Saturday, August 30, 2008

[U of M folks, in particular, may
find the addendum at bottom
especially interesting.]

The Strib monitors recent developments in the Sainfort/Jacko debacle:

Professor accused of holding two jobs drops titles at U

By JEFF SHELMAN, Star Tribune

August 29, 2008

One of the two University of Minnesota professors accused of drawing paychecks from two universities at the same time resigned his leadership position in the school's Academic Health Center.

Francois Sainfort, who came to Minnesota from Georgia Tech with his wife, Prof. Julie Jacko, resigned as the head of the Division of Health Policy and Management in the university's School of Public Health.

Sainfort, who will remain at the university as a professor, has been permanently replaced by long-time U Prof. Ira Moscovice.

Sainfort will also no longer carry the title of Mayo Professor of Public Health.

Those moves means that Sainfort will lose $95,000 annually from the compensation package he agreed to nearly a year ago. He is still being paid his base salary of $265,000.

Sainfort and Jacko remain under investigation for double-dipping, both by the Georgia attorney general's office and by the U's general counsel.

Georgia officials could indict the couple while U officials could begin the process to revoke their tenure.

"In his discussion with me, he stepped down because his situation with Georgia was going to be dragging on for quite a while," said John Finnegan, the dean of the U's School of Public Health. "He recognized the division really needed stable leadership."

"Obviously, the situation that happened to Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko has not been a positive one for us," Finnegan said.

A call to the couple's attorney was not returned.

Sainfort and Jacko were expected to begin working full time at the U in January. However, in a February e-mail to a Georgia Tech administrator, Sainfort described his workload at the Atlanta school as "completely full," and that neither he nor Jacko had signed contracts with Minnesota.

Alleged double-dipping

The U contends that the couple signed contracts in October 2007. Georgia Tech has said they signed contracts to work there for the entire 2007-08 school year after they signed with Minnesota. The two resigned from Georgia Tech on May 24, about a month after accusations of double employment became public.

"We have cooperated with the Georgia Attorney General's Office and we were led to understand that they were going to be deciding what path to go down by the end of August or early September," Finnegan said.

"The last thing that I heard through the [U's] Office of General Counsel was that the attorney general's office in Georgia was a long way away from determining what they are going to do. Well, that's terribly damaging to Francois as you can imagine, because this just hangs on and on and on. That's what Francois recognized when he came to me and decided step down as division head.

"What I'm hopeful for is that the Georgia attorney general will choose not to file charges and that they can continue here in their faculty leadership roles."

Jacko requested a leave from her position as director of the Institute of Health Informatics until the end of September. She is currently "lead faculty" for the institute. Both she and Sainfort were considered star hires for the university.

Awaiting Georgia documents

Mark Rotenberg, the U's general counsel, said his office is awaiting documents from Georgia before making a decision on the couple's future.

"We have certain issues with expenses that were charged to both institutions that we are looking at which are related to, but not the same as, issues that are of apparent concern to Georgia attorney general's office," Rotenberg said. "We have only limited ability to obtain documents until they are done with their investigation."

Finnegan said Sainfort and Jacko will continue in their roles as professors. The two are also working to obtain sponsored research grants.

Will this continue to fly? I think not. One of the commenters on the Strib website has it about right:

"Obviously, the situation that happened to Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko has not been a positive one for us." Finnegan said.

Nothing 'happened to' Sainfort and Jacko. It is correct to say that Sainfort and Jacko and their [alleged] misdeeds 'happened' to the U and to Georgia Tech. But that kind of smarmy, passive voice 'non-judgmental' language is just new age sophistry, a namby-pamby doublespeak that allow people who do WRONG to get off...

And Rotenberg?

"We will try to piece this together in regard to whether something serious has indeed happened here in regard to so-called double-dipping." Mark Rotenberg, U of M general counsel

Lord, love a duck...

And OurLeader?

"I think we need to put ourselves in the position of acting according to the highest ethical principles. I believe our people do that now and I believe our people will be doing that in the future as well." President Bruininks (Daily: 6-18-08)

This situation is starting to resemble the light rail fiasco.

Long after it has become obvious that something has to be done
about a situation that is increasingly harmful to the U, our administration does nothing in the hope that ignoring the problem might somehow make it go away.

If only Georgia Tech decides not to prosecute them then everything will be OK?

