Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stand and Deliver

Coincidental with my challenge to President Bruininks to do this tomorrow, I learned that the person who has done most to popularize the phrase (in modern times) has died.

From the Pioneer-Press:

Jaime A. Escalante, the most famous and influential American public-school teacher of his generation, died March 30 of cancer at his son's home near Sacramento. He was 79.

A lively, wisecracking Bolivian who did not begin teaching in the United States until he was 44, Escalante transformed one of the lowest-performing high schools in the country into a model for raising the achievement of disadvantaged children. A 1988 film about his success, "Stand and Deliver," with Edward James Olmos playing the East Los Angeles math teacher, spread his story around the world and inspired teachers in hundreds of inner-city schools to copy his methods.

Escalante pioneered the use of Advanced Placement, a program of college-level courses and tests designed for high-achieving private schools, to raise standards in average and below-average public schools. His success at Garfield High School, where 85 percent of the students were low-income and few parents had more than a sixth-grade education, suggested that more time and encouragement for learning could trump educational disadvantages.

The Garfield AP program continued to grow, with courses in history, government and biology, and spectacular results in calculus.

In 1987, Garfield students took 129 AP calculus exams, more than all but four high schools, public or private, in the country. That year more than a quarter of all Mexican American students in the United States who passed the Calculus AB exam attended Garfield.

His wife, Fabiola, arranged for the family to move to California, to which two of her brothers had already immigrated. Escalante went along with his wife's plan, but he was frustrated to discover upon arriving that his Bolivian credentials would not get him a job in any U.S. school.

He spent 10 years learning English and repeating his undergraduate education and teacher training, mostly at night and during the summers, before he was accepted as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Much of Escalante's success with students stemmed from his ability to persuade them to work on lessons in his classroom after school each day, and to attend Saturday and summer classes to prepare for calculus. He rejected the usual markers of academic excellence and insisted that regardless of a student's GPA, he would let her take the AP course if she promised to work hard.

On one occasion, a student he did not know wandered into his after-school classroom, crowded with people doing their homework. She said she was in the gifted class and needed help with a problem. His voice full of delight, Escalante motioned to a boy in the room and said, "Let me have a student who is NOT gifted show you how to do that."

And to imagine, he did all this without a TERI program. I think we know the answers about how to improve performance in our schools. And it is not the yet another new program sucking off much needed resources...


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks

to deliver

2010 State of the University Address

From a news release:

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (03/30/2010) —University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks will give his 2010 State of the University Address at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 1, in Coffman Memorial Union Theater, 300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis.

Bruininks’ speech, “Chart the Future: Partners for the Public Good,” will call for a higher education renaissance in Minnesota, in which both the state and the university reaffirm the importance of education, research and public engagement and seek to better align goals and systems with the needs and expectations of the state and its citizens.

President Bruininks, this alignment is long overdue. Many have been trying to call your attention to this topic for years, e.g.

Such a renaissance, according to Bruininks, will require the entire university community to devote itself to strategically refocusing the university's academic mission and aggressively reducing costs and growing non-state revenue.

Are you serious? Based on your past track record, I doubt it. Let me hear you say: "No more of this top three public research universities in the world stuff." Then I'll believe you.

In addition to specific to strategies secure the university's financial future, the president will propose an independent commission on the redesign of higher education in Minnesota and encourage a common vision and stronger partnerships, both within the university and between the university and the state.


Is this like the blue ribbon panels at the U? Is this like the compacts that supposedly set standards of performance? Compacts that most faculty have never seen.

Common Vision?

You mean the kind of common vision that should have been developed over your tenure. Instead what we saw was manipulation. Charges were made and work orders issued. Anyone who dared to disagree with you about the direction in which the university was moving was labeled a doubter by you.

Between the University and the State?

You have poisoned the well. Your lack of leadership on light rail and your crude attempt to extract money from the legislature by blackmail and threats of massive tuition increases have finally caught up with you. Poor financial management and priorities have been exposed.

