… in the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the most charitable description of what’s been going on at the clubby University of Minnesota medical school would be “bizarre.”
Monday, March 31, 2008
Jean Nouvel Wins Pritzker, Ralph Rapson Leaves Us
Word over the weekend went out that Jean Nouvel, the brilliant and and inventive French architect, had won the Pritzker prize for architecture, one of the profession's greatest honors.
And then we learned today that over the weekend our own Ralph Rapson had died. Ralph Rapson was the architect for the old Guthrie theater, the original one that he worked on with Tyrone Guthrie to complete. I loved the Guthrie and its open, thrust stage. Many wonderful plays were done there. It was deeply disturbing to see it destroyed; further evidence of our throwaway culture.
The old Guthrie was torn down to be replaced by...what? Meanwhile the new and enlarged Guthrie went up in the mill district. A massive erection points toward the Mississippi and the building contains enough theaters that the rest of the Minneapolis theater community is worried about finding enough actors to put on their own shows. There is also an escalator system that reminds me of the ones that feed the tubes in London.
Don't get me wrong. It is a great building and has been mentioned as one of the pieces of Nouvel's work that was cause for the Pritzker. There are some huge pictures of famous playwrights, including August Wilson. Those of us who know the history of the old Guthrie and Wilson enjoy the irony.
Ralph Rapson did many other buildings in the Twin Cities including on the university campus. He also did homes. To my great regret I once had the opportunity to buy a Rapson house and passed on it. Truly one of the stupidest things that I have done.
But there was some kind of a weird, cosmic, connection between the works of Rapson and Nouvel that I can't quite identify. The thrust stage in the new Guthrie is eerily reminiscent of the one in the old Guthrie. Great architecture by people like Nouvel, Rapson, Gehry - he did the U of M Weisman museum - (Julie) Snow, and I.M. Pei, for example, are awe-inspiring and remind us how lucky we are in Minneapolis to have so many fine buildings.
To Ralph Rapson: “An architect is the drawer of dreams”
Rapson's son [Rip] described his father as a "Forrest Gump" of architecture, explaining that his father was born with a birth defect that eventually resulted in the loss of his right arm. However, his disability did not prevent Rapson, who was artistically inclined from a young age, from pursuing a love for drawing.
From Jean Nouvel: "Each new situation requires a new architecture."
Looking at pictures of many of the Nouvel buildings from articles about the Pritzker, it is striking how different they are. It is a lot easier to spot a Gehry, or Rapson, or Philip Johnson building than it is to positively identify a Nouvel.
The Daily's Take
An earlier post on this topic has appeared.
USNews Law School Rankings - U Slips
Live by the sword, die by the sword?
Today the Daily reports:
fter spending the past 12 years in the U.S. News & World Report's top 20, the University's Law School dropped from 20 to 22, according to rankings released Friday.
David Wippman, dean elect of the law school, said the factors of the drop in rank were mainly technical; for example, the LSAT scores of the entering class.
"It took (the ranking) down a little bit," he said. "We are looking at how to address those factors so that we can reverse that decline, but more importantly we're really focused on continuing to build the quality of the law school, overall."
For the past two years, leadership at the University has been in limbo after the 2006 resignation of former dean Alex Johnson, who had a year left on his contract. Wippman is scheduled to officially begin his position in July.
Third-year law student Bree Richards said the lack of a stable dean could be a reason for the drop in ranking.
"It's not surprising," she said. "We haven't had one dean for how many years now? I don't think we are admitting stupider students or anything like that."Pre-law senior Libby Smith, president of the pre-law society, said she used the rankings when she looked at law schools.
"I think rankings are a good place to start if somebody is wanting to kind of get an idea of what types of schools will allow them to seek jobs nationally versus schools that are more focused with alumni in the region," she said.
To reclaim the University's top 20 status, Wippman said he will look at how to improve the U.S. News & World Report factors, but he doesn't want to over-emphasize their importance.
"I think we have to have our own assessment of what makes a quality law school and quality legal education," he said, "and really need to maintain our focus on keeping and maintaining that quality as we define and understand it."
We have to use a little common sense with respect to "ambitious aspirations to become one of the top three research universities in the world [sic]."
We also - Tom, Bob? - have to decide whether ratings matter. Mixed messages continue to be sent out on this point.
Iowa also took a hit in the rankings. [The previous sentence has been modified to reflect a comment below.] Some believe that this is because their LSAT scores also went down as a byproduct of a commitment to diversity. Playing the ratings game can be a two-edged sword. Public law schools in general are at a big disadvantage because money talks.
I am amused by the fact that some departments here at the U of M, including the med school for all I know, believe that if they keep up the grades and scores for admission that somehow this will help them in the rankings. Pretty arbitrary basement figures are set up. Below a GPA of x.xx the applicant simply won't be admitted.
Personally, I know two cases where I had to argue most strenuously - and in one case unsuccessfully - for the admission of a student who had less than stellar grades or scores. Both of those people went on to do very well in graduate school and professionally.
But of course this takes a little bit of backbone and judgment and a refusal to kowtow to rankings...
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Or, Are We Here To Protect and Serve?
There was a war protest last week.
I walked out of my building to meet friends for lunch on Thursday and ran into what seemed like a great many police. Had a chat with one of them. Not too pleasant a guy. Seemed pretty defensive.
Nearly forty years ago I was on the roof of Kolthoff Hall - the new chemistry building at that time. There I witnessed a police riot in response to another anti-war protest. Police were beating students mercilessly with clubs - students who were simply limp and prone on the grass, offering no opposition.
