Friday, December 25, 2009

Several at UW-Madison have had success transferring university research to the private sector. Stem cell research pioneer Jamie Thomson and colleagues from UW-Madison, for instance, founded Madison-based Cellular Dynamics international, a company that develops stem-cell technologies for drug testing and personalized medicine applications.

Gopher wishes University of Minnesota

were more like UW

From Madison Campus Connection:

While it's easy to disregard compliments of Wisconsin's flagship institution or the state's business climate when they come from internal cheerleaders, it's a little harder when the one singing the praises is a rival.

"Wisconsin as a state has done far more to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem that can really support the innovation that comes out of the university, help convert it to jobs and products, and help keep them in the state," Tim Mulcahy, the University of Minnesota's vice president for research, told the Star Tribune. "I'm afraid the business climate, in terms of incentives for small companies to either relocate or start up here, are not as strong here as in Wisconsin. So even though both states have strong public research universities, I think the impact in Wisconsin is greater because the field is more fertile there in terms of state public policy around job creation and entrepreneurship. And that's something we need to correct in Minnesota."

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis/St. Paul quoted Mulcahy in this editorial, which applauded the University of Minnesota for its $683 million in research and development expenditures in 2008, according to a report from the National Science Foundation. That puts Minnesota ninth nationally in those NSF rankings.

UW-Madison ranks No. 2 on the NSF's list of top research institutions, with $882 million in expenditures in 2008. The University of California, San Francisco, ranks No. 1 with $885 million in expenditures.

If you're wondering how Mulcahy knows so much about Wisconsin, it's because he was lured to the Twin Cities in 2005 after spending 20 years at UW-Madison, where he was associate vice chancellor for research policy his final three-plus years on campus. Mulcahy also was named one of four finalists to become UW-Madison's next chancellor in the spring of 2008. Mulcahy withdrew his name from consideration for that post before it went to Biddy Martin.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Just in time for the holidays, the University of Minnesota has provided some “tidings of comfort and joy” to all of us who think college students should be taught how to think, not what to think.

In a letter to our friends at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the university’s general counsel has promised that no “policy will ever mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University.”

This comes after FIRE’s objections to proposed changes to the College of Education and Human Development’s teacher training program, ACTA’s letter to the Board of Regents regarding the apparent litmus tests for would-be teachers, and national publicity.

ACTA will, of course, be watching to ensure these glad tidings are actually reflected in the university’s policies in the New Year.

Hold your FIRE:

Victory for Freedom of Conscience

as University of Minnesota

Backs Away from Ideological Screening

for Ed Students

December 23, 2009

Today's press release reports that the University of MinnesotaTwin Cities has backed away from its plans to enforce a political litmus test for future teachers.

As Torch readers know, the plans from its College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) involved redesigning admissions and the curriculum to enforce an ideology centered on a narrow view of "cultural competence." Those with the "wrong" views were to receive remedial re-education, be weeded out, or be denied admission altogether. In a letter to FIRE, however, the university's top lawyer has now promised that the university will never "mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with 'wrong beliefs' from the University."

The proposal, initiated by the college's Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, sought to require each future teacher to accept theories of "white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression"; "develop a positive sense of racial/cultural identity"; and "recognize that schools are socially constructed systems that are susceptible to racism ... but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation." They were to be judged by their scores on the Intercultural Development Inventory, a test of "Intercultural Sensitivity." In one assignment, they were to reveal a "pervasive stereotype" they personally held and then demonstrate how their experiences had "challenged" it. They also were to be assessed regarding "the extent to which they find intrinsic satisfaction" in being in "culturally diverse situations."

FIRE wrote University of Minnesota President Robert H. Bruininks about these plans on November 25. In response, General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg promised that "[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with 'wrong beliefs' from the University."

Greg says in the press release: "We are relieved that the University of Minnesota has finally committed itself to upholding the freedom of conscience of its students. Prospective teachers will keep the right to have their own thoughts, values, and beliefs. FIRE will continue to monitor the situation to make sure that the university does not define 'cultural competence' or 'dispositions' requirements in a way that interferes with individual rights."

Indeed, the next version of the college's plans must reflect the university's promise. To learn about other cultures is one thing, but the college may not demand that future teachers hold certain moral and political "dispositions" or specific views about pedagogy. The college should understand that not all great teachers have the same views about politics or education.

If you would like to contact President Bruininks about this case, you can call his office at 612-626-1616 or e-mail him at

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Then Regent Metzen, Prof. Hagstrom,
and President Bruinks (right)
during two week expedition to China in 2004

College Graduation Rates in Lake Wobegon

Not All Above Average

The usually astute Lori Sturdevant has a thought-provoking article on this topic in today's Sunday Star-Tribune:

[My comments are in blue.]

College: It's for, not by, degrees

It's vital for Minnesota to push students through to completion.

"Minnesota has done a fabulous job over the years in providing access to college," said David Metzen, the former high school superintendent who heads the state Office of Higher Education. "The next big push is going to be, and ought to be, college completion. I am on a mission to improve completion rates."

It should be noted that Metzen is also a former University of Minnesota regent who served for twelve years - even as chair (2003-2005).
So he was present during the dog days of lousy graduation rates. With a background in education, master's and doctorate in educational administration, as well as serving as a school superintendent for eighteen years, one might think that graduation rates would have been important to him back then?