It won't.

Rapid, decisive, and punitive action last April MIGHT have saved this pair, but now it is too late. One obvious solution would have been to ask them to return the U's money for the double-dipping period which could then have been euphemized as a "misunderstanding." Otherwise, in the immortal words of Ray Charles: "Hit the road, Jacques!"

But that would have required action based on integrity and ethical principles. Words about integrity are not in short supply at the U - see above - but walking this talk? Not so much in evidence. Instead we find our administrative leadership collectively rotating their wet fingers in the breeze and praying that they can avoid having to use the adminspeak admission of failure: "Mistakes were made."

And how do you think faculty are going to feel who have to work with these folks, Bob? Shouldn't faculty leaders be chosen by the ah, er, faculty?

Guess not.

Apparently faculty opinions are of little concern. In the imperial words of the provost of the Academic Health Center:
"People will think what they want to think."

Added later:

Here is a fine example, from the comments section of the Strib web site, of what passes for administrative logic at the U:

"So much for due process

Have they been charged, tried or convicted of anything either here or in Minnesota? No? Well that does it, then. They must be guilty. Whatever happened to getting your day in court?

posted by finne001 on Aug. 30, 08 at 5:30 AM

3 of 17 people liked this comment. Do you?"

Those so inclined can use the U of M people search and, use the "Search by" pulldown to choose Internet ID, then type in finne001 in the search field. Voila!

finne001, I think giving Sainfort and Jacko their day in court is exactly what needs to be done and as soon as possible.

Why don't you get right on this? Maybe a little better job of vetting in the first place would have saved us a lot of trouble? Whose responsibility was that?

Duke was apparently a little more cautious in vetting Sainfort for a deanship.

Do you think that we have enough evidence to proceed on our own based on the Regent's policy on double dipping?

Do you think that since last April, our ace university counsel, Mark Rotenberg, may have gotten sorted out whether, at any time, these folks were getting two paychecks for the same pay period?

Somehow this doesn't seem to be a very difficult thing to establish. There are income tax records. Under appropriate circumstances they may be obtained either voluntarily or otherwise. See Mark Rotenberg for further information - that's his job.

Or perhaps we should try something really novel and ask them? Someone apparently did this last February at Georgia Tech and the response did not seem truthful. Maybe more honest results could be obtained under oath? Ask Mark Rotenberg - that's his job.

You don't have to wait for Georgia Tech or the Georgia Attorney General's office to begin proceedings. Don't try to hide lack of appropriate administrative action in this matter - very damaging to the U - behind a smokescreen of due process concern.

Unless finne001 suffers from identity theft, he is not exactly unbiased in this matter. The shop-worn (at the U of M) phrase "conflict of interest" comes to mind.

By all means Jacko and Sainfort should be afforded due process - that is not the issue here and finne001 should know it.

Here's a legal aphorism to chew on: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

Maybe Sainfort and Jacko are deliberately being allowed to twist slowly in the wind so that they will do the right thing - for the administration - and just leave? Thus saving our various deans and provosts further embarrassment without having to admit their own contribution to this fiasco.

Wouldn't be the first time...

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Lead, follow,
or get the hell out of the way..."

John Wiley - Speaking the Truth is Not Disloyalty

Excerpts from John Wiley's courageous article about the University of Wisconsin follow. There is a reason why Wisconsin is an outstanding university. Leadership matters. Our self-styled junkyard dog could possibly learn some things from Wiley...

From Madison magazine:

[Editors' Note: John D. Wiley is not leaving his post as chancellor of the state's flagship university quietly. In this extraordinarily honest and poignant piece, Wiley revisits a call to action he made in Madison Magazine five years ago, and implores the citizens of Wisconsin to take a stand against the state's largest interest group, corrosive political partisanship, and wasteful state policies before they cripple our state economy.]

Wisconsin has lost its way.

We've lost touch with our traditions and values. Our politics has become a poisonous swill, and the most influential voice for the business community has been taken hostage by partisan ideologues.

As I leave the chancellorship of the University of Wisconsin--Madison, I wish I could paint a brighter picture. It's difficult when two of the institutions with so much ability to drive positive change and growth--the business community and our university--are stuck in a swamp.