It is time to return to our mission as a land grant university. I am sorry to say that you seem to have forgotten what this means.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Stand and deliver.

A live video stream of the address can be viewed here:

Added: 31 March 1:09 pm

State of the University Address canceled

The 2010 State of the University Address, scheduled for Thursday, April 1, has been canceled as President Robert Bruininks works to recover his voice from a case of laryngitis.

"Each year I look forward to discussing our best thoughts and ideas for moving the University forward in this forum," he said. "Unfortunately, I am currently unable to speak audibly for extended periods of time—and while I remain hopeful that my voice will return to full capacity soon, we needed to make this decision today in order to communicate it with the Regents, the coordinate campuses, the media and the public in a timely manner."

Since the spring semester will end next month, the speech will not be rescheduled. Instead, the president intends to post his remarks in full on the Office of the President web site on Monday. President Bruininks also indicated his intention to look for additional opportunities to interact with the University community this spring and next fall.

Monday, March 29, 2010

University of Minnesota Faculty

Vote "No"

to Fairness

According to an editorial in the Daily today:

"Thursday’s faculty senate vote failed the lowest-paid staff, and the U."

I don't think the Daily quite understands the position the faculty were put in by President Bruininks and the Morrill Hall Gang.

My comments on the article:

Let's understand this situation. The president began this meeting by saying basically that he would not support any proposal, other than his own. The administration also exerted heavy pressure on the faculty by saying that if they did not vote for the proposal, they would be perceived of as arrogant by the state legislature and the citizens. {There is a certain amount of irony in this - the faculty are the bad guys?}

So a large number of the faculty voted for this proposal while holding their noses. Many of those who did vote yes were openly critical of his proposal during the meeting. When Professor Konstan exhorted the president to step up or step aside many faculty applauded.

So let's lay the blame for this fiasco where it truly belongs - with the President and the rest of the Morrill Hall Gang.

The president claims that we need to use words like financial stringency.

And where is that term used, Mr. President? In the tenure code. And it is a piece of the process on the way to dealing with even more serious financial problems. Have you followed the procedures outlined in the tenure code in this matter?

The president claims to have modeled all kinds of alternatives.

He made this statement without providing any financial facts or evidence to back up these claims. This is special pleading with the bottom line being Trust Us. Given the mess with EFS, the 27th pay-period, and other poor financial decisions and priorities, why should we trust this administration?

The president claims that his flat-tax style proposal is even-handed and fair:

Mr President: Have you ever heard of progressive taxation? This is the system used by the IRS. Making a statement contrary to fact does not make it true.

The president calls for breathing room:

Mr. President, where have you been for the last three years? What did you do during the breathing room that you had then. You squandered it and now we are in a manufactured crisis because of your negligence.

The president claims that the loss of one million dollars will lead to sixteen to twenty job cuts:

These are unsubstantiated statements.. For every milllion dollars we have to lay off how many people? If we laid off vice presidents, we would only have to dispose of four or less. Do we really need a cultural czar? The salary reduction you are proposing is trivial. People like you will still be allowed to be paid enormous salaries so that those on the bottom can be let go...

The president claims that the sliding scale proposal is disadvantageous to academic personnel:

Is there anyone else you'd like to add to those that would be disadvantaged by a sliding scale, yourself for example? You and the, how many is it 40, administrators who have vice president as part of their title? We did not just fall off the turnip truck, Mr. President. Again, how disingenuous can you get. Despite what you claim, the vast majority of faculty make nowhere near what administrators, like you, take home.

The president claims that there are adverse economic effects around cut scores (used in sliding scale):

Model adverse effects around the cut score? Have you even bothered to read the proposal on graduated cuts, Mr. President. They have been designed so that the artifacts that you are complaining about here have been minimized.