However, Dr. Metzen was also a gopher hockey player. Perhaps he had more pressing issues back then during his twelve years as a regent? Such as athletics at the U? Such as the House that Bob Built and Muscoplat's Folly [aka UMore Park]?

"Regent David Metzen said he thought the future of the project [Umore Park] is the most important decision to face the University in the last 15 years." (Daily - 6/13/08)

And who can forget his righteous indignation over alcohol in the House that Bob Built? I was present at the Regents Meeting when the unofficial Regent for Athletics excoriated his colleagues for daring to suggest that there should be no booze in the House, because of a sacred commitment made to the athletic department that they would be allowed to make money to support themselves. Obviously then-Regent Metzen felt that alcohol, either free or for sale, was a part of the deal. Several Regents - to their credit - disagreed.

His hockey playing friend, governor Pawlenty, has recently appointed him to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, where it is now finally fashionable to be concerned about graduation rates.

Dr. Metzen continues to serve as a speaker (at $2000 - $5000 a pop)

"When it comes to hiring the right speaker, you need a proven leader and motivator. Dr. David Metzen will get you the results your organization is striving for."

Some listed inspirational topics:

Leaders are Learners

Change or Die

Building a Learning Organization

How Great Boards Work

It’s All About People

You Can’t Win Without Teamwork

Inspiring and Motivating Your Staff

Barriers to Change

Moving out of your Comfort Zone

To which can now at last be added:

Get Those Graduation Rates Up!

The numbers show that there's room for improvement. While Minnesota has consistently rated among the 10 top states in enrolling recent high school graduates in college, the state's subsequent graduation rates aren't much to brag about.
To put it mildly...
But Inver Hills leaders think they've found effective ways to change that story. It springs from the notion that college success isn't just a student's responsibility. It's the institution's as well.

Now there's a novel concept. The Morrill Hall crowd seems to think that the only answer is jacking up admission requirements at the U and admitting more highly credentialled students from out of state - witness their latest tution/fee strategy.

The most-recent retention rates kept by the state's student-counters are for fall 2007, the year after Inver Hills kicked off its "Finish What You Start" campaign. Inver Hills' rate jumped from 45 percent to 56 percent in that one year.
Gasp... And what is the U's grad rate? See below.
Its "success rate," combining retention, transfer and graduation rates 18 months after enrollment, grew from 53 percent in the spring of 2004 to 63 percent five years later. Among learning-community students, fall-to-spring retention rates for the past three years have been 10 to 12 percent higher than for other Inver Hills students.
Cough, cough.
Minnesota needs a surge in college completion in the next few years to maintain its longest and strongest economic advantage -- its well-educated workforce. The progressive think tank Growth & Justice recommended a 50 percent increase by 2020.

It's needed because the best-educated generation in Minnesota history is the one that's about to retire. Replacing baby boomers with as many -- or preferably more -- well-educated workers means getting a bigger share of younger Minnesotans through college.

And it means more money, spent smarter.

A new national survey of 22- to-30-year-olds, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that the leading reason students drop out of college is financial.

In the Midwest, Indiana is demonstrating what's possible. Its "Reaching Higher" strategy, enacted earlier this year, involves directing new money to colleges not based on the number of students they enroll but on the number who successfully complete courses. Institutions that increase their output of graduates (particularly those with low incomes) and accelerate the time needed to achieve a degree also are in for a state aid reward.

That is, they were, explained Indiana's associate commissioner of higher education Jason Bearce. Then came a budget deficit. (Sound familiar?) Now those same criteria will be used to spread a $150 million cut among Indiana's colleges and universities.

Indiana's idea, evidently, is to spend higher-education dollars strategically, no matter the amount. Clever of those Hoosiers, eh?

Strategically? My goodness doesn't that word have a familiar ring? We have a Strategic Planning Initiative here at the U, I understand. Sadly, it appears to be more of a propaganda initiative.
I have been hammering away at the financial burden of U of M undergrads for several years. President Bruininks claims that all of this is being taken care of by new funds for scholarships. Even the CLA dean does not believe him.

The U leads the BigTen in student debt at graduation which, in round numbers is $25 K. And this is only an average. The sad fact is that the debt at Macalester is only, on average, $17 K. Something is very wrong about these numbers. Dr. Bruininks, don't you agree?

The last three presidents at the University of Minnesota have made graduation-rate improvement a priority, and the numbers have climbed out of the cellar as a result.

Actually they are still in the cellar, compared with our competitors. Given the disgraceful baseline - 25% in the not too distant past - recent presidents have had a difficult task in defending themselves. Claiming that things are improving doesn't mean much when our competition is doing significantly better. I note that the current president has been an administrator at the U for a very long time and he has a background in the education business. He bears more than average long term responsibility for this situation.
But at 45 percent after four years for the class that enrolled in 2004, the grad rate at Minnesota's higher-ed powerhouse is still low compared with its peer institutions.

Low? We've got the bottom slot nailed down.

So let's briefly recap.