It is tempting to say, "I'm glad the health of UW--Madison is now someone else's problem. I can just go back to being a professor. Or, if I choose, I can retire altogether and move out of Wisconsin." But it's not someone else's problem: It's a problem for every citizen of Wisconsin and everyone who knows our history, our ideals and our potential.

Today, the governor is preparing the next biennial state budget and grappling with another massive deficit. After one-time lapses and permanent reductions in six of the last seven biennia, every state agency, state university, technical school, K-12 school district and municipality is facing the bleak prospect of further cutbacks.

We need to recover.

In 2003, I wrote an article for Madison Magazine called "Higher Education at the Crossroads." I opened with a plea for serious debate: I want to send a wake-up call to the citizens of Wisconsin regarding our economy and our educational system. The ailing economy poses a serious threat to our schools and colleges and unless we act now to protect funding for education, the state's future will be bleak.

The next three thousand words explained why by analyzing both where we stood and trends looking toward the future. I talked about the payback for investments in education to citizens as well as to the state, and their huge impact on our economy. I compared the situation to that in Minnesota--most unflattering to Wisconsin--and called for widespread debate on the public policies associated with public education.

My analysis has stood up well over the last five years; there's hardly a word I would change today. But we're still waiting for the debate to occur. And now, five years later, if I were to update the numbers, such as per capita incomes, returns on college investment and per capita expenditures on education, the picture would be even more bleak.

As chancellor, I had lots of occasions to meet with prominent, influential Wisconsin citizens and business leaders, and public support for public education was always at or near the top of my agenda for discussion. With almost no exceptions, everyone agreed that we can't grow our future economy without significant new investments in education--or at least a restoration of some of the last fifteen years worth of cuts. Those in the high-tech community are especially worried about the state's direction.

Still, the hyper-partisan political environment at the state capitol is toxic. The first priority seems to be to repudiate, damage or block any proposal or position of the other party. The second priority is to push their own party's proposals and positions in unaltered form.

The far distant third priority--to be avoided if at all possible--seems to be addressing any genuine state need that requires compromise.
All of this is pretty obvious to most Wisconsinites.

In every corner of the state, I hear complaints about partisanship from corporate executives, average Joes and everyone in between. I also hear that most people expect the university and the business community to lead the way toward a brighter future, as they have done in the past.

To that end, our university has been more entrepreneurial--our research park is thriving on the west side (and soon will expand to an exciting new site downtown), our discoveries are driving spin-off companies and our students are learning the importance of entrepreneurship.

According to 2007 U.S. Census Bureau numbers, Wisconsin currently has the eleventh-highest per capita state tax revenues in the nation, and WMC cites the statistic as evidence that Wisconsin is a "tax hell."

But look at the ten states with higher per capita taxes than Wisconsin: Hawaii, Wyoming, Connecticut, Minnesota, Delaware, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and New York. Nine of the ten have higher per capita income than Wisconsin. In particular, Minnesota, our demographic twin, has the fourth-highest per capita taxation, and they're knocking our socks off economically. They are currently ninth in the nation in per capita income while Wisconsin has slid to twenty-first.

And of the ten states with the lowest per capita taxation in the country--Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, New Hampshire, Colorado, South Dakota, and Texas--eight have lower per capita income than Wisconsin.

So which economies should we aspire to: the dynamic, high-income, high-tech, twenty-first-century economies of Minnesota, Delaware and Massachusetts, or the economies of South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama?

Real Solutions, Not Just Political Smoke and Mirrors

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only ten states have full-time legislatures, and Wisconsin is by far the smallest of these. Why do we need a full-time legislature if Minnesota, Indiana and other similar-sized states don't? How much money would we save, and how much less partisan would our legislature be, if we had part-time citizen legislators who met periodically to work together and solve problems?

Can anyone explain or justify the fact that, according to 2007 Census figures, Wisconsin has 22,966 people incarcerated when our sister state of Minnesota has only 8,757? Are Wisconsin citizens that much more criminally inclined? What does Minnesota know that we don't?

I could continue with dozens of additional examples, but I need to stop somewhere.

Let me end with two final messages.

To the citizens of Wisconsin: Unless we want Wisconsin to become a permanent third-world state, we need to stop electing fanatically dedicated partisan ideologues of all stripes and start electing pragmatic problem solvers.