The president claims that the sliding scale will lead to cherry-picking [sic] by our competition:

Mr. President, are you aware of what is going on in the American university system right now? You might get away with this when talking to your Aunt Martha, but it is an absurd claim for you to make that we are going to be raided by... Iowa? Wisconsin? Who exactly do you have in mind that is rolling in dough right now? This claim is ridiculous on its face.

The president states:

“I don't think the added protection for some parts of our workforce is exactly worth it and worth the cost.”

This is an incredible, elitist, and arrogant thing to say. Do you mean that the lowest paid people at the U are just not worth the cost to you of fair treatment?

Later the president says that he will be blunt about it – his proposal is the only one acceptable to him.

Mr. President, is it your way or the highway? It will be done your way and no other and we have absolutely no hard evidence that you have carefully examined other proposals? And of course we have to do something immediately because it is an emergency?

We have an emergency because of financial negligence. This is a band-aid. Claiming that it absolutely, positively, has to be done now because you say so makes it obvious what your attitude is to faculty governance and taking honest suggestions from faculty who disagree with you and giving them the consideration they deserve.

As one of my colleagues said later in the meeting, Mr. President: Step up, or step aside.

I'll use the more graphic language of General Patton: Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

[Front page, Saturday March 27 - St. Paul Pioneer Press]

Another Bad Decision

on Light Rail

by the Morrill Hall Gang...

The Gang likes to talk about forging a new covenant with the citizens of the state and the state legislature. Not bloody likely while this sort of stuff continues.

From the Pioneer Planet:

Negotiations between the University of Minnesota and officials backing the Central Corridor light rail line have collapsed, and elected officials from both sides of the river today are accusing the U of costing taxpayers at least $1 million.

"Arrogance and pettiness," "flimsy excuses," "myopic" and "dead wrong" were among the descriptors Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin and Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough used this afternoon to sound off on the U in what appears to be the largest skirmish of the cold war that has hung over the nearly $1 billion project for more than a year.

"They're wasting taxpayer dollars," said McLaughlin, a key player — and often the biggest optimist — in months of negotiations between the university and the Met Council, which is responsible for building the line that will run through campus. "We're talking about real money — cash — right now, being lost."

University officials were not immediately available for comment.

On Thursday, McLaughlin and McDonough, who had been acting as "shuttle-diplomats" between a middle-man and U General Counsel Mark Rotenberg and Vice President for University Services Kathleen O'Brien, threw up their hands.

"The combination of their arrogance and pettiness puts them in a position where they can't come to an agreement," McDonough said today.

The university's stated reasons for denying the temporary easement includes concerns over the spring construction work, said McLaughlin and Bell.

Bell, a former university regent, called that a "red herring."

He issued the following statement:

"The University's refusal to grant the temporary construction easement defies any rational explanation. This will delay the project. This will cost the taxpayers money. This reveals the U's true colors when it comes to this important transit improvement. Those colors aren't maroon and gold - they're stop-sign red."

"The U's professed concern about the impact of these traffic improvements on its labs is just another red herring. This is low-impact construction work that has been discussed with the university staff on multiple occasions, and the U never has raised any concerns."

McLaughlin said if the spring work can't be salvaged, he believes it will hurt the university.

"They're just dead wrong on this, and it's an odd, myopic notion of their own self-interests," he said. "What this does for them is beyond me."

On Friday, Susan Kimberly, interim president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to Bruininks urging the U to grant the temporary easement. When Kimberly learned of the U's refusal, she issued the following statement:

"Peter Bell has been telling me for the past several weeks that the university is being unreasonable in these negotiations. The university's decision ... proves that he is right."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also expressed frustration.

"Like virtually every other partner involved in the Central Corridor, I am fed up with the U. We are not siting a nuclear reactor here," he said.

Financial Stringency Must Be Declared

at the University of Minnesota?

And Why Is This?