Inver Hills Community College can significantly raise their graduation rate and the U of M can't? We have this great College of Education and Human Development that is on the forefront of teacher re-engineering and we have a president whose Ph.D. is from George Peabody Teacher's College (now absorbed into Vanderbilt University) and we still can't do it?

Where are your real priorities, Dr. Bruininks?

"Bruininks said he didn't know of a university in the United States that was doing something [MoreU Park aka Muscoplat's Folly] as 'courageous and innovative.'" (Daily - 6/13/08)

Why don't you do something really courageous and innovative like dropping this "ambitious aspiration to be one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]" nonsense and returning to our true land grant mission: education, research and service to the citizens of the State of Minnesota?

Our first priority should be an excellent and affordable education at the U. Promise this - and deliver - and you might be surprised at the reaction of the legislature.

As the student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, put it earlier this semester:

"As for commitment to quality education at an affordable cost? Meaningless drivel. The administration has flatly failed on its promises of excellence and affordability." Daily (13 Oct 2009)

Ohio State University has had no tuition increases in the past three years, no lay-offs, and staff will get a 2.5% increase in compensation. A lot of this has to do with their president, Gordon Gee. Maybe President Bruininks should talk to him for a little advice on how to get along better with the state legislature? Obviously, a high tuition, quasi-public model is not the only one possible.

Leadership matters.

Time for a change?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bach McStabber knocks out another
inflammatory piece about free smoothies
for faculty on Fridays.

[His parrot - Dr. Polly - lends moral support]

  • Subject: Bruininks ousted in coup by blogger
  • Date: 12/10/2009 2:59:30 PM Central Standard Time
  • From:
[From the University of Minnesota Daily Finals Week Edition...]

After an unexpected uprising by a disgruntled University of Minnesota blogger threatened the destruction of TCF Bank Stadium yesterday, University President Bob Bruininks has forfeited his title.

Professor Bach McStabber entered Bruininks' office in Morrill Hall around 9 a.m. He forced all those present in the office into a back room and locked the door, according to a source inside the office who spoke on the basis of anonymity out of fear of retaliation.

The source said Bruininks bravely refused McStabber's demands until the professor pulled out a remote car starter and said he had planted high-powered explosives in the stadium, strategically placed to demolish the entire structure.

University police arrived shortly after McStabber seized the office. Deputy Chief Mus Tache said Bruininks demanded they leave for the safety of the stadium.

"We could hear [McStabber] threatening to push a button," Tache said. "Bruininks asked us to back down."

Two hours and 15 minutes after he entered the office, McStabber released his hostages.

Curiosity drew a crowd of about 52,000 faculty, staff and students outside Morrill Hall, about 100 feet behind a wall of UMPD officers in riot gear. Bruininks announced he had given up his position as president.

McStabber, a professor in the Medical School, has taught at the University for 22 years. He operates a variety of blogs that are critical of the University's increasing tuition, construction projects, stance on light-rail transit and lack of free smoothies for faculty on Fridays.

The latest entry on McStabber's blog suggested his first changes as president would include cutting administrative salaries by 100 percent and severing the University's ties to UMore Park, a large slice of developing land the University owns in Rosemount, Minn.

Tache said no one expected the outspoken blogger had the capacity to stage a successful coup single-handedly.

Police said they don't keep up on McStabber's blog and therefore were not prepared for his actions.

"We'd never even heard of this guy," Tache said.

McStabber released a statement almost immediately after Bruininks surrendered. It stated the bomb threat was a bluff.

Bruininks helped police search the entire stadium anyway.

[Any resemblance to any blogger, living or dead, is purely coincidental.]

Thursday, December 17, 2009

TERI Tweets

For the Twitter deprived...

wbgleason Ideological Screening for Ed Students? U of M Academic Freedom Committee Meets Friday - FIRE #TERI #UMN #Minnesota

wbgleason MinnPost - Braublog: Correcting my Kersten criticism #UMN #TERI
wbgleason MinnPost - Braublog: Fox's Stossel surprisingly unmoved by O'Reilly's Kersten crusade #TERI #UMN

wbgleason Ennui and the U.S. News High School Rankings No gold medal for #Minnesota? Flawed? Food for #TERI thought? #UMN

wbgleason RT @posttim RT @tomweber_mpr Warroad teacher-donated kidney to student - back to work Is she culturally competent? #TERI

wbgleason "Mr. Brackett Wins At Life." Is he culturally competent? #TERI #UMN [Facebook page - by students - for subs teacher]

wbgleason Is University of Minnesota Planning to Teach 'White Guilt' Class? Oh, boy... Transcript of O'Reilly/Stossel #UMN #TERI

wbgleason It's just another day in the culture wars, folks. City Pages on KK, #TERI and O'Reilly/Stossel #UMN #Minnesota

wbgleason You knew it was coming - #TERI makes O'Reilly Nice job, CEHD. #UMN #Minnesota Teacher Education and Redesign Initiative

wbgleason Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students - The Chronicle of Higher Education #TERI #UMN

AdamKissel O'Reilly, Stossel on #TERI teacher education scandal at #UMN: @wbgleason #tlot

wbgleason Pupils’ scores rate teacher training - Boston Globe Bush grant also provides this opportunity? #TERI #UMN #Minnesota

