Thursday, April 29, 2010

Everything we do at the University of Minnesota is out in the open?

Hold that thought.

Faculty Consultative Committee

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Intellectual Future of the University

Professor Gonzales convened the meeting at 1:05 and accepted a motion to close the meeting, which received a unanimous vote. The Committee and the senior officers touched on a number of issues during the meeting.

[Everything we do at the University of Minnesota is out in the open.]

Before moving to the substance of the issues, the President noted the recent minutes of this Committee reporting on a discussion with the Regents Professors. He emphasized that, contrary to views expressed at that meeting, there are serious and comprehensive plans for dealing with the "new normal" financial circumstances in which the University finds itself. The plans include significant steps to preserve the quality of the University by systematically reducing costs in areas such as personnel (primarily through attrition), purchasing, space and energy use, curriculum review, budget-model review, and in the work of the college blue-ribbon committees. The President said it is simply inaccurate to say that there is no long-term planning taking place, but he did pledge to improve communication of longer-term financial strategies with the University community.

[Please see: Who will bell the cat?

Professors Gonzales and Oakes reported that they have been pressing the President and Provost for strategic plans and scope of mission discussions and have worked on the fiscal crisis the entire year. They have no idea what the plan is. That is a problem, which is one reason why the Regents Professors were invited to join the Committee today. {Cough, cough...}]

The issues discussed were these:

-- Light-rail transit, which included comments on the structure of news delivery in the 21st Century and the University's activities vis-à-vis media coverage of the controversy.

[Ah, let me see... It is all the fault of the media and that mean Peter Bell that the U has egg on its face over this mess? I don't think so.]

-- The bonding bill, the University's increasing emphasis on HEAPR (building renewal/renovation) funding rather than new projects, the cancellation/deferment of about $200 million in capital construction, reducing the University's footprint while increasing the quality and efficiency of the space it has, and linking the approach to the bonding bill to the academic plans.

[My good friend and fellow alum, Mr. Michael McNabb, has earlier addressed President Bruininks concerning his failed strategy with the legislature, especially with respect to HEAPR.]

-- The possibility of a new covenant with the state (in order to communicate to citizens why the University matters to the state).

[Already declared DOA - Bruininks: "New Covenant? Legislature: "No Sale!"]

-- The work of the college and other offices' blue-ribbon committees.

-- A peer review of the University's budget model.

-- The need to redesign the service, business, and academic cultures of the University if effective long-term planning is to take place; it will not be "one big thing," but there will be many significant efforts at multiple levels.

-- The size of the University's faculty and staff , overall and by fields of study, is a major challenge in this economic environment. One perspective is whether it is desirable to have a smaller and better-supported faculty rather than a larger but more thinly-supported faculty, decisions about which must take into account the conundrum that in a number of disciplines there appears to be a minimum threshold in the size of the faculty before it will be considered nationally-ranked and productive in a way recognized in the field.

-- The nature of faculty appointments (e.g., tenured versus contract/P&A) and the optimal department size, both in relation to undergraduate education at a research university, and the impact on planning of the fact that the University will receive $150 million more in tuition revenues than it receives in state funding.

-- The progress of the Graduate School working groups on preparation of their final report, and plans for review of recommendations for implementation.

Professor Gonzales thanked everyone for joining the meeting and adjourned it at 3:00.


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