My friend and fellow U of M alum writes tellingly of the behavior of the administration of the University of Minnesota over the past few years:

The University of Minnesota is facing a financial crisis due to the decisions of the senior administrators and the Regents on the use of its revenues. Consider the following expenses:

(1) costs of administration at the University (now at 40 vice presidents with combined annual salaries of $8.4 million--see;

(2) multi-million dollar advertising campaign [$4.4 million to the Olson & Co. advertising firm from April 2007 through June 2009 for the Driven to Discover campaign, including funds from the University of Minnesota Foundation (!) for this purpose--see p. 12 and pp. 25-26 from the June 12, 2008 report of the Finance & Operations Committee of the Board of Regents at]

(3) costs of legal services ($5.7 million to outside counsel in 2009 in addition to the salaries and benefits paid to the 18 attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel at the University--see p. 13 of the 2009 Annual Report of the General Counsel at

(4) annual multi-million dollar subsidy to the athletic department ($4 million in 2010--see p. 5 of the September 3, 2009 report of the Faculty Consultative Committee at;

(5) UMore Park on which the administration has spent more than $9.3 million since 2006 to plan residential and commecial development on contaminated land in rural Dakota County that is miles away from existing municipal services--see p.7 of the December 2009 report of the Finance & Operations Committee of the Board of Regents at

The public funds for this adventure in land development have come from the Central Reserves Fund at the University that is supposed to be used for contingency expenses. These multi-million dollar expenditures and other withdrawals will reduce the Fund to $12.6 million by the end of fiscal year 2010, far below the $26 million REQUIRED by the Regents' Policy. See pp. 24-25 of the U of M Operating Budget 2009-2010 at

For more details see

(6) spending a principal amount of $248 million to construct a new football stadium that will be used for six games per year. The citizens of Minnesota will have to repay stadium bonds in the principal amount of $137 million plus interest over the next 20 years as the University obtains an additional $111 million from donors and students. The administration is strong-arming the students (and their parents) for this purpose by collecting yet another fee from all 50,000+ students, most of whom will never attend a single game.

[Added later: Actually it is worse than this. The projected principal cost of the stadium was $248 million in May 2006 when the legislature passed the stadium bill. In January 2007 then Regent David Metzen persuaded his fellow Regents to spend an additional $40 million on the stadium. See the January 4, 2007 Star Tribune report on p. 1A. This increased the principal cost of the stadium to $288 million and the University share of the cost to $151 million.]


The state legislature and the U of M faculty should be Driven to Discover how the University is setting its priorities and spending both state appropriations and funds given by donors for education, research, and public service (the reasons for its existence).

Michael W. McNabb
University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

Response to President Bruininks' Remarks

at March 25th University of Minnesota

Faculty Senate Meeting on Salary


Saturday, March 27, 2010

President Bruininks to

University of Minnesota Citizens:

It's My Way or the Highway?

I've been gratified by the response to an earlier video that presented the views of one of our respected faculty members, Joe Konstan, at last Thursday's Faculty Senate Meeting.

Here I present a first cut on the remarks made by our President at that meeting. Please note that this is not everything he said, his full presentation is available on the web, for those interested, on the Periodic Table, Too - my blog on UThink at the University of Minnesota.

I intend to make another video, that will replace this one. It will contain my response to some of what is in this video. But even by itself it is obvious that our president still suffers from some priority problems, and that he simply is not interested in any views that are contrary to his.

[Sort of reminds me of Light Rail - but that is another painted pony.]

Friday, March 26, 2010

He won the battle but is losing the war...

Step up, Mr. President. Step up or step aside...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

University of Minnesota

Faculty Senate Meeting on

Faculty Salary Cuts

To Be Webcast Tomorrow - Correction!


I have just received an email that states:

Due to technical problems, the URL for the video of the Faculty Senate meeting today has been changed; it is now a Windows Media Stream at



This important faculty senate meeting has strong implications for the financial situation at the University and also for governance.


2:30 - 5:00 P.M.