AdamKissel I'm on Focus on the Family's Family News in Focus on #TERI scandal at #UMN:

wbgleason @matthewcw RT @wbgleason The Ends Don't Justify the Means #TERI at #UMN #Minnesota

AdamKissel RT [thanks for quoting me] @wbgleason The Ends Don't Justify the Means #TERI at #UMN #Minnesota #highered

wbgleason The Ends Don't Justify the Means #TERI at #UMN #Minnesota

wbgleason Katherine Kersten: Battle lines drawn against #UMN initiative | #TERI #Minnesota

AdamKissel Hoping that @DianeRav will take a look at the #TERI scandal re teacher ed at U of Minnesota & weigh in.

wbgleason RT @AdamKissel Thanks! RT @matthewktabor FIRE's efforts to hold #UMN accountable is why my annual donations go to @TheFIREorg #TERI

wbgleason Read this document and tell me that it is "just brainstorming" #TERI Clueless... #Minnesota #UMN

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TERI in the news

A commenter on an earlier post asked about sources for commentary on the Teachers Education Redesign Initiative under way at the University of Minnesota.

From the Fire website:

Here's a list of the people and media (that I [Adam Kissel] know of) that have covered the case so far

Diane Macedo at, quoting FIRE, in an article that was for several days the #4 most e-mailed item at

Steve Jordahl for Focus on the Family's Family News in Focus (the audio is about twice as long as the news piece, including a FIRE interview)

Katherine Kersten's two pieces in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the first of which broke the story, and the second of which focuses on FIRE's intervention

Michele Tafoya's Michele Tafoya Show (WCCO 830, Minneapolis, MN), which interviewed me for the second of at least two pieces

On The Edge with Thayrone at WAAM 1600 (Ann Arbor, Michigan; at least two pieces, one of which interviewed me)

Bob Unruh for WorldNetDaily (with apt comparisons to FIRE's thought reform case at the University of Delawaresee our video)

Peter Schmidt for the Chronicle of Higher Education

Excellent investigative pieces on by KC Johnson and Mark Bauerlein (also see KC Johnson's piece on the mandatory values assessments proposed by the task force, and more analysis of his here)

Danielle Nordine for The Minnesota Daily

Many bloggers including Margaret Soltan for University Diaries and for Inside Higher Ed, the National Association of Scholars, and Bill Gleason for The Periodic Table (see also my colleague Peter Bonilla's "Bloggers Debate University of Minnesota's Teacher Education Redesign, But Some Miss Key Evidence")

An interview with me broadcast on KCXL 1140 AM and KCTO 1160 AM (Kansas City, MO) and WIFL 104.3 FM (Tampa, FL)

The December 21 issue of National Review

For updates, stay tuned to The Torch and FIRE's case page ...

TERI makes O'Reilly

[Note added: December 19 - MinnPost now also has this clip available on their site.]

The Teachers Education Redesign Initiative at the University of Minnesota has come to Mr. O'Reilly's attention. Here he engages in a discussion with someone slightly less hard-core - John Stossel - who actually has some nice things to say about the U.

It was only a matter of time...

Thanks, College of Education and Human Development.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Katherine Kersten on Cultural Competence, Part II


Teacher's re-education program at the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) under continued scrutiny.

The thinking person's Michelle Bachman has a piece up in the Sunday Star-Tribune:

Battle Lines Drawn Against U Initiative


The Ends Do Not Justify the Means

Just because KK says it, does not mean it is wrong.

The beef here is the document: Race, Class, Culture... . People really ought to read this remarkable document.

It proposes that ALL teacher education courses to discuss issues of race, class, culture and gender. Students who DON'T meet the cultural competency guidelines, the plan calls for CEHD to develop remedial steps to teach students the material.

As Adam Kissel of FIRE - the new boogeyman apparently - put it:

“To learn about other cultures and cultural differences is one thing, but to say you’re not going to be considered an acceptable teacher if you don’t have these values and beliefs is unacceptable”


“As much as possible, we do want to defer to experts in the field to promote the views and values they feel are right,” he said. “But they cross the line when they say everyone should hold those views, especially when it’s an issue of genuine controversy.”

Come on folks, it is not just the conservatives who are against this.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

University of Minnesota Spokesman

Makes Things Worse.

From University Diaries:

A University of Minnesota task force that proposes one-on-one remedial work with school of education students who fail to adopt mandated political views has attracted a lot of negative attention to that school. All sorts of people have pointed out that this profoundly anti-democratic initiative violates freedom of conscience.

Here’s the Minnesota damage control guy:

“It’s not at all what they’re suggesting — that it’s some sort of litmus test — it’s just making sure that teachers are prepared to deal with the different situations that they might have for each and every student — which has been a challenge in the past,” he said. “Teachers obviously come from one perspective, so if they’ve got 15 other people of different backgrounds in their classrooms it’s a completely different situation.”

No, actually teachers don’t come from one perspective. No one – except, it seems, the ideologues on the task force – comes at life from one perspective. Americans especially, for obvious historical and social reasons, tend in fact to be remarkably culturally flexible. It’s sickening and insulting that anyone in a position of responsibility would take what’s best in us, what’s made this country a success — our high levels of assimilation and tolerance, our ability to imagine our way into foreign worlds — and gut it on behalf of a witless reeducation program.