The scene was Orwellian forty years ago and it was again last Thursday.
And so it goes.
I was at the anti-war rally at noon in front of Coffman on Thursday, and I listened to several impassioned and eloquent speeches. Thank you to all of the student groups who joined together to organize the rally, and to the students and staff who stood together in an intimidating atmosphere.
Why did we need so many police officers to keep an eye on a few hundred people? Is this what free speech on a college campus looks like?
• 15 bicycle cops in yellow vests milling around the East entrance of Coffman Union
• 2 mounted police officers on the grass in front of Nils Hasselmo Hall
• 1 marked police car parked on the grass across Washington Ave. (between the footbridges)
• 1 unmarked police car parked in front of Ford Hall
• 1 helicopter overhead
One of the speakers quoted George Orwell, which seems even spookier now.
University graduate student
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Mount Hopes Its Story Continues
From The Berkshire Eagle
Speaking in general terms at yesterday's meeting at The Eagle, Berkshire Bank head Michael Daly said the bank extends credit to any customer only with confidence of positive results. Extrapolating that to the Mount, the bank's confidence has not been justified, as the Edith Wharton Restoration only dug itself deeper into debt as its line of credit was extended through three years of increasingly larger operating deficits. The foreclosure notice was a needed if belated wake-up call.
It is noteworthy that the Mount has not generated the visible public support that Spice has. It has not tied itself closely to the Berkshires and has not made a concerted effort to overcome the bad feeling generated by its eviction of Shakespeare & Company. The newly reconstituted Board of Directors may be sharp financially but its members as a whole don't know the Berkshires or the state, and the movers and shakers therein who might help the Mount get out of its dilemma.
Trustee Gordon Travers told The Eagle via conference call that the Mount needs a seasoned development director to rebuild the financial base if it "makes it through this crisis," suggesting dissatisfaction with current management.
The Mount will need that director, along with the kind of Berkshire connection Edith Wharton would recognize. With the summer tourist season approaching and the Mount planning on opening its doors to visitors while engaging in emergency fundraising, we hope it survives this crisis and emerges refocused, if not reincarnated.
Friday, March 28, 2008
How the Star-Tribune Handles It
"Hamline law school gets a bump in rankings list"
This is hilarious. The Strib of the Red Telephone handles the U law school's decline in the US News rankings in a most amusing way. Puhleeze... Let's restrict Homerism to the sports page. The PP runs rings around the Strib as far as honest coverage of goings on at the U. And they have a Pulitzer to prove it.
By the way, the rating change for the law school is in fact trivial. But the U made such a big deal out of this ranking that in decline they ought to at least acknowledge it. Live by the sword, etc. Either rankings matter, ... or they don't. Which is it, Bob? Tom?
By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune
March 27, 2008
Hamline University law school dean Jon Garon acknowledges he doesn't agree with how U.S. News & World Report ranks law schools.
That said, he knows the role that rankings play both in the ability of graduates to get jobs and in students' school selection process.
Because of that, Garon is pleased that Hamline moved from the fourth tier of law schools nationally to the third tier in the rankings that were released today. Hamline's dispute resolution program also ranks fourth nationally.
"The overall validity of U.S. News is so poor that you have to take it with a huge grain of salt," Garon said. "But it's nice to not be in the fourth tier.
"If it didn't affect the lives of our students, I would be able to totally ignore it. But it does. ... At the end of the day, my job is to make our students as successful as possible and this helps me do it."
The rankings of Minnesota's other three law schools remained stable. The University of Minnesota dropped two spots from No. 20 to No. 22 among the nation's 185 fully accredited law schools. The University of St. Thomas remains in the third tier (schools ranking from 105 to 141) and the William Mitchell College of Law remains in the fourth tier (schools ranking from 142 to 185).
The Law School co-deans reaction:
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
Some local newspapers reported this morning that the current U.S. News Rankings show us in a tie for 22nd place. Many law schools are closely ranked and a slight shortfall in any one of the technical categories can lead to a shift of one or two places, as happened this year. The U.S. News ranking is a combination of many factors (e.g., reputation among other legal educators and practitioners, LSAT scores of the entering class, what percentage of applicants we accept, how many books are in the library, etc.). We plan to address the particular factors that have caused a decline this year.
One key factor is our reputation among the leaders of other law schools. On that measure we remain in the Top 20. We expect to build on this academic reputation, and to address the technical factors that have caused a slight decline. We also believe that the arrival of a permanent dean - Dean Wippman - this summer will also help in bolstering our rankings.
Dean Wippman is committed to maintaining and improving the quality of the school. We look forward to working with him to address this question.
Fred Morrison and Guy Charles
Live By the Sword, Die By the Sword ?
We have the St. Paul Pioneer-Press to thank for their role as a watchdog over activities at the U. The PP got, as I recall, a Pulitzer in 2000 for their coverage of the basketball scandals at the U. This is amusing since a certain Strib reporter has served, essentially, as an adjunct professor of athletics at the U. That would be Sir Sid.
The U adminstration may be whining about the PP's coverage of the U, but at least the PP keeps the U honest - or tries to - unlike their much larger competitors, the Strib. That would be the Strib of the red telephone.
Thank God for real journalists.
The St. Paul Pioneer-Press, as usual, is on the case:
The University of Minnesota Law School has slipped out of the top 20 in the influential rankings published by U.S. News & World Report, a move that could cost the university some prestige and make it tougher on law graduates seeking jobs.
