Thursday, December 12, 2013

Time to do the right thing at the University of Minnesota? #Markingson

 Da Mayor: "Doctor, always do the right thing."

The time is always right to do the right thing.   Martin Luther King 
Do the right thing, even when it is hard.  Joel Osteeen
Do the right thing because it is right. W. Clement Stone 
Sometimes it is better to lose, and do the right thing... Tony Blair 
Leaders are people who do the right thing. Warren Bennis 
In plain Texas talk: It's do the right thing. Ross Perot 
You do the right thing, even if it makes you feel bad. The purpose of life is not to be happy but to be worthy of happiness. Tracy Kidder

Or, as Mark Yudof said in his inaugural address as president of the University of Minnesota:

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

"Administrators should tell the truth, keep their word, implement what they promise, and not dissemble. My point is plain enough: Without integrity, the phrase higher education is an oxymoron."
"When making decisions, I view shared governance and consultation with constituent groups as only fair because of the enormous stake they have in the University. Without fairness there is no legitimacy and no buy in to the institutional vision." 
"At the crossroads of expectation and reality, human fallibility and aspiration, individual will and institutional inertia, I hope that you will forgive my inevitable lapses, take joint responsibility for the nurturing of values and goals, and find comfort in the progress we make together."
"God bless all of you and God bless the University of Minnesota."

 Mark Yudof handled a horrible scandal in the athletic department with grace and dignity,  with no excuses and no dissembling. I have been very disappointed with the University of Minnesota administration since his presidency. Yudof fired people (the athletic director as well as coaches and support staff) and had Tonya Moten Brown essentially take over the athletic department. And his humility was not false.

The time for stonewalling has passed. Trying to dodge the issues inherent in the Markingson case is a fool's game. A university without integrity is not really a university. Bread and circuses do not a great university make, nor idle chatter about the infamous third greatest public research university in the world.

Time to walk the talk, President Kaler.  Otherwise,  disappointed  University of Minnesota alums will have to take a hike from their alma mater.  In the Twin Cities alone there are plenty of places for higher education philanthropy besides the University of Minnesota - Augsburg and Macalester colleges being two examples. Note that at these two schools the student debt at graduation is lower than that at the public University of Minnesota, to our everlasting disgrace.  I hope not.

One might whine that Mac is a school for the rich, a terrible and untrue argument, but such a charge is obviously not credible for Augsburg College with its much more modest endowment. When Auggie, as it is familiarly known,  got donor money of questionable provenance, they gave it back. This is what doing the right thing means.  And the education available at Auggie is hardly for chumps. An Auggie, Peter Agre, recently won a Nobel Prize in chemistry. Nice ROI on that, I'd say. Kudos, Auggie, a Minnesota school that makes me proud. Macalester is also in this category as well as many other fine Minnesota  small liberal arts colleges, or SLACs to use au courant higher ed jargon.

Our recent University of Minnestoa debt-saddled alums and their parents are none too happy with the performance of our university. Nor are our state legislators who are heartsick and bewildered by the fact that we are one of the leaders in the country - for student debt. Perhaps the plan is to salvage our position with sports dollars? I understand that Louie Nanne has been charged with raising two hundred million dollars for our athletics program. Under the present circumstances of crushing debt for our students, this is pathetic.

And of course if one desires to contribute money for medical research, there is always the Mayo. What's been going on at Fairview-University hospital lately does not exactly inspire warm and fuzzy feelings in the hearts of the populace. People will vote on the University's performance with their feet and their checkbooks. This goes also for the people in the state legislature.

If the University wants to see private philanthropic support, perhaps they should give us something to be proud of? Manufactured hash tags like #umnproud will not suffice.

Is it finally time to do the right thing in the Markingson matter? More evasion will only serve to further erode our reputation in the real world. Out there where recent University of Minnesota administrations apparently would prefer not to go.


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