Instead of shoving Dan Wolter into the spotlight for flak-catching, President Bruininks and Dean Quam should admit that this TERI business is wrong and has been a public relations nightmare.

They should also explain what is going to be done to rectify this situation.

But no, President Bruininks persists in sloughing off the tough questions to Mr. Wolter who really should not be speaking for the university community on these matters.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More on COI at UMN

From Pharmalot:

To avoid conflicts of interest, the University of Minnesota has a 19-member Conflict Review Committee that is support to monitor docs and faculty at the university’s Academic Health Center, although it boasts a curious twist - at least two members sport ties to drug or device makers.

For instance, there’s Scott Crow, a professor in the medical school’s psychiatry department, received about $273,000 from various drug companies between 2002 and 2008, according to Minnesota Board of Pharmacy records, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes. Another is David Polly, a nationally known spine surgeon at the university who has come under fire for his consulting relationship with Medtronic.

The disclosure comes as the university mulls a new conflict-of-interest policy that attempts to balance its relationships with business, the paper writes, adding that a draft of the proposed policy, which bans corporate gifts and product endorsements by U faculty and staff, was released last month. A university spokesman tells the paper that having members of a committee with industry ties is “essential. They bring expertise and a keen understanding of the nature of those relationships and steps that can be taken to manage potential conflicts.”

Crow received $273,276 in payments from drugmakers Merck, Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho-McNeil, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Lilly between 2002 and 2008, according to the paper, which add that, of that amount, $103,468 was for “research and development investigator fees” from Glaxo, while the remaining payments appear to be honoraria for participating in professional meetings. Crow declined to discuss the payments, and when asked if the amount was accurate, Crow said “It could be, I haven’t reviewed the records,” he tells the paper.

Minnesota is among a handful of states that require drugmaker to publicly post payments to docs, the Star-Tribune reminds us. The Physician Sunshine Payment Act, whic is included in the health care reform bill before Congress, requires drug and device makers to publicly reveal payments to docs. However, the university’s proposed conflict of interest of policy does not call for public disclosure of these relationships.

Last year, the Star Tribune revealed that the head of that task force, Leo Furcht, had been disciplined for an ethical lapse in 2004 after secretly steering a $501,000 research grant to his own company. That’s when the university decided a new policy was needed.

Photo courtesy of Jerome Kassirer

Some comments:

A Psychiatrist, I'm shocked!!!

Vaguely reminiscent of the fictional character Father Lilliman who was “here to monitor for Rules and Rights Violations” in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.

Re: “Leo Furcht, had been disciplined for an ethical lapse in 2004 after secretly steering a $501,000 research grant to his own company.”

If the discipline meted out to Furcht was not termination and/or the suspension of his license to practice, it didn’t mean squat.

Physician oversight means just moving tainted food around the plate.

P.S. Psychiatry is a disaster.

If the U of Minn hosted a panel on lobbying reform, they would pick Jack Abramoff to organize.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Absurd Baloney...

Conflict of Interest at the University of Minnesota

From the Strib:

U Medical ethics group has industry ties

A committee that reviews conflicts of interest has several members with connections to drug and device makers.

Dr. David Polly, a nationally known spine surgeon at the University of Minnesota who has come under fire for his consulting relationship with medical device maker Medtronic Inc., serves on a university committee that reviews and monitors conflicts of interest among doctors and faculty at the U's Academic Health Center.

[Yes, you actually read that...]

Polly isn't the only member of the U's Conflict Review Committee with industry ties: Dr. Scott Crow, a professor in the Medical School's Psychiatry Department, received about $273,000 from various drug companies between 2002 and 2008, according to Minnesota Board of Pharmacy records.


Having members of a committee with industry ties is "essential," said university spokesman Daniel Wolter. "They bring expertise and a keen understanding of the nature of those relationships and steps that can be taken to manage potential conflicts."

[Dan, how do you sleep at night?]

"They were looking for people who had experience with trying to deal with conflicts and trying to work through them in a university setting," Polly said.

[David, you should have washed your hands of this until your own situation is straightened out.]

When reached late Friday, Crow declined to discuss the payments in detail. When asked if the amount was accurate, Crow said "It could be, I haven't reviewed the records."

[I have so much money, this is a drop in the bucket, I have no idea?]

The proposed conflict of interest policy incorporates some of the tenets of an earlier document crafted for the Medical School under former dean Deborah Powell. However, the Star Tribune revealed last year that the head of that task force, Dr. Leo Furcht, had been disciplined for an ethical lapse in 2004 after secretly steering a $501,000 research grant to his own company. The Medical School policy was subsequently shelved when Bruininks determined that a broader policy was needed. While university officials say the current draft is one of the toughest in the nation, Dr. Steven Miles, a U bioethicist, wrote on a health news blog Friday that the policy is "incomplete and flawed."

[Truly sickening and disgusting.]

From the comments:

So what else is new?