The university now ranks 22nd among national law schools, according to the 2009 rankings due to be released today. That's down from a rank of 20 in 2008 and 19 in 2007.
While many experts attack the U.S. News rankings as a poor and superficial way to judge an institution's quality, the numbers carry tremendous weight with prospective students and law firms looking to hire top graduates. The university has promoted its law school as a "top 20" destination. In December, as it named David Wippman its new dean, the university referred to its law school as "consistently ranked in the top 20."
There's been a love-hate relationship for years between law school deans and the U.S. News rankings, with many deans decrying them but then applauding when the numbers fall in their favor. Some 40 percent of a school's rank is based on the opinions of law school officials and faculty, lawyers and judges who score schools from 1 ("marginal") to 5 ("outstanding").
Of the University of Minnesota's rankings slip, Garon said: "There's no question it's going to have an impact and create more work for their incoming dean."
The U law school has been in flux since former dean Alex Johnson stepped down in 2006 with a year still on his contract. He has returned to the University of Virginia.
Wippman, a Minnesota native, is a vice provost and law professor at Cornell University. He is expected to take over the U law school July 1.
Thursday, March 27, 2008
U. of California Board Picks President
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The University of California’s governing board has named Mark Yudof, the University of Texas chancellor, as the next president of the 10-campus system.
Mr. Yudof’s appointment was approved by the Board of Regents on Thursday, a week after a search committee recommended him to succeed Robert Dynes, who has said he plans to leave before June.
A lawyer and expert in free speech, education and constitutional law, Mr. Yudof, 63, spent five years as president of the University of Minnesota before assuming the chancellorship in Texas in 2002.
He is the first system president to come from outside California in two decades. The system, with more than 220,000 students and 170,000 faculty and staff members, is one of the world’s largest and most prestigious public university networks.
Woodson, currently the dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue, will take over as provost May 1. Provost is the top academic officer at the university.
Among the topics Woodson wants to discuss are a core curriculum and the idea of admitting students without assigning them to a school or college right away.
"I fundamentally believe that Purdue University, as a globally engaged university, ought to have some common aspirations for our students. We can get there by having a core curriculum, or we can get there by having a set of shared values," Woodson said. "A Purdue education ought to have some common themes across all colleges."
One of the major goals Woodson plans to accomplish as provost is to find ways to increase student retention and graduation rates.
According to the Purdue Data Digest, 71 percent of Purdue students entering the university in the 2001-02 academic year graduated within six years. After the 2003-04 academic year, 85 percent of first-year students returned to Purdue.
"I've made no bones about saying ... Purdue's graduation rates are not high enough for a university of our distinction," Purdue President France Córdova said. "And obviously you don't graduate unless you're retained."
Córdova also wants to see more faculty members in groups such as the National Academy of Sciences, an area in which Purdue has been lacking.
Woodson said his strategy for that is to show people what Purdue has to offer. He said Purdue should be seen as a place to go for answers to research and academic questions.
"We have an outstanding faculty here, and we need to put them in a better position to be in a better national standing," Woodson said.
Vic Lechtenberg, who is serving as interim provost until Woodson takes over, said Woodson will have to work on making sure students are prepared for Purdue before they get there.
"The student challenges ultimately involve working closely with schools across Indiana to increase the educational aspirations and achievement of high school graduates," Lechtenberg said. "There are tremendous opportunities to build partnerships with schools and significantly improve the preparation of students in science and technology, in mathematics and in communications skills. All of these skills are critical to success at Purdue, or any other top university."
Jennifer Jackson, president of Purdue's chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, said she wants to see the new provost focus on opportunities for minority students and add tutors for more difficult classes.
Hmm... Ambitious aspirations.
Wallace Loh of Seattle University has been appointed the new UI provost and executive vice president, UI President Sally Mason announced Wednesday.
"It feels wonderful," Loh said. "I'm so thrilled and happy. I feel honored."
He was one of five finalists who interviewed for the position. Mason flew out to Seattle on March 22 to offer the job, said Loh, who is the dean of arts and sciences and professor of public service and psychology at Seattle University.
Mason praised the entire pool of candidates but said Loh's ability to connect in a meaningful way with different groups on campus distinguished him from the rest.
Since arriving at Seattle University in 1999, the school has seen a 60 percent increase in faculty and the doubling in the number of women and minority faculty, the development of new majors and other programs, and $8 million in gifts and grants.
"Given his knowledge base, his vision, and his experience, he will get off to a very fast start," Mason said.
Loh said he is looking forward to working with her and the UI vice presidents and deans as a team. He also called Mason an "inspirational leader" who "walks the walk" and doesn't just "talk the talk."
"I hope to work with President Mason and to take [the UI] to the next level of greatness," Loh said.
Although this will be Loh's first job in Iowa, it isn't his first academic experience here. When Loh arrived in the United States when he was 15, he started college at Iowa Wesleyan College and then transferred to Grinnell College, graduating in 1965.
"He's a very experienced administrator and relates well to faculty, students, and staff," O'Hara said.
Loh said he has many specific things he is interested in at the UI including undergraduate education - a passion of his - and the health sciences - "a crown jewel of Iowa." He also thinks the UI should assist the Iowa City area and its surrounding as well.