To WMC [Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce] member companies: Please get control of your staff or replace them. Tell them, and your board, that they are expected to apply some of that legendary evidence-based, business-world pragmatism and stay focused on legitimate issues of Wisconsin's economic development instead of their personal political biases.
Despite Wisconsin's enormous problems, they are still cleaning our clock as a university.

Why, exactly is this? Might it have something to do with leadership?

Think of the great things that we should be able to do if we got our act together.

You do not hear folks at the University of Wisconsin making boasts about "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]." They are a lot closer to realizing this goal than we are.

Bob? Tom? Please think about it.

Could we please engage in a community conversation this Fall about where we stand at the University of Minnesota and where we want to go?

Instead of platitudes, could we have an honest assessment of the kind John Wiley has had the courage to make?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

l-r: James Williams, Elayn J. Taylor, James Alfred.
Photo by Ann Marsden, courtesy Penumbra Theatre.

Penumbra's "Fences"
The Definitive Production

From the Strib:

'Fences' is intimate, powerful

THEATER REVIEW: Director Lou Bellamy and his gifted cast have delivered a riveting production of August Wilson's masterwork about a bitter former baseball player.

By ROHAN PRESTON, Star Tribune

James A. Williams, who plays Troy, gives the performance of his life. From his thunderous laughter and the taut veins in his neck to the flash of anger in his eyes, Williams delivers a chiseled and engrossing performance as the brokenhearted center of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 masterwork.

There is not one false note in Lou Bellamy's funny, robust and riveting staging of this drama. He hits it way out of the park.

The play has a distinguished production history. James Earl Jones won a Tony Award for playing Troy on Broadway. But he has some serious competition at Penumbra, not least because the house is so intimate that you feel the energy of the actors as they whoosh by you on the way to the stage or as they coo or curse.

This show is so nuanced and palpable that it feels like you have been thrust into a dream. There are many elements of the design, including Don Darnutzer's ghost lights and C. Lance Brockman's set, that underscore the immediacy of the work.
From the Pioneer Planet:

Theater review: Penumbra knocks one out of the park with 'Fences'

By Dominic P. Papatola

Article Last Updated: 08/22/2008

Great hitters will tell you that, when they're in the groove, time seems to slow down. They can see the ball as it's released from the pitcher's hand, note its precise rotation, anticipate its dips and bends, maybe even count the seams. Putting the bat to that hurled sphere — a difficult task complicated by external physics and internal pressures — seems, in that moment, to be a doable, even routine job.

You have to believe that James A. Williams felt that way at Thursday's opening night of "Fences" at Penumbra Theatre Company.

Playing former Negro League great Troy Maxon in August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about responsibility, opportunity and inter-generational conflict, Williams is a commanding, powerful presence. Even by the standards of Penumbra — one of the nation's top interpreters of Wilson's work — this performance is one for the ages.

It's a role of Shakespearean scope and heft, and Williams finds every ounce. Powerfully built, with a bit of a paunch, he
has the precise look of a once-prime ballplayer gone to seed.

When Troy is backslapping with his old friend Bono (Marion McClinton, admirably knocking the rust off after many years away from the stage), Williams is hale and loose and loud and boisterous; an old dog who still has plenty of bite.

When he's dealing with his brother (James Craven, heart-rendingly childlike as a veteran gone slug-nutty after a head injury in World War II), Williams bends Troy toward tolerance and as close to compassion as the character's bearing allows.

And when he's jousting with his son (James T. Alfred, nicely nuanced and vulnerable as the talented athlete whose chance for a college scholarship rankles his father with reminders of his own unmet dreams), Williams can be perfectly terrifying, standing nose-to-nose with a stare that could boil lead.

The only character that comes close to matching Troy, in fact, is his wife, Rose, Elayn J. Taylor seems to be cruising comfortably through the role, but when she delivers a second-act monologue reacting to Troy's infidelity ("I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn't take me no 18 years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn't never gonna bloom"), she cracks the character open, spilling out years of longing and love and regret with a gut-punch speech that leaves you breathless.

Director Lou Bellamy, who has played Troy himself a couple of times, has a crystalline vision of this script and this production, riding its comic highs and tragic lows with a poetic ease. C. Lance Brockman's front-yard set — realistic down to the scrap lumber tossed under the porch and the weeds growing through the cracks — pushes the action of the play up toward the audience.