The meeting will be webcast at:

All those who are able are encouraged to watch. If this is not possible, the audio version of the meeting will be available on the web for download on Friday, March 26, on the University Senate webpage, at

AFSCME's open letter to the Faculty Senate

March 23, 2010

To the University of Minnesota Faculty Senate:

Dear Colleagues,

We understand that the faculty senate will be meeting with President Bruininks on Thursday, March 25th, to consider a motion on mandatory furloughs and pay reductions. We are also aware that the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education (FRPE) will offer two resolutions at the March 25th meeting, one calling for transparency in the University budget process, and one calling for sliding scale pay reductions. We write you today to express our support for these resolutions, and to ask you to stand with the frontline staff at the University by opposing mandatory furloughs for the lowest paid U workers, and by supporting the FRPE resolutions.

President Bruininks’s current plan is for a temporary pay cut of 1.15%, with a slightly higher cut for senior administrators. For unionized staff, the president intends the cut to be taken in the form of 3 mandatory furlough days in December. This plan places an unfair burden on the lowest paid staff and faculty who are already struggling to get by, while over 250 administrators earn more than $200,000.

In preparation for last year’s contract negotiations, AFSCME surveyed our members regarding their financial situation. 66% of respondents have worked a second job to make ends meet, and 64% have borrowed money or used a credit card to make ends meet. 36% have had difficulty making a mortgage payment or rent. 6% have faced foreclosure (our survey was done before the foreclosure crisis hit) or eviction, and 14% have had utilities shut off for non-payment.

We asked our members what they go without due to our salary levels. The responses we heard were heart wrenching. One member has not traveled on vacation since 1991. Others do without computers or the internet, even though their kids need them for school. Many responded that they keep their thermostat set at 50-60 degrees in the winter, and walk whenever possible to save gas money and car costs. What they dream of being able to do is not lofty: going to a movie, enrolling their children in after school or summer recreation activities, occasionally going out for lunch or dinner, retiring.

These are members of the University community, our co-workers and yours, who are working full-time, and are already struggling to get by. Now, the administration wants to force a pay cut in the form of mandatory furloughs. They want us to lose 3 days pay over the holidays. For some at the University, losing 3 days pay may mean choosing California rather than Hawaii for vacation. For many of our members, however, it means wondering whether there is any money for a holiday dinner or gifts for the kids. It means borrowing money to pay the light or phone bill to prevent shut off. Quite simply, it means economic crisis.

We write to ask you to vote against President Bruininks’ proposal. We understand the concern that some have voiced that voting against the administration will be viewed as faculty members being selfish and unwilling to take a cut. Nothing could be further from the truth. A vote against the administration is, quite simply, a vote against furloughs and in support of your low wage co-workers. FRPE will be proposing an alternative that truly addresses the budget situation at the U while protecting the lowest paid workers at the University. We encourage you to vote for their Resolution on Salary Reductions. This proposal is based on a similar plan that the Board of Regents implemented during the financial crisis of the 1930’s.

You may be told that voting against the administration will result in deeper cuts on academic units that will result in layoffs of low-paid workers. Unfortunately dozens of our members have already been laid off. Some of these layoffs have occurred in departments that have then hired senior administrators with six digit salaries. For this reason, we also ask you to support FRPE’s Resolution on Financial Stringency, which calls for transparency in the University budget process. We believe that the best way of protecting jobs is through deeper scrutiny of expenditures and an open budgetary process that involves the entire University community.

There are options other than the administration’s that can save the University money. AFSCME analyzed University salaries based on data requested and published by the Star Tribune. According to those figures, if the 250+ University employees making over $200,000 took a five percent pay cut, the University would save $3,207,656. If those making $300,000 took an additional 5% decrease and those making over $ 400,000 took an additional 5%, an additional $867,929 could be saved. That’s a total of $4,075,585.

In addition, the University Central Administration should be required to drastically scale back the number of Vice Presidents, Senior VPs, Associate VPs, Assistant VPs, Assistant Associate VPs and other top administrators. For example, if the University reduced the top administrative positions at the U, (Associate Department Director and above), by 10%, the University could save another $7,755,630. The total RECURRING savings from cutting senior administrative waste would be $11,831,215.