"The university should give back to the community that supports it," Loh said.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Loh Named New Iowa Provost
IOWA CITY - Wallace D. Loh, dean of the college of arts and sciences, professor of public service, and professor of psychology at Seattle University, has been named executive vice president and provost at the University of Iowa, pending approval by the state Board of Regents, UI officials announced today.
He will begin Aug. 1, succeeding Mike Hogan, who left last September to become president at the University of Connecticut.
Congratulations to Dr. Loh and our neighbors for an outstanding choice.
Dr. Loh received a bachelor's degree and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Grinnell College and a master's from Cornell University. His doctorate in psychology is from the University of Michigan, and his law degree is from Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
"This is a very, very strong university," Loh said in a phone interview today. "The overriding task is to mobilize and inspire the students, faculty and staff to the next level."
Dr. Loh gets it. We could use a little mobilization and inspiration around here, too. But I guess OurLeaders are too busy pursuing other ambitious aspirations.
Purdue's Agriculture Dean Named Provost
Purdue University has named William "Randy" Woodson as its new provost.
Woodson was one of three candidates who visited the Purdue earlier this month. He is the dean of Purdue's College of Agriculture.
Woodson will take over the job May 1 from Vic Lechtenberg, who has been interim provost since Sally Mason left the post last year to become president of the University of Iowa.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Or, Eat Pancakes, Teach, Listen...and Learn
F'rinstance (from the Jewish Journal):
Yudof, chancellor of the University of Texas since 2002, is to be formally confirmed by the UC Regents within a week. As such, he will take the helm of the world's leading public research university, with 10 campuses, including Berkeley and UCLA, some 220,000 students and an $18-billion budget.
Mark Yudof, 63, was born in Philadelphia and started his academic career in 1971 as an assistant professor of law at the University of Texas, Austin. During 26 years as a teacher and dean, he earned a reputation as an authority on constitutional law, freedom of expression and education law.
After a five-year stint as president of the University of Minnesota, Yudof returned to Texas as chancellor of the multicampus UT system.
In a 2003 interview in the Dallas Morning News, Yudof is characterized as "an energizer, outgoing and at meetings he rarely lets a moment pass without a quip."
As he described himself, "I am what I am. I have my weird sense of humor and I'm proud of it. What I've found works best for me is transparency, being direct and being honest."
Yudof is not above poking fun at himself, pointing to his habit of getting lost as well as his obsessive love of pancakes.
As chancellor, he has continued teaching classes and likes to open the session by asking students, "How did the university oppress you this week?"
Mr. Bonzo notes that BigU's administration certainly isn't into teaching. OurProvost is too busy even to write a once a week blog. Nor are Bruininks/Sullivan very good at seeking out serious complaints or suggestions from faculty and staff about how we could actually improve the university.
Yudof's approach of transparency, directness, and honesty is in stark contrast to what has been exhibited by the administration lately at BigU. There is still a possibility that some impasse may block Yudof's appointment, but you can be sure that if he gets the opportunity, he will succeed, because the man has a track record.
Live long and prosper, Mark.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Promises to Stabilize Tuition, Limit Increase to One Percent
"To show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass." Revelation 22:6
An interesting report from Crookston about OurLeader's outstate lobbying efforts. As the paper notes pointedly, Bob has not been there in 16 months. He also uses some unusual rhetoric - for Bruininks - about tuition stabilization.
From the Grand Forks Herald:
By David Dodds, Herald Staff Writer
In his first visit to University of Minnesota-Crookston in 16 months, Bruininks thanked the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce for its strong support of the bill that uses higher gas taxes and motorist fees to fund $6.6 billion over 10 years to fix high-priority bridges and provide basic transportation needs throughout the state.
Legislators overrode Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto last month to pass the transportation bill.
The UM system, with its five campus — Twin Cities, Crookston, Duluth, Rochester and Morris — aren’t in the clear, though.
Bruininks is tussling with Pawlenty and his proposal to cut about $27 million from the system’s budget. The Minnesota State Colleges and University system would sustain similar cuts under the governor’s plan.
Pawlenty has said the amount is small considering what the UM system spends in a year, but Bruininks contends it would affect all aspects of the system, from its ability to conduct research to scholarship funding.
In Crookston, Bruininks reiterated his promise to increase student tuition “only as a last resort” when trying to offset cuts in state funding.
Bruininks said UM students, including those in Crookston, have seen back-to-back years with tuition of hikes totaling about 14 percent.
The president used the UMC campus to indicate his concern for the enrollment impact continued steep tuition increases might have.
He pointed to successes that UMC has experienced recently, including this past spring’s 1,072 full-time degree-seeking students, a 13 percent increase over the previous year.
“We’re starting to make forward progress here,” Bruininks said, “and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that.”
If it does reach a point where tuition must be raised, Bruininks said he’d fight to limit it to 1 percent to 1½ percent — considerably less than the most recent hikes.
“We want to get it a back to more stable,” he said.
Tuition stabilization is, indeed, an idea with legs. Perhaps OurLeader should try this argument in the Twin Cities and at the state legislature? It might be more productive in the long run than his current marketing campaign.
I'm sure the folks at Crookston are not particularly interested in, nor do they want to pay for, OurLeader's "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the the world [sic]."
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Ah, that would be no...
From the Strib:
Are our children all above average? New study says noDisconcerting? Downright embarrassing.
Minnesotans pay twice as much as the national average to get a public college education, but they're not getting double the results.
Fewer than 40 percent of students at Minnesota's colleges and universities graduate in four years, according to a report released this week by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. In addition, students of color have less than a 50-50 chance of graduating at all.