It also serves as a reminder why Penumbra's tiny Selby-Dale stage — and not the wide, deep, distanced space of the Guthrie's proscenium house, where Penumbra staged "Gem of the Ocean" earlier this year — is the place to see an August Wilson play. "Fences" is a thundering play, and you want to be close enough to feel the ground shake.
Amen, Dom.

My wife and I attended the Thursday performance and it was all you say and more. There is no better place to see Wilson's plays than Penumbra. The actors are uniformly outstanding.

I also saw this year's production of "Gem" at the Guthrie. Given the, shall we say, long time that it took the Guthrie to recognize Wilson's genius, this was sweet to see. Penumbra can fill large spaces as well as small. If you live in the Twin Cities and you don't see a Wilson play done by Penumbra, you are making a big mistake.
(Tickets, anyone?)

I grew up in Pittsburgh - in the fifties. The play's radio broadcast of the Pirates and the mention of Clemente brought back good memories, and bad, of long ago...

And if you go not knowing what to expect, you are in for a hell of a surprise:

By Jean Gabler, TC Daily Planet
August 22, 2008

I asked my friend Barbara to help me review Fences, the Pulitzer Prize winning drama by August Wilson. The newspaper ad grabbed my attention: it shows just a baseball and one line. “The heartbreaking story of a man and his last chance at bat.” I was anticipating a feel-good story about a young man realizing his dream of being able to play baseball professionally. As you can tell, I tend to wear rose-colored glasses.

I don’t think either one of us knew anything about August Wilson and his series of plays, the Twentieth Century Cycle, being showcased at the Penumbra Theatre. These works explore the heritage and experience of African-Americans, decade-by-decade, through the century. I certainly did not see the type of story I anticipated, but I don’t think either one of us was disappointed

I would not call this a baseball story; however, it is filled with baseball metaphors. During a pivotal scene, Troy tells his wife Rose, “I have been standing on first base for 18 years, and I just wanted to steal second.” This is a story of the struggles of an African-American family in 1957, but many of the family’s struggles and relationships are timeless and cross all boundaries. I was not ready for the intensity of the emotions in this play—emotions magnified by the intimate feel of the Penumbra Theatre.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Drip, Drip, Drip... The Ice Cream is Melting

People Continue to Ask
What Should Be

Embarrassing Questions

"I think people will think what they want to think."

Frank Cerra [21 July 2008]

"I think we need to put ourselves in the position of acting according to the highest ethical principles. I believe our people do that now and I believe our people will be doing that in the future as well."

President Bruininks (Daily: 6-18-08)

Former Minnesota Senator Dave Durenberger in his August 19 (2008) commentary writes:

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA ACADEMIC HEALTH CENTER maintains its silence on the allegations that two new professors have been double-dipping pay and expense reimbursement as employees of Georgia Tech and UMN. Francois Sainfort was recruited from Georgia Tech to head up the Division of Health Policy and Management in the AHC's School of Public Health. Sainfort and his wife, Julie Jacko, were signed to UMN employment contracts October 1, 2007 at $285,000 and $216,000 respectively or $99,000 over their GA Tech pay. Georgia Tech alleges they were still employed and paid there through the first of 2008.

After the story broke locally in April, Sainfort was pressed by his new faculty to go on leave from the directorship (for which $20,000 of his annual comp was allotted). In August, he informed faculty that he was asking Dean of Public Health John Finnegan to replace him as division director, the job the UMN went looking to fill 2 years ago. He calls the Georgia Tech charges "unexpected and unfair."

Sainfort is an industrial engineer who went to Georgia Tech from Wisconsin a few years ago as associate dean of its College of Engineering, as William George Chair Professor, and as head of a new Health Systems Institute designed to build capacity for Atlanta Children's Hospital in the research arena. His wife Julie was also on the Georgia Tech faculty in information technology. The UMN's price to get a new division head in public health was to take both Sainforts, creating a dual position in Nursing and in Health Policy and Management for Julie, and giving Francois their Mayo chair and authority to hire additional faculty. AHC head Dr. Frank Cerra was quoted then as saying, "This is all part of the 'medical arms race' for research talent among universities."

Two questions the University of Minnesota might want to answer to help us understand how "The Medical Arms Race" in academic healthcare works.