As a faculty member at the University of Minnesota and an alum (Ph.D., Chemistry, 1973) I can say that this is the most disgusting thing I have heard so far about conflict of interest at the U. A housecleaning in the Medical School and Morrill Hall is long over due... Many of us love the U but we are truly saddened by the lack of leadership on this and many other issues. Excuses have to stop. Action is required. William B. Gleason

Indeed---more BS from a once great school

As an alum, staff member, volunteer, alum parent, etc. etc. it really saddens me to see this stuff. If Minnesotans paid ANY attention at all to the U and its policies and educational decline they would be outraged. But instead, we all get distracted by the big shiny stadium! Meanwhile, ordinary staffers like me, and dedicated faculty like Prof. Gleason labor away trying to hold things together and provide a meaningful resource at the U for Minnesotans which is every day damaged immeasurably, and perhaps beyond repair--by the corrupt leadership endeminc to the place. Minnesota! Sky high tuition for a state school, and languishing in almost every academic measure--but by golly, we got a groovy stadium and nifty maroon M's everywhere so it must all be good!

The U is Dirty

clean house Governor, the Legislature won't

Kudos to you, Dr. Gleason!

Many more of the U's esteemed alumni need to step forward!

What a cesspool...
the U has become. Having the head of their own "ethics" (I use that term very loosly) task force secretly steer a $501,000 research grant to his own company is like letting Bernie Madoff head up the SEC because he knows a lot about securities irregularities!

Medicine isn't about becoming wealthy. Doctors have a compact with society to deliver unbiased medicine. Any doctor that receives a million dollars from Medtronic should be questioned-- and should not be monitoring other doctors conflicts of interest. If you're on the COI review committee you need solid understanding of ethics-- not experience with industry. These comments are obvious-- but the U doesn't get it.

Clean System

This isn't about eliminating all potential conflicts of interest... it might be hard to do that unless we have reflective, smart doctors. And sure, you can always find an iota of bias here and there. But we do want to set up a system that encourages and rewards doctors for practicing medicine that is informed by science, instead of medtronic. We're talking about million dollar payments. Dr. Polly testified before congress without declaring his conflicts of interest. He's on the board that reviews conflicts of interest. This suggests that we have a broken system. It's actually really scary-- those that draw the most fire are in charge of reviewing conflicts of interest. Good reporting, Strib.

(Truly sad.)

Conflict of Interest at the University of Minnesota

Steve Miles steps up to the plate and hits home run...

I sent this email to President Bruininks and Med School Dean Frank Cerra this morning:

toRobert Bruininks,
Frank Cerra

Dr. Steve Miles, one of the country's most well-known and respected bioethicists has criticized the latest draft COI policy at the University on Gary Schwitzer's Healthcare News blog.

It is imperative that anyone with an interest in COI at the University read this:

Among other things Miles says:

The document identified as Administrative Policy: Individual Conflicts of Interest (DRAFT 11/09/09) (text downloaded from is an incomplete and flawed document that will do little to regulate the kinds of misconduct and concerns that have brought this University and many other United States universities before Congressional inquiries or harsh media scrutiny. I agree with those who are also frustrated with the lack of transparency of the drafting of this fourth generation document.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

___ added later ___

Comment left on Gary Schwitzer's blog:

Thanks so much for posting this, Gary.

Although the medical school and the University of Minnesota have ignored complaints from people like you and me, it is very difficult to dodge these serious criticisms by one of the country's most well-known and respected bioethicists.

Let us fervently hope that the folks in Morrill Hall and the AHC will finally wake up and face their responsibilities.


Bill Gleason

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So Sheep May Safely Graze

UD (aka Margaret Soltan) has a post up at Inside Higher Ed with the above title.

She had a great earlier post that I put up at the PT2, under the title: "How others see us - Disposition Assesment and TERI at Minnesota."

Her latest:

By UD December 3, 2009 7:31 pm

Today it's the University of Minnesota.

Each new revelation that some school of education in this country continues to force its students to undergo disposition and cultural competency scrutiny is a kind of pedagogical bimbo eruption -- a moment when embarrassing people lurking on task forces and subcommittees break free and strut their stuff on the national stage.

Heirs of the zealots who forcibly evaluated "teachers' mental hygiene and personality" in the mid-twentieth century (Laurie Moses Hines elaborates on the generational continuity), the new crop of scrutinizers has the same unseemly interest in the "emotional life of the teacher," which becomes, in place of knowledge and its transmission, "the focus of teacher preparation." Contemporary mental hygienists consider themselves entitled to palpate and subject to testing, writes William Damon, "virtually all of a candidate's thoughts and actions."

Hines points out that everything other than the intimate mental life of ed school students is already appropriately reviewed elsewhere:

If the purpose is to ensure that access to children is denied to those who are truly deviant (sexual predators) or those who could harm children (drug dealers, felony offenders, child abusers), then it seems the assessment is best made by the government, which has the resources and responsibility to identify these people. If the purpose is to ensure that potential teachers have basic characteristics like honesty or fairness, existing standards such as university honor codes in higher education should suffice. If the purpose is to see how a teacher acts in a certain environment (be it an urban, suburban, or rural school, with a diverse or homogeneous student body), then perhaps those in that environment can best perform that assessment, taking into account the standards, mores, and preferences of the community. The ultimate employers of teachers, local school districts, can and do screen for the characteristics they want in their employees.

If, on the other hand, what you really want to do is "evaluat[e] students on the basis of their political views," writes Hines, then the endless teasing-out interviews, multiple choice personality tests, and group gropes of disposition scrutiny are just the thing.