In addition, there are models in other public institutions (Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis for example) in which voluntary furlough programs met the savings goals. If the administration implemented FRPE’s sliding scale salary reductions for higher paid faculty and staff, and allowed lower paid staff to chose whether or not to take leave days, those who could afford to take days off without pay could and will do so, while those who are most vulnerable will not be forced into financial crisis.

On behalf of our members, we thank you for all the support and concern you have shown for our well-being. Your vote Thursday is not merely a vote regarding faculty salaries. It is a vote to use your power as faculty members to stand in solidarity with your lower paid colleagues at the University.


Barbara Bezat
AFSCME Local 3937

Phyllis Walker
AFSCME Local 3800

Sharon Binek
AFSCME Local 3260
Open Letter to

University of Minnesota

President Bruininks

Any University citizen who wishes to sign the following open letter may do so at:

We are dismayed at the inequity and short-sightedness of your plan to address financial stringency by imposing temporary reductions in employee compensation. Moreover, we deplore your threat that if the Faculty Senate does not approve your plan to cut faculty compensation, deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses, will be made (e-mail message to faculty, March 16, 2010). There are better ways to reduce expenditures at the University, and better models for salary reductions than what you have proposed.

Faculty are willing to accept reductions in compensation sufficient in magnitude to protect the lowest-paid employees at the University from suffering any cuts at all, provided that the plan is equitable rather than regressive, and that expenditures bearing the least relation to the University's mission are cut first.
Because it is faculty alone who have the privilege to vote on whether to accept a reduction in compensation, it is incumbent on faculty to demand that such cuts be equitable and that they be proposed in accord with applicable University policy.

Your proposal calls for the following compensation reductions: a three-day mandatory furlough for all civil service and union-represented staff; a uniform reduction of 1.15% in the compensation of all faculty; and a uniform reduction of 2.3% in the compensation of academic and administrative officers (numbering 85 positions total). Contrast the cuts made in 1932, when the University and the nation faced a comparable situation of economic duress. At that time, the Regents imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above a certain threshold in graduated increments while leaving salaries below that threshold untouched. We quote the University News Release of May 1932 on this matter:

The regents put into effect a slash of 20 percent on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15 percent on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10 percent on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure $1200 [sic] a year.

In our view this should provide the model for reductions in compensation now. A similar sliding-scale cut would easily achieve greater savings than the $18.5 million that your plan would yield.

Any cut to faculty and staff compensation, however, should only be considered in the context of a long-term plan for dealing with the budgetary crisis, after cutting expenditures that are not essential to the University's primary missions of education, research, and public service.
Faculty should be provided full access to all available budgetary information, be apprised of the measures under consideration to reduce the budget, and have the opportunity to propose alternative reductions. These principles are embodied in the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure, which accords faculty a participatory role in determining how best to address any financial crisis. Instead, the administration merely informs faculty of cuts in state appropriations, and provides only piecemeal information on how the University is spending the funds at its disposal. The administration has not sought broad faculty participation in determining what to cut; when staff or faculty point out excess spending to reduce, we are ignored.

Instead of demanding only that faculty vote to approve whatever your administration proposes, invite us to contribute to identifying where cuts could be made with no harm to the academic mission. Here are a few suggestions.

Driven to Discover What does this branding scheme cost? What good does it do for instruction, research, or the citizens of Minnesota?

Wellness Initiative While programs that help employees improve their health may be valuable in principle, it makes no sense to continue producing abundant glossy advertising for this initiative, and paying employees $65.00 each time they participate in it, at the same time that the administration keeps on raising the tuition students pay.

UMore Park Millions of dollars have been invested in the proposed development of a sustainable community of 20,000-30,000 people at this site on the suburban fringe. Although UMore Park does host some research projects, funding a speculative real estate development can hardly be justified as part of the University's core mission.