First, was Sainfort actually leveraging the Minnesota job for money and a job for his spouse against other opportunities?

Officials at Georgia Tech report that sometime after Sainfort and Jacko inked their UMN contracts, Sainfort made the three person "short list" of finalists for dean of Duke University's College of Engineering and Duke came checking up on him at Georgia Tech.

Second, if Sainfort is not the Division Director of Health Policy and Management at the U, who is?

And what will it cost us to keep Sainfort-Jacko around the campus doing what?

According to news reports Sainfort was coming with a high potential for garnering research grants, the financial lifeblood of the school. Under the circumstances it's hard to imagine the supposed 12 million dollars of GA Tech grants, much of which was designed for the Children's Hospital capacity building project, flying to UMN with Sainfort. The cloud which did accompany him here is also likely to make it difficult to secure new grants of any size to justify his employment.

Ignoring this situation is not going to make it go away...

Bob, Tom, Frank ?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Robert Bruinks: True to U

From the Star-Tribune:

By Jeff Shelman, Star Tribune

August 16, 2008

This year, the Legislature answered his call to put nearly $300 million into a long-coveted bioscience research facility. A football stadium is rising on the Minneapolis campus. A university-developed city is being considered for 5,000 acres in Dakota County. And the school has the audacious goal of becoming one of the "top three public research institutions in the world."

Yet big challenges are looming for Bruininks and the U as start another academic year.

In-state tuition and fees have surpassed $10,000 for the first time, and the share of the U's funding from the Legislature is shrinking. Meanwhile, the cost of raising the school's profile and recruiting top-notch faculty members keeps increasing.

"He does care passionately about this university," said Gary Balas, a U faculty leader who was a vocal opponent of the new Gophers stadium. "I think that shows when he goes out and talks to constituents, the Legislature, the faculty.''

Balas added that even though he gets angry with Bruininks, "You can't deny his commitment and his vision for the university."

Some on campus are wondering whether Bruininks, 66, will retire before his contract expires in 2011, a possibility that he does not rule out.

After spending much of his first two years on the job dealing with a $185 million cut from the Legislature -- a task that included paring the school's Extension Service from 87 county offices to 18 regional centers -- Bruininks got to work on reworking the U's structure.

In 2005, the regents approved Bruininks' "strategic positioning" plan. It trimmed the number of colleges from 18 to 15 and created the "top three" goal -- while adding writing requirements for undergraduates and strengthening honors programs.

Bruininks has since had success at the Legislature. The state is funding a campus building boom, with the TCF Bank Stadium opening next fall and four new or refurbished bioscience research buildings by 2013.

High school students and their parents know it's getting more difficult to be accepted to the U's Twin Cities campus. Nationwide, colleges are seeing a rise in applicants because of a population boom of teenagers and the fact that students are applying to more schools -- two trends that inevitably make campuses appear more selective.

In a five-year span, applications jumped from fewer than 15,000 to more than 26,000. In 2003, the U accepted 77.4 percent of applicants. It accepted only 57.8 percent last fall.

But not everything has been going smoothly for Bruininks. In 2003, 60 years after the last strike at the U, some campus workers took to picket lines seeking better wages. They did it again last year, and Bruininks' resistance to their dollar-a-day demands prompted complaints from legislators.

This spring, the university angered legislators again when it took a public stand against routing the Central Corridor light-rail line through the heart of campus, then finally backed down when its opposition threatened to derail the popular transit proposal.

On the day of the final vote, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, accused the university of arrogance. "When I used that word publicly, that so resonated with people," she said. "To criticize your university is a pretty harsh thing to do. ...

"Some of us were a little concerned with the amount of money the university spent fighting the Central Corridor route. That's the type of thing that if you're a legislator and you're concerned about high tuition, it obviously catches your attention."

Tuition and fees have risen nearly $3,000 since 2003, and there are questions about how the school's ambitions will be financed. The "top three" priority, in particular, has come under questioning from some faculty members about whether it's even possible.

University lab medicine and pathology Prof. William Gleason, whose blog takes frequent aim at the university administration, contends that university's top priority needs to be making education affordable for the state's residents.

Gleason referred to data from Kiplinger's Personal Finance that found U of M student borrowers leaving school with an average of nearly $25,000 in debt, the largest of any public Big Ten school.