Of course, as Frederick Hess notes, no scientific evidence supports the belief that enforcing certain attitudes toward race, class, and gender improves teaching. Rather, he says, "Screening on 'dispositions' serves primarily to cloak academia's biases in the garb of professional necessity."

One thing screening doesn't cloak is love of power. The real precursor model for the disposition enthusiasts in the academy is the deadest whitest malest form of hierarchical life imaginable: The traditional German university professor. Totally powerful, he regarded his students as sheep eager to imitate him in all things. Their job was to scrutinize him in order to figure out exactly who he wanted them to be; his job was to keep an imperial eye on them for signs of deviation.

Thus, Paul Tarc opposes disposition assessment because it makes it very likely that "students will comply and perform the desired dispositions to get a good grade."


Actually, that's reason number three Tarc why objects.

Number One: Litmus tests expose schools of education to "allegations of political indoctrination."

Number Two: They result in "downplaying of knowledge to sentiments." Which is what I meant up there by group gropes: Let's not bother reading and discussing arguments about justice and equality. Tell me how you feel. Tell all of us how you feel.

Heather MacDonald dubs the prevailing reality of many ed schools "Anything But Knowledge. Schools are about many things, teacher educators say (depending on the decade)—self-actualization, following one’s joy, social adjustment, or multicultural sensitivity—but the one thing they are not about is knowledge."

Desperate for places where education students can think rather than feel, where they can be left alone to study and then apprentice in classrooms, rather than be mussed up day and night by ideologues, New York State, reports the New York Times, "will consider letting alternative teacher training programs certify teachers, expanding the role that for decades has been exclusively performed by education schools."

With every bimbo eruption, schools of education move closer to their own obsolescence.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

University of Minnesota Takes Heat for Proposal to Gauge Future Teachers' Sensitivity

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has come under pressure to reject a faculty panel's proposal to require students in its education school to doubt the United States is a meritocracy and to demonstrate an understanding of concepts such as "white privilege."

Conservative pundits and a prominent free-speech advocacy group have attacked the education-school panel, called the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group, which has said future teachers should "understand the importance of cultural identity" and "be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression." The panel also has said prospective teachers should promote social justice and have an understanding of U.S. history that takes into account the "myth of meritocracy in the United States."

Jean K. Quam, dean of the university's College of Education and Human Development, said today in an interview that the proposal was just one of several being offered up by various faculty panels as the college moves to overhaul its teacher-education program to better prepare students to deal with today's classrooms. She characterized the proposal as "a brainstorm of ideas" that the education school had yet to act upon as it develops a sweeping plan to change teacher preparation in the coming academic year.

"We would never impose requirements of how people are required to think or act as part of their teacher education," Ms. Quam said. "We are trying to broaden the way that they think or act and not narrow that view."

An 'Affront to Liberty'

But in a recent letter to the university's president, Robert H. Bruininks, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education argued that the education school had signaled its intent to adopt the proposal in a recent application for grant money and was already advising applicants that such changes may be under way.

The letter from Adam Kissel, director of the group's Individual Rights Defense Program, called the proposed requirements for prospective teachers "unconstitutional and morally unconscionable" and "a severe affront to liberty."

Ms. Quam said the education-school panel had come back with "some pretty strong language about what it wanted to see." She added, however, that she supported its underlying goal of preparing prospective teachers to deal with students from diverse backgrounds, and noted that about 70 languages and dialects are spoken by students in the Saint Paul school system alone.

The controversy over the Minnesota proposal echoes a recent debate over whether it is appropriate for colleges of education to require prospective teachers to display certain professional "dispositions" showing an ability to work with diverse students — a requirement that schools view as ensuring teachers are effective, and critics regard as thinly disguised ideological litmus tests. In response to such criticisms, the governing board of the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education voted in 2007 to stop suggesting that teacher-preparation programs take their students' views on "social justice" into account.

Some comments from the Chronicle Website:

When the phrase, ". . .be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression." we should all be thankful for the opposition to this type of propaganda.

"be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression." Oh, what the Underground Gammarian would have done with this! But for now, I'm imagining the good people down at Lake Woebegone's Sidetrack Tap trying confront the twin demons of hegmonic masculinity and heteronormativity.

Maybe we should back up and challenge the concept of schools of education. What a waste of taxpayer money this is. It is sad we pay people to sit around endlessly discussing sexism, racism, heterosexism while America's students get horrible education. Yes, we should have some diversity discussions when training teachers, but this is outrageous.

It is impossible to take seriously Dean Quam's comment that "We would never impose requirements of how people are required to think or act as part of their teacher education," when the previous paragraph makes it crystal clear that this is PRECISELY the intent of the panel's proposal. Being able to articulate one's views is not the same as a requirement that one's views follow a determined philosophical or political path.

With all due respect to Dean Quam, the fact that any panel of faculty in her college would come up with this kind of nonsense indicates she has problems reaching far beyond the inept stereotyping it represents. ... It may be that those of a more conservative persuasion are the most inflamed by the behavior of the faculty panel that produced this proposal, but let me assure you, there are many of us of the more liberal persuasion who are also incensed by the narrow minded bigotry that has been demonstrated by this particular panel.