For a state where high school students traditionally fare well on college entrance exams, that's disconcerting to those in charge of assessing the quality of higher education in Minnesota.
Perhaps the geniuses at the U should look into this situation and give us some advice about how to improve this disgraceful situation.
One way might be to pay more attention to doing a better job with Minnesota students and ratchet back on things like ambitious public relations ploys.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Or, Junk and the Guv Go At It
See the previous post below concerning OurLeader's apparent priorities.
Bruininks began by thanking the committee for giving the U more than a 16 percent boost last session, as part of an effort to restore deep cuts made during the 2003 budget crisis.
He said raising tuition will be the last resort when it comes to making up for the Governor's proposed cuts. Bruininks noted that the U of M already committed to holding the annual tuition increase to below five percent.
But he questioned the wisdom of state government leaning on colleges and universities as a means to fix the fiscal shortfall.
"To put higher education out at the front of the parade when it comes to budget reductions is just not a very smart strategy for the long-term future of the university of Minnesota, MnSCU or the state of Minnesota."
When Governor Pawlenty outlined his plan for plugging a $935 million projected deficit, he suggested the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system are top-heavy organizations.
"It should not affect, we do not believe, tuition if they do this correctly," Pawlenty said of the cutbacks he's expecting from higher education, "And if they need some help identifying where to cut we'll be happy to make some suggestions to them starting with administration in both institutions."
Pawlenty maintained that $27 million is a relatively small chunk of change for a university system with a $1.7 billion total budget, including state aid, tuition and federal and private grants.
"They also have reserves of a substantial nature at the University of Minnesota," Pawlenty said of his alma mater, "So they can probably handle this deficit by using some or all of their reserves."
Perhaps we could avoid a large tuition increase by deferring (permanently?) some of the administrations special projects?
Perhaps we should pay a little more attention to our land grand mission and abandon the "ambitious aspiration to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]?"
Let's commit to being one of the better universities in the BigTen. If we actually committed to stabilizing tuition perhaps that would make the people of the state a little more inclined to go along with more funding for the U? How about it Bob, at what point are you going to start leading us in playing the cards we've got?
Think about it. Time marches on. We have been rowing in tar for the last couple of years and things - despite the expensive public relations campaign - do not seem to be getting any better.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Nine Million Dollars for A High Definition Screen
That Will Be Used...Six times a Year?
From the Daily:
TCF Bank Stadium to be equipped with high-def video boards---------------------
The University's Athletics Department and South Dakota-based Daktronics agreed last week on the contract's terms, ending a search for a video board contractor.
Officials agreed to the $9 million terms, because Daktronics "fit the bid," said assistant athletics director Phil Esten, who added that the contract falls within the estimated price for that portion of the stadium project.
The next time OurLeader complains about the meager resources provided to the university by the state, I hope he remembers what his own priorities were and how this nine million dollars was spent.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Departs for New UC-Irvine Law School
Brian Leiter reports:
Burk from Minnesota to UC Irvine
Dan Burk, a prolific and influential scholar in the intellectual property area at the University of Minnesota, has accepted an offer to join the new Law School at the University of California at Irvine.
With Burk, Chemerinsky, and Fisk as the first three tenure-stream academic faculty, Irvine currently has a per capita rate of scholarly impact higher than Yale!
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Mr. B. admits to a sneaking admiration for homeschoolers, even the wingnuts. These folks walk the talk. Perhaps when he retires from full time mischief making, he will offer, gratis, his science and math teaching skills to parents who wish to homeschool their children. But according to this Time report, he had better not retire to California.
Parents of the approximately 200,000 home-schooled children in California are reeling from the possibility that they may have to shutter their classrooms — and go back to school themselves — if they want to continue teaching their own kids. Citing state law that goes back to the early 1950s, Croskey declared that "California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children." Furthermore, the judge wrote, if instructors teach without credentials they will be subject to criminal action.
This news raised a furor among home schooling advocates, including government officials. "Every California child deserves a quality education and parents should have the right to decide what's best for their children," Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement today. "Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children's education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts and if the courts don't protect parents' rights then, as elected officials, we will.
The debacle originated with a suit over child abuse. One of the eight children of Philip and Mary Long, a Los Angeles couple, had filed a complaint of abuse and neglect with the L.A. Department of Children and Family Services. The agency determined that the Long children were being home schooled, taught by their uncredentialed mother while officially enrolled in independent study at Sunland Christian School. The DCFS then turned to the courts to mandate that the children attend public school so that teachers might spot evidence of abuse (a charge the parents deny). A juvenile court, however, determined that the Longs had a constitutional right to home school their children. The DCFS appealed and the case landed in Croskey's appellate court.
For years, the state of California has allowed parents to home school as long as they file papers to create a private school and hire a tutor with credentials or if their child participates in an independent study program through a credentialed school. In evaluating the Long case, however, Judge Croskey found that state law forbade any home schooling that was not taught by a credentialed teacher and that what California had been allowing was, in his judicial opinion, illegal. In 1953, another appellate court ruled against home-schooling parents who didn't want to adhere to California's compulsory education laws, which require kids between six and 18 to attend a credentialed school. The current case is most likely to be appealed to California's Supreme Court.