If the University is truly in a situation of financial stringency, programs like these should see funding cuts before academic programs do.

Reductions in state funding have worsened our present situation. But poor planning and misplaced priorities are also to blame. Next year's state appropriation is close to that of 2007. During the last two years, a hiring pause and salary freeze have been in effect, while academic units have suffered successive cuts and numerous staff have been laid off. Given these cost-cutting measures, with prudent administration, the University's operating costs should not have increased so dramatically as to make a return to 2007 funding levels catastrophic. Moreover, the present budgetary shortfall cannot be described as unforeseeable. According to your March 16 e-mail message, the shortfall consists of the following three components: (1) increased annual costs, including a proposed 2% raise (44%); (2) the 27th pay period, a calendrical artifact of the bi-weekly payroll system (31%); and (3) the governor's proposed budget cut through unallotment (25%). The first and second components were not merely foreseeable; in the case of the raise (which many faculty oppose), they are planned. Only the amount of the governor's unallotment was unforeseen. University workers should not be made to pay the price of the administration's poor planning.

As faculty, we are responsible for carrying out the University's teaching and research missions, and we accordingly share responsibility for University governance. We repeat that we are willing to accept compensation reductions, should they be necessary, as part of a coherent strategy to rectify the University's financial situation. We do not accept your administration's proposal to impose uniform pay cuts, forcing the lowest-paid employees to bear the burden of financial stringency, while failing to reduce expenditures that do not contribute to the fulfillment of our core mission.


David Bernstein, Associate Development Officer, Theatre Arts and Dance

Bruce Braun, Associate Professor, Department of Geography

Teri Caraway, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Jigna Desai, Associate Professor, Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies

Francis Harvey, Associate Professor, Department of Geography

Kathleen Hull, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

William Messing, Professor, Department of Mathematics

August Nimtz, Professor, Department of Political Science

Gilbert Rodman, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies

Karen-Sue Taussig, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Eva Von Dassow, Associate Professor, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies

Monday, March 22, 2010

University of Minnesota

on the

FIRE Radar Screen

FIRE is a well respected national organization that defends civil liberties and academic freedom on college and university campuses. They have received numerous awards for outstanding work including the 2010 Ford Hall Forum First Amendment Award. Previous winners of this award have included Gwen Ifill and Rosa Parks.

"FIRE's work to protect fundamental rights on campus concentrates on four areas: freedom of speech and expression; religious liberty and freedom of association; freedom of conscience; and due process and legal equality on campus."

When FIRE exposed the TERI operations at Minnesota to scrutiny, the initial reaction of the administration and even some faculty members was to try to characterise the organisation as a right wing front, but this attempt failed miserably.

Now that the University administration's ham-handed attempt to circumvent the tenure code has been exposed to scrutiny by faculty and others, the FIRE has taken note of the situation and pointed out the university's obligation to faculty members who have dared to speak against the party line:

First Major Test of Academic Freedom Protections at the University of Minnesota

by Adam Kissel

Last March and November, my colleague Azhar Majeed noted the extra steps that some faculty bodies are taking to preserve their academic freedom in response to the ambiguous statement by the Supreme Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006) explicitly reserving judgment on the question of whether faculty members at public colleges and universities, despite the special importance of academic freedom and the societal benefit of having professors speak freely on issues related to institutional governance and areas of their professional expertise, are protected by the First Amendment when they do so because, in the end, they are public employees. While the Supreme Court noted the possibility of an exception for faculty without deciding the question, lower courts have nevertheless applied Garcetti to college professors (usually in matters regarding their individual treatment rather than their speech about institutional governance) with troubling results, so some faculty bodies are explicitly writing extra protections into university documents. FIRE and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have been watching these developments intently.

This month, the first major test of the University of Minnesota's new protections is in full swing, given the highly controversial issue of potential faculty salary cuts due to alleged "financial stringency" at the university, questