support in the Minnesota Legislature by not reaching a fair settlement with striking workers, lawmakers said Tuesday.

At a news conference held at AFSCME strike headquarters in Dinkytown, three state legislators urged a quick end to the strike by clerical, health care and technical workers that began Sept. 5. They are the second group of lawmakers in as many weeks to speak out about the dispute.

"I am incredibly disappointed with the administration's actions," said state Senator Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-62, adding that having a "world class university" means the administration needs to "treat our workers as world class workers."

State Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-60B, was equally direct.

"We don't want the leadership of this institution to squander the goodwill they now have . . . . We don't want the strike to last a day longer," he said. "I speak for many of my colleagues in demanding that the collective bargaining process resume and the university come back to the table."

The 2007 Legislature boosted the university's appropriation in part to fund increases in compensation, said state Senator John Marty, DFL-54. "We didn't expect the pay raise would be dished out so that the people at the bottom of the pay scale get the least. But that's what's happening here.

"President Bruininks, I appeal to you and the Board of Regents. I think it's time to get back to the bargaining table."

Currently, no talks are scheduled.

The legislators said they are concerned the growing gap in compensation between frontline workers and top university administrators is mirroring practices in the corporate world, where CEOs earn hundreds of times the pay of the average employee.

"We cannot have that in a learning institution, in an academic institution," said Torres Ray.

The horse, Bob, time to get down. The longer you stay up there, the worse you are making things. I don't think you are going to be able to go over to St. Paul and ask for a whole lot of goodies after this.

If you can't even pay your lowest paid workers a decent wage, what makes you think the legislature will bankroll your ten year march to become "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]?" For the sake of the workers, the students, the faculty and staff, for you own credibility, please think about this.

An alumnus and faculty member - Mr. Bonzo

Monday, September 17, 2007

11 students stop eating to support U strikers

The university calls "unfortunate" a decision by students to go on a hunger strike in solidarity with clerical, health care and technical workers. A professor and a U employee joined the students.

By Jeff Shelman, Star Tribune

Last update: September 17, 2007 – 8:45 PM

Phyllis Walker, the president of the local representing the clerical workers, said some of the AFSCME strikers are uncomfortable with the hunger strike.

"I was worried about them at first, but they are adults," Walker said. "This is important to them, they're making their own decisions, and we're really honored. ..."

This is wrong on so many levels. AFSCME membership is not honored and should immediately call for an end to the student hunger strike.

The union says the university's contract offer of a 2.25 percent annual raise for clerical and technical workers and a 2.5 percent raise for health care workers isn't sufficient. The U's position is that when combined with step raises for experience, most AFSCME represented employees will receive raises of at least 8.5 percent for the contract's two years.

This is where Carrier math finessed things in the blanket email commented on earlier this evening.

On Friday, the union turned down an offer in which workers would have received a $300 lump sum during each year of the contract while keeping the base increases the same.

"Our members have told us many times that lump sums don't have any lasting impact on their wages," Walker said.

AFSCME has said that if the university bumped the salary increases to 3.25 and 3.5 percent, the strike would likely end.

Wolter [University spokesman] declined to comment when asked why the university would not apply the money for the lump sum toward increases in base pay.