The fact that this sweeping ruling has sprung from such an individualized case is what has most outraged home schooling advocates. "Public schools are not a solution to the problem of child abuse," says Leslie Buchanan, president of the HomeSchool Association of California. Jack O'Connell, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction — the equivalent of a department of education — now faces the potential crisis of dealing with tens of thousands of truants. Does he know what will happen next? "I honestly don't know," O'Connell says, adding that his department is reviewing the case. "There is some angst in the field."Many crazy educational experiments have been perpetrated on our children. I think it is fair to say that the average home schooled child will outperform the average attendee at a public school.
Do not misunderstand me. I believe in the public schools and sent my own child to public school. But for a parent with the time, energy, and commitment I believe that outstanding results can be obtained via home schooling.
Mr. B. - a parent, teacher, and home schooling fan.
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Or, Tim Pawlenty Has Some Suggestions
For Junk Yard Dog
From the Pioneer Press:
Pawlenty calls for sacrifice, compromise
His proposed cuts to higher education institutions, which would save the state $54 million in 2009, are also likely to be unpopular.
On Friday, officials from the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU college system said the cuts would be a problem.
"It's a momentum stopper," said U chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter.
Pawlenty said that shouldn't be so.
"It is a relatively small percentage of their overall budget on the heels of a very large increase," the governor said. "If they need some help identifying where to cut, we are happy to make some suggestions to them starting with administration in both institutions."Ouch! - Bonzo
Friday, March 7, 2008
Being Driven to Discover(TM) I was in the lab doing research with five undergraduates during OurLeader's widely advertised state of the university address.
Apparently student attendance was rather disappointing. Maybe they were studying, or working in laboratory, or working full- or part-time jobs in order to pay their ever-rising tuition and fees?
Or maybe, as one of the approximately ten students who did attend, put it:
This "ambitious aspiration to be one of the top three research universities in the world [sic]" has started to become a joke in bad taste. And the more OurLeader harps on it, the more students, faculty, and taxpayers tire of it. As warmer weather sets in (let us pray), roadkill starts to smell.
Enough already, Bob. Let's stabilize tuition, pay attention to the core at the university, and aim to be one of the better universities in the BigTen in line with our mission as a land grant institution.
Let's start having an actual dialog at the University about where we are and where we want to go and how we are going to accomplish this with the resources we have.
As Barack would say: "Yes, we can!"
For some of the things we do, students need direct supervision. It would have been nice to attend and ask OurLeader questions, e.g. "What happened to Folwell Hall?" But it is should be clear by now that the Bruininks/Sullivan administration simply doesn't care what the faculty think.
For a good recent example of this Administration's attitude, please see the post:
on the Periodic Table, Too.
The Daily reports on OurLeader's State of the University Address:
University President Bob Bruininks delivered his sixth-annual State of the University address to roughly 250 people Thursday afternoon at the Mayo Auditorium.
A focus on the University's goal to become one of the top public research universities dominated the speech.
The president played off the famous tale of a Dutch boy who plugged a sea wall with his finger, saving his village from a flood.
"The tide is rising on all sides," he said. "We can plug the holes we see and pray for the flood to retreat, or welcome the water and rise with it."
Bruininks thanked state officials for their support of the University's biomedical research program.
Bruininks didn't discuss the Folwell Hall renovations that were left out of the bills.
Bruininks acknowledged tuition affordability as a continuing challenge for the University. Although scholarship support for low-income students has increased in recent years, there should be more focus on students between extreme income brackets, he said.
"Middle-income families bear the brunt of any increase in tuition and fees," he said. "We must strive to create a consistent and substantial level of scholarship and grant support for all middle-income Minnesota students."
Brett Bennett, a neuroscience and biochemistry senior, said he came to the speech to hear what Bruininks had to say about the University's strategic positioning plan.
Bennett, one of roughly 10 students at the event, said low student turnout could result from some students' busy schedules - but some just don't care, he said.
Bennett said he saw a lot of advertising for the speech.
During the question-and-answer session that followed the address, Bruininks was asked how he liked being the University's president.
Bruininks said it's been one of the best jobs he's ever had, but it's one he can't do forever. The University benefits from creativity and fresh ideas that come with turnover, he said.Amen. Bonzo
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The Folwell Hall Sellout Or, I Guess It is Not Unique and Essential...
See yesterday's post below for the backstory on unique and essential buildings at the University. Apparently we are going to build four new ones for biomedical research.
Meanwhile, the University Administration has pulled the rug out from under the Folwell renovation, even though the governor had already indicated his approval.
It is instructive to look at the university's justification for the Folwell Hall project. From their website:
The Administration's treatment of the Folwell renovation is a good example of the fact that you should pay more attention to what people do than to what they say.PROGRAM
An Historic Building at the Center of Undergraduate Instruction
Folwell Hall was built in 1907. It is one of the oldest buildings on the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus.
Folwell Hall was named for William Watts Folwell, the first president of the University at a time when the U had eight faculty and fewer than 100 students.
Today, Folwell Hall houses nearly 150 faculty and staff, 824 undergraduate majors, and 218 graduate majors.
The Baccalaureate Writing Initiative
On the Twin Cities campus, the new baccalaureate writing initiative, to be housed in Folwell Hall, was launched this fall. It is an essential part of the University's strategic positioning plan.
A commitment to improving student writing is a distinguishing feature of a U of M baccalaureate degree.
The ability to write well is central to a quality education, in every major, and is demanded by all employers.
Thirty-nine languages are taught at the University, 19 of them in Folwell Hall alone.