I must partially agree with "sullivab" (7) and his invocation of Godwin's Law -- this proposal at U Minn's College of Education is certainly not Nazi. Stalinist possibly -- it does sound like something that might have been promulgated in the Little Red Schoolhouse. It seems to come out of the "Cultural Competence" Movement -- a misnomer to hoot at. What they really mean is MULTI- cultural Competence. Like most educationists they have trouble saying what they really mean, often because they don't know what they really mean. And their notion of competence is pretty shallow.

There's a difference between teaching students how to think and teaching students what to think. Well-intentioned proposals like this one confuse the two. Students need to be taught critical thinking so that they can more intelligently understand the world, including the country, state, city, neighborhoods they live in. The proposal would short-circuit the process, simply leading them straight to the conclusions the planners consider to be indisputably desirable. Students who have not been taught how to read and write and do arithmetic may or may not be capable of critical thinking, but I don't see how it would matter a lot. And I don't think anyone who truly believes in spoonfeeding kids any ideology is demonstrating much facility with critical thinking themselves.

"'We would never impose requirements of how people are required to think or act as part of their teacher education,' Ms. Quam said.
Oh, Really!? FIRE does great work....keep it up."

The bruhaha, for those of us who have been following this issue, has not been the call for multicultural sensitivity (however defined). The issue has been the committee's calls for sanctions against prospective teachers that do not espouse sufficent sensitivity. The irony lies in the fact of a committee on diversity permiting no diversity of opinion among prospective teachers and a committee on sensitivity being radically insensitive to differing points of view. The document sounds draconian and totalitarian -- hardly the liberal principles it purports to defend.

Sounds like an attempt to make certain that American teachers are drawn from the bottom 10% of the class.

So, if we think about what UMN is considering here, then perhaps we could agree that telling these future teachers what to think is inappropriate. However, asking them to think about who their students will be, the challenges they might face, and the individualized approaches that all students need to fulfill their potential requires just the type of critical thinking we should promote. Tell them what to think? No. Ask them to consider their role in the education of a diverse population and finding their own ways to be effective in their practice? Yes.

[I'm sure there will be more before this thread is over - I'll add as appropriate. I've not had any response to my invitation to the #TERI proponents to comment on this. Unfortunately, some appear to be Molotov cocktail throwers or would be cyber-blackmailers.

wbgleason Attention you folks pushing #TERI If you are really interested in a discussion rather than name calling go here and comment o/o ]

Commenting is now closed on the Chronicle site. Some of the last comments:

A rant from Matthew:

39. matthewcw - December 04, 2009 at 05:38 pm

What is rather shocking to be completely absent from ALL of this is anyone asking...who is this FIRE organization?

[ The mission of FIRE is to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities. These rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience — the essential qualities of individual liberty and dignity. FIRE's core mission is to protect the unprotected and to educate the public and communities of concerned Americans about the threats to these rights on our campuses and about the means to preserve them. - ]

We might start by looking at where their money comes from in order to try to understand just how "non-partisan" they really are and WHY they might be attemping to manufacture this "controversy:"

Now, just because they get money from some pretty high profile, well heeled conservative groups does not mean, in of itself, that their arguments are flawed. But, it might give us some insight into just what they mean by protecting "free speech" and how they use the cloak of "non-partisan" as an attempt to exist beyond reproach (a rather sly rhetorical move). After all, it is always those who claim no agenda at all that can be counted on to be the most dishonest.

But let's be honest with ourselves here...this group is not the second coming of the ACLU. They're not falling over themselves to protect LGBT rights on campuses (and actually have a history of doing just the opposite).

[This guy teaches writing? One of his favorite rhetorical stunts - if you don't agree with him, you're dishonest?]

But their rhetorical dishonesty aside, what is really shameful is how so many "academics" failed to do exactly what we expect many of our own students to do: check your sources first. How many people, once seeing "free speech advocacy" just assumed that whatever they have to say must be true? Seems like an awful lot. Further, the distinction between a primary source and a secondary source is utterly lost in nearly all of these discussions. In fact, this article ITSELF uses a secondary source AS its primary source, a move which I might suggest reveals quite a lot about the intent here. You'll note there are no links to the actual documents from the initiative itself.

Response by author of article:

41. pschmidt - December 04, 2009 at 09:08 pm

Poster number 39, mathewcw, has asked for links to the primary documents (which this article did, indeed, rely upon).

They can be found on a University of Minnesota blog at the following URL:

The central document that this controversy focuses on can be called up by clicking the hot link for the report by the task force on race, class, culture, and gender, on the left half of your screen.

--Peter Schmidt

Matthew - simply put - I think you should be ashamed of yourself.

This stunt and your earlier tweets are very disappointing.

But it is a free country, so far anyway, and you are free to write what you wish - even an opinion that the moon is made of green cheese. This does not, however, mean that you are immune from strong criticism. You are not entitled to throw Molotov cocktails and then whine harassment when you are called on some of your nonsense. This also applies to your stalking horse and fellow traveler, Gameboy.

I hope anyone following this thread will comment if they wish. This offer includes you and Gameboy. Practice what you teach. Short of pornography or vulgarity - comments will not be edited in any way.