Thursday, April 30, 2009

Faculty Senate Disapproves Engulfment
of Graduate School
by Office of the Provost

From the Senate Resolution of 30 April 2009:

WHEREAS: The Provost’s plan to abolish the Graduate School, as publicly announced by the Provost in his e-mail of Feb. 9, 2009 to the University faculty, was adopted without any prior consultation or involvement of the University Senate, or any part or committee thereof, in violation of University policy;

WHEREAS: The “Implementation Committee” (eventually renamed the “Committee on Graduate Education”) appointed by and reporting to the Provost is not a “campus assembly (or analogous body)” and was constituted and charged only after the plan to abolish the Graduate School had already been made and publicly announced;

WHEREAS: The formal charge to the “Implementation Committee” (now “Committee on Graduate Education”) did not encompass review of the merits of the underlying plan to abolish the Graduate School, having instead been limited to consideration of how the Provost’s plan to abolish the Graduate School was to be implemented;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the University Senate of the University of Minnesota disapproves the Provost’s plan to dissolve the Graduate School as announced in the Feb. 9. 2009 memorandum;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the University Senate demands that any proposal to dissolve or otherwise to restructure the Graduate School comply with the University of Minnesota Policy on Reorganization.


(Think it o-o-ver...)

Shortage of Geriatricians?

I guess pediatrics is more profitable...

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

April 29, 2009

Number of Geriatricians Falls Short as Boomers Enter Retirement, Journal Reports

The number of geriatricians is declining even as baby boomers become “senior boomers,” bringing with them multiple chronic conditions that their physicians might not be adequately trained to manage, according to a series of articles and commentaries in the May issue of Academic Medicine, a publication of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The articles outline a number of ways medical schools can and, the authors argue, should step up their geriatric training.

I've noted this problem in the past, please see:

How Do We Reward the Great Work of Geriatricians at BigU?
(We close the geriatrics division and they move to Johns Hopkins...)

[Hit the Road, Jack..]

Show Me The Money

The Strib has posted on their web-site the second installment of the shameful saga - Generation debt.

Just a few excerpts...

A ground-breaking analysis by the nonpartisan Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability found the U's Twin Cities campus spends more per student -- $21,400 in 2006 -- than any other state's public research universities. While there are problems with that ranking -- the U's medical school is included while some other schools' are not -- the report invites questions from a public reeling from tuition increases.

One target for some Minnesota lawmakers is the U's ambition to be one of the best research universities in the world.

"In order to get there, you have to have pretty high-level professors, pretty high-level facilities," said Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, the ranking minority member of the higher education committee. "I've been concerned that those cost-drivers of getting to that goal have been more than our average students can absorb."

The U paid its full professors an average salary of $127,400 in 2008, according to an annual survey released this month by the American Association of University Professors, and an average total compensation of $167,200 (not including the medical school). That makes its professors the third-best compensated in the Big 10 and fourth-best among what it considers its "comparative group," which includes schools such as the University of California, Berkeley.

The driving force behind rising tuition is not too much spending on faculty, but too much elsewhere, recent reports say.

In newspaper editorial pages and at Capitol hearings, students, faculty and legislators have pushed for cuts to the University of Minnesota's central administration. The state House of Representatives' higher education omnibus bill includes a provision that would bar the U from using state funding to pay for new administrative positions or for administrators' salary increases.

In 2000, the U system employed 58 senior administrators (senior, assistant, associate and regular vice presidents, provosts, deans and chancellors). By 2008, that number had grown to 70 -- an increase of 20.7 percent. The number of deans is the same today as it was in 2000 -- 26. The biggest increase came in the category of senior and executive vice presidents and provosts -- from eight in 2000 to 13 this year.

Buildings are the most visible targets of cost-cutting advocates.

At the start of this semester, the University of Minnesota gave some students the chance, via video, to ask questions of Bruininks.

"I would just like to know," said one woman, "how the university is justifying all its increased spending, especially on things a lot of people would think are kind of extravagant -- the new history museum, the TCF Bank Stadium -- especially in an economic climate that I think most Americans would agree that spending beyond our means has caused."

The U is in the midst of a building boom. Over the next five to 10 years, it plans to build, renovate or add to the following: the TCF Bank Stadium, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, three new biomedical labs, the Weisman Art Museum, Northrop Auditorium, the Science Teaching and Student Services Center (which will replace the Science Classroom building), the Recreation Center, a new physics and nanotechnology facility and the Bell Museum of Natural History. The Legislature continues to debate whether to help fund the Bell Museum and will consider the physics and nanotechnology building within the next few years.

Together, the projects add up to more than $750 million, said Orlyn Miller, the U's director of project management, paid for through a mix of public dollars and private donations.

"We've been operating in what you might call a seller's market," said Patrick Callan, founding president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "There hasn't been a lot of incentive to find cost-effective approaches. In fact, the incentive has been to become more expensive."

President Bruininks, show me the money...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MED2010 - The Pause That Refreshes?

From the Daily:

Med School postpones major curriculum overhaul

Med 2010 reforms will be dramatically scaled back.

A planned major overhaul of the Medical School’s curriculum will be largely scaled back due to financial constraints*, according to Medical School officials.

Components of the MED2010 initiative, which has been in the works the last few years, will still be incorporated into the education of medical students entering in 2010, said Dr. Lindsey Henson, vice dean for education in the Medical School. But the stark program changes will not be put into place as planned, she said.

Originally the brain child of Dean Dr. Deborah Powell, MED2010 was the product of numerous faculty consultations and pilot programs. The proposed changes would have completely altered the way the University of Minnesota educates new physicians.

Another factor influencing the changes to MED2010’s rollout is the Medical School’s upcoming accreditation visit from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Henson said.

The visit is likely to come in the 2011-2012 school year, she said, and the Medical School didn’t want to be still rolling out the second wave of the changes in the middle of the visit.

Second-year medical student Hannah Shacter said historically she had been frustrated with the idea of MED2010 because she felt all suggestions and criticisms of the curriculum were being held off for the major changes, which would come too late to affect her education.

A memo regarding the MED2010 changes from Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Dr. Frank Cerra and Powell is expected to be sent to faculty and students sometime this week.

— Emma L. Carew is a senior staff reporter


Poshlust - the University Administration's Attitude

Toward the Public's Right to Know

"...the Russian word
poshlost' (which Nabokov likes to transliterate as poshlust, which not only indicates the way the word is pronounced, but also uses two English words -- posh and lust -- that resonate with the meaning of the Russian).

It's sort of an untranslatable word. It is often rendered as "banality," but it can also indicate something that is in bad taste or is trashy or cheap, but often poshlust disguises itself as something great, true or beautiful. Nabokov says that 'poshlust is not only the obviously trash but also the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely attractive.' ... Laura Trice

From the Daily:

Two state bills could erroneously privatize public data.

PUBLISHED: 04/27/2009

The presumption of Minnesota’s Data Practices Act, the state’s open records law, that all government data should be public, unless state or federal statute holds otherwise, is a sound and important one. But privacy advocates are incorrectly eroding the spirit of that presumption with two bills in the state’s Capitol protecting what they call the privacy of state employees and private companies over the public’s right to know whether those employees and companies are benefiting from their ties with the state or misusing state money respectively. The benefits of landing on the side of transparency far outweigh that of landing on the side of privacy.

One of those bills, the Tubby Smith Act , is a result of this newspaper’s efforts to obtain the annual athletically related income from head coaches Tubby Smith, Tim Brewster, J. Robinson and Don Lucia for the past 10 years. In an advisory opinion, the Minnesota Department of Administration held that the University of Minnesota complied with the state’s Data Practices Act in denying the request. And now, state senators are seeking to codify that advisory opinion, while their counterparts in the state House are correctly pushing opposing legislation that would make that data public.

Privacy advocates posit that an athletics coach should not have to report income made by, for example, mowing a neighbor’s lawn. Without going into too much detail about the legitimacy of that counterfactual, it ignores the primary purpose of making “athletically-related income” public data: highlighting conflicts of interest or scandal. Just as University physicians should report outside income, so too should University coaches. Indeed, University physicians and coaches alike obtain much of their outside income primarily because of their position at the University. The dangers of privatizing that outside income — creating a system that would make kickbacks or conflicts of interest harder to catch — far outweigh a public employee’s right to privacy.

Other legislation in the Minnesota Legislature would make “All financial, business or proprietary data collected, created, received or maintained by the University of Minnesota in connection with investments … [become] nonpublic data.” The legislation overrides current state Data Practices Act provisions which, according to House co-author Rep. Steve Simon , make “business models, trade secret information and litigation involvement” of venture capital funds and investment firms — otherwise private information — public upon request.

University of Minnesota Chief Investment Officer Stuart Mason said in an interview “[The University] commit[s] a certain amount of money to a venture capital fund. As part of our due diligence and monitoring of the venture capital fund, we get the business plans, interview CEOs, obtain financial models, etc. We get lots of sensitive data.” Currently, because the University is a public institution, beholden to public data practice law, that sensitive data can be obtained by the venture capital funds’ competitors. As a result, Mason says the University “has been systematically disincluded from the best venture capitalists,” amounting to potentially $30 or $40 million per year.

With higher education institutions hungry for cash, venture capital funds are holding a club to public data practice laws across the nation, withdrawing partnerships where public money ensures transparency. But if these companies are unwilling to allow public knowledge of their mode of operation, the public has a right to say, “Take a hike.” Under current law, the public can uniquely peer into these funds to ascertain the ethicality of their practices, a paramount concern for taxpayer investment. Yet language in the bills appears to make individual investments untraceable after “initial commitment,” except for myriad meaningless portfolio totals.

At a public university, the thirst for knowledge and information ought not to be squelched for lust of money. It is imperative that Minnesota lawmakers land on the side of transparency on both bills, which would dangerously close the channels of public information if passed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Star-Tribune Three Part Series

on Generation Debt

The Strib has an excellent series that started on Sunday and will run through tomorrow. Unfortunately, it is "paper only" and has not yet appeared on the Strib web site. As I understand the Sunday piece will be released on Wednesday. It is not clear when the other two parts will be put up on the Strib's website.

Although I certainly can understand the Strib trying to drive up circulation, I am dubious that this withholding of news from the web will accomplish much. U of M alum Jenna Ross is a co-author on the series and does her usual excellent job of laying out the situation.

For those who don't want to wait til Wednesday, I have posted some excerpts on the Periodic Table, Too.

Please see:

Generation Debt, Part the Second


Generation Debt

There's been plenty of discussion about the recent riot at the U, so I don't have much to say. However, it is obvious that our crack administrative team together with the U of M police and the finest of Minneapolis/St. Paul need to do something about this.

I have a couple of ideas but will wait to see what the geniuses - in SidHartmanSpeak - have to say for themselves.

End of term coming soon. I know where my students were over the weekend - studying hard - what a lot of other people should have been doing.

It is a big, bad, world out there, folks. As the sarge (Phil Esterhaus) used to say on Hill Street Blues: "Hey, let's be careful out there."

PZ goes after MB

My esteemed colleague at the University of Minnesota-Morris, PZ Myers, goes after US Representative Michelle Bachman:

She claims that not one study has ever been produced to show that CO2 is harmful, and she goes further to claim that CO2 is a harmless gas. We could correct that in just a few minutes: give me a large tank of CO2 and a small room containing Michele Bachmann, and we'll give her a personal experience.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Memento mori - Steve Cannon (1928-2009)

A true American original has died. Many pieces have appeared by friends and admirers of Steve. One of the best is by Tom Mischke of City Pages.

Below I post a small tribute. Something longer will come in due course, something that I hope will do justice to this wonderful man.