The Folwell Hall renovation supports state and federal security, educational, and trade interests through the teaching of Chinese, Vietnamese, Urdu, Hindi, and Turkish and other global languages.
Folwell Hall is the largest foreign language training center in Minnesota.BENEFITS
Preserving our Heritage
Renovating Folwell Hall will support key academic programs while preserving it as an important symbol of the U's long history of serving the state.
Folwell Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Improving Undergraduate Education
A renovated Folwell Hall will better serve students and the state by educating global citizens with effective communication skills across disciplines and cultures.
A renovated Folwell Hall will define the freshman experience for each entering class.
Folwell Hall will become a multilingual and multicultural hub for the study and research of languages, literature, and writing.
Renovate the interior of Folwell Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the Twin Cities campus
Update obsolete classrooms to accommodate digital technology, better supporting leading edge changes in the way writing and languages are taught.
Provide improved accessibility, fire safety features, and mechanical and electrical systems.
Improve the learning environment by upgrading HVAC systems to eliminate noise, which disrupts teaching and learning
In Wellstonian: These people are not very good at walking the talk.
Of course this would take leadership, vision, and a sense of priorities commensurate with our land grant mission.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Or, Should the State Provide 500 Million Dollars Over the Next Thirty Years for This Purpose?
As pointed out on several earlier occasions, our friends at the Star-Tribune seem to be in very close contact with Morrill Hall. Mr. B. believes that there must be a red telephone in Morrill Hall. Possibly in the basement near the river of money that flows from St. Paul...
The latest example of this close relationship, an uncritical piece of puff pastry, has just been served up in the Star-Tribune:
Editorial: Biosciences buildings are a must this yearThis is a totally bogus argument that is unsupported by facts. "extraordinary significance?" "birthing place of a major new high-wage industry?" In...your...dreams..
Last update: March 4, 2008 - 6:53 PM
With more than $4 requested for every $1 the Legislature can authorize, the disappointment of rejected pleaders for building projects weighs on legislators. But this year's bill is provoking more than the usual angst, for at least two reasons:
This bill is the vehicle carrying the state's best hope for leadership in the emerging biosciences industry -- and that feature's design has run into worrisome opposition.
Via his finance commissioner, Tom Hanson, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has served notice that he won't go along with the separate bonding track for four major bioscience research buildings at the University of Minnesota, as spelled out in the House and Senate bonding bills. Pawlenty, who says he continues to support the project, wants to treat those buildings as any other in the bonding process.
"One time is an exception. Twice is an end-run around our policy," Hanson said Tuesday. He worries about the potential for others to propose to issue their own bonds, and convince the Legislature to pay their debt service, as the biosciences plan envisions.
But surely, if the stadium qualified as an exception to usual practice because of its extraordinary significance, the same can be said for facilities intended to be the birthing place of a major new high-wage industry.
And you call this a newspaper?
And surely the governor understands the political reality that's behind the university's request for a separate bonding track. At $233 million, this project would consume so much of this year's state bonding capacity that dozens of legislators' smaller pet projects would be squeezed out.So just give 'em the money? That makes a lot of sense. Is this more important than Follwell Hall, than tuition stabilization, than protecting the core of the University from deterioration? Have the relative merits of these alternatives ever been discussed by the University community? Or is this just another fast shuffle, something we have become increasingly familiar with under the Bruininks/Sullivan regime?
Seldom will today's legislators have a better opportunity to set the table for the state's economy in 2025 and beyond. Pawlenty and legislators should recognize that the biosciences proposal is unique -- and essential.Unique and essential? Such statements are meaningless. We already have a cancer center. We already have a magnetic resonance facility. If these buildings are so unique and essential then they could easily be justified. But there are, arguably, many other needs of the University that are more important. Could we have this discussion, this conversation, please?
The size of the bonding bill has become another headache. After last week's forecast of reduced state revenues and enactment of a transportation bill that included $60 million in general-fund financed bonds, Hanson said the bonding bill must shrink. He called for a trim from the expected $965 million to $825 million.You see this is not free money. The state is obligated to pay these bonds. So why aren't they to be considered to be part of the bonding package?
Nevertheless, in bipartisan fashion, legislators are charging ahead at the $965 million level. Eleven Republicans joined 40 DFLers in giving the Senate's bill preliminary approval yesterday.In the long run these maneuvers are only going to damage the university.
Yesterday's maneuvers could come back to bite legislators later, if they invite Pawlenty to put a sizable number of approved projects on hold. Legislators are already well aware of the disappointment they cause when they say no to building projects. They might think that authorizing the higher amount will force the governor to play the heavy. But in the process, they'll damage their own credibility.
This administration has carefully avoided the question of where the money is going to come from to fill the buildings with people and equipment. (Hint: Further bleed the core...)
Many people in Follwell Hall, in CLA, and, in general, on the North side of Washington Avenue are becoming increasingly demoralized due to neglect by the central administration.
And you can be sure that the claims of hundreds of millions of dollars in research funding will be subject to close scrutiny in the future. The comings (and goings) of great men and women will be monitored.
Oh, and one other little thing that was picked up by the Daily:
At the hearing last week, a number of representatives from research firms like Medtronic spoke in support of the bill on the University's behalf, but they also stand to gain from the project.
Under the legislation, the University would be required to make the labs available to research firms for a fee, and would forfeit patent rights to discoveries that "do not involve its innovative intellectual contributions."
With the cost of the project taking center stage of late, and private interests set to potentially benefit, the lack of private funds directly involved in the program could be an issue.
This is breathtaking in its audacity. Dr. Cerra argues vociferously that we need this space ever so much, but it is to be on call for the biomedical industry as part of the deal. Hello, Kitty.
Whose bright idea was this? Was this ever subjected to scrutiny by a faculty research committee?
Oh, I see, Dr. Cerra. You just want us to trust you and cut the check. Sure, see you next year.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Or, How to Circumvent Minnesota State Bonding Limits
The following material has been sent to me by:
University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association lifetime member
I have omitted a few things from the original, but added nothing myself.
Thanks to Mr. McNabb for allowing me to post this material.
In January 2006 the Chair of the Board of Regents responded to one of my early letters regarding the stadium by stating that the U was making it clear to the legislature that the "stream of financing" for the stadium should be separate from the regular state bonding bill. I replied by pointing out the legislature does not have two pots of money--one for athletics and one for all other purposes.
As it turned out, the University and the legislature came up with an idea to circumvent the statutory limit on bonding authority. Instead of issuing regular state bonds for the stadium, the legislature authorized the issuance of "University" bonds for the stadium. These bonds would still be paid out of general revenues collected by the state, but the state would not pledge its full faith and credit for the payment of the bonds. So, if the state revenues were not sufficient to pay the bonds, the U would have to make up the difference. Of course, the only source of revenue for the U is tuition.
On Tuesday evening the Senate Capital Investment Committee had a "hearing" on the state bonding bill for this biennium. The chair of the committe is Senator Keith Langseth. I called his office on Tuesday morning to ask to be placed on the list of persons who wished to testify. I received a call back from a young woman assistant in his office. She told me that the committee was not going to schedule any witnesses. I asked her if the committee was going to hold any other hearings. She replied that Tuesday evening was be the best opportunity to testify. I then asked how that could be if the committee was not planning to take any testimony. I then asked if that was the decision of Senator Langseth. The poor young girl then had a panic attack and hung up on me.
I attended the committee "hearing" on Tuesday evening at the Capitol. The committee approved a $1 billion bonding bill in less than 60 minutes. There was no debate and no testimony from any witnesses.
During the oral summary of the bill the staff member announced the bonding proposal for the biomedical facilities authority for the U. He said that the same financing mechanism would be used as for the stadium; namely, the legislature would authorize the authority to issue "University" bonds that would be paid from general revenues of the state, but the state would not pledge its full faith and credit. There was an audible snicker and laughs from the legislators at the committee table.
Now, today's edition of the Pioneer Press reports that the bonds for the authority are in jeopardy because the state commissioner of finance states that "University" bonds do count against the limit of bonds that may be issued for the biennium.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Or, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Morrill Hall...
From the Pioneer Press:
By Paul TostoHmm... Maybe football's different?
Article Last Updated: 02/29/2008 11:27:00 PM CST
The package hit a snag this week after Minnesota Finance Commissioner Tom Hanson questioned the plan's financing, which calls for the state to help pay off nearly $300 million in bonds issued by the university.
Because the bonds would be floated by the university — not the state — supporters argue they would run outside the guideline limits of this year's state bonding bill.
But Hanson on Tuesday said that wasn't the case.
"There is no doubt that these buildings would be part of the state's overall debt obligations and should be treated accordingly," he wrote to lawmakers, adding that "this proposal would appropriate roughly a half-billion dollars over more than 25 years without any further oversight."
Call me irresponsible, call me unreliable,
Throw in undependable too.
Do my foolish alibis bore you ?
Call me unpredictable, tell me I'm impractical,
Rainbows I'm inclined to pursue.(with apologies to Francis Sinatra)
The university has pitched the biosciences buildings for a couple of years but has been unable to gain enough House support. That changed when the university and lawmakers refashioned the plan: The U would sell $292 million in bonds, and the state would agree to pay off about 80 percent. It's similar to the deal used to finance the University of Minnesota Gophers football stadium.
Hanson threw a wrench into the plan, though, when he argued the biosciences bonds must be counted in the capital bonding calculation.
Hanson's position changed the rules, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer. "This is the same (kind of) transaction as the stadium, and they didn't count the stadium, so I don't know what's going on."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty could look past the bonding guidelines and approve the biosciences buildings, Pfutzenreuter noted.
Given the state's tough budget outlook, however, that might be a hard sell. Pawlenty's office did not respond immediately to questions on the matter.
Is Mr. Pfutzenreuter really surprised?
Why these buildings should get a free pass while the campus core is being neglected is a mystery.
Yep, we got our HEAPR money slashed and the Senate proposal is suspiciously close to the governor's. They even seem to be ready to give the shaft to those nice people up in Morris, who are too busy teaching to participate in the ambitious research aspirations of OurLeader et al.
So lets go after half a billion for the next 25 years without any oversight and hope that no one notices the weak justification when compared to other more pressing needs.
Is this an example of great leadership or just another attempt to pull a fast one? You make the call.
For further information please see:
If You Build It, Grants Will Come? Or, Could Someone at BigU Please Be Honest and Responsible About Expansion of Biomedical Research?
Trees Do Not Grow to The Sky or, Why the State Legislature Should Not Write a Blank Check to BigU for Biomedical Research Buildings
In the hope that priorities will change for the better at BigU. Let's start worrying about tuition stabilization, funding the core, and becoming one of the better universities in the BigTen. Time to close down Driven to Discover and drop the smokescreen of "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]."
Our students and our state deserve better.