"We'd be extremely fortunate to be one of the best schools in the Big Ten," Gleason said at a recent public forum on the U of M's budget. "Continuing on with this Orwellian 'third best public research university in the world' business, in light of reality[*], is an embarrassment and only serves to make us look naive and foolish."

With the state forecasting lean economic times, university officials are not optimistic for a significant funding increase in the next few years. State funding makes up a smaller percentage of the U's budget than it did previously, but taxpayers still provide about 40 percent of the university's $3 billion budget.

In December 2006, he signed a three-year contract extension that runs through the end of the 2010-11 school year. Bruininks, who will be paid $455,000 this school year, said it's possible that he will leave the position before his contract is up, but won't stay any longer.


*Buttressing my argument about reality are results from the latest ranking of Best Colleges (2008) by Forbes, the latest entrant in the ranking sweepstakes. These rankings all have problems, Bob, but in none of them are we even close to being "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]."

In the BigTen we are eleventh:

11 Northwestern
155 Illinois
161 Michigan
214 Indiana
272 Penn State
292 Ohio State
327 Michigan State
331 Iowa
335 Wisconsin
487 Purdue

524 Minnesota

And please do not refer again to those of us who would like Minnesota to be one of the top schools in the BigTen as "doubters," Bob.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bachman's Mourns a Beloved CEO

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

A memorial for Todd Bachman is in the lobby of the flagship Bachman's store on Lyndale Avenue in Richfield. Bachman and his wife Barbara were attacked in Beijing. He was killed and she remains hospitalized in China.

From the Strib:


Last update: August 11, 2008 - 5:34 AM

At Bachman's flagship store on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis Sunday, a giant array of flowers and a poster commemorating the life of Todd Bachman stopped customers as they walked in. Behind the memorial, the wall was lined with historic photos of the four generations of Bachmans that built their iconic Minnesota company.

"Now, sadly, this is part of our history, too," said Larry Pfarr, director of marketing, waving his hand at the poster and flowers. Bachman, 62, the company's chief executive, was stabbed to death in Beijing on Saturday, the first day of the Olympics, apparently at random.

His wife, Barbara, also was stabbed by the Chinese assailant, who committed suicide immediately after the attack. Initially in critical condition after undergoing eight hours of surgery, she was upgraded to stable condition this morning.

With the Farmington couple was their daughter, Elisabeth (Wiz) Bachman McCutcheon, 30, a 2004 Olympic volleyball player, former Lakeville High School standout and the wife of U.S. men's Olympic volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon. She was uninjured.

Todd Bachman was a few steps behind his wife and daughter when he was attacked by a man identified as Tang Yongming, 47 and unemployed. When Barbara heard Todd being attacked, she went to him and was also stabbed. Their assailant then leaped to his death from a balcony of the Drum Tower.

Todd Bachman was a great grandson of the immigrant German who in the late 1800s bought 4 acres in what is now south Minneapolis and started selling vegetables.

According to employees working Sunday, he was one of the most beloved of a long line of Bachmans who have continued to run the floral and garden centers. "I don't think that in 20 years I ever saw him mad," said Pfarr. "You could always go to him with anything, and he would always listen."

"He's been to Florida with us on buying trips," said Mierva, in charge of buying the company's annuals. "He's been with us traipsing through those broken-down greenhouses in the heat. He never played executive. He enjoyed it."

Jon Logue met Bachman while working at Department 56, a giftware company Bachman's started.

"He was always very interested in what you were doing," he said. "He was the first person to give you encouragement."

Sunday afternoon, shopper Alice Mauren, of Burnsville, stopped to read the memorial. "We come here a lot," she said.

"It's a tragedy for the business and the family," she said. "The people in Minnesota feel like this is a family member that this happened to."

Todd Bachman "was one of my closest friends,'' U.S. Olympic women's volleyball player Robyn Ah Mow-Santos said in Beijing. She was a teammate of Elisabeth Bachman in the 2004 Olympics. "I lost my mom in February, and [the Bachmans] were there for me.''

Stacy Sykora, another U.S. player, said the team was sleeping when Bachman was killed. They were awakened by team staff and told of Bachman's death.

"You have to understand what [Elisabeth Bachman] is for USA Volleyball,'' Sykora said. "She is like the best person in the U.S. volleyball world. He was just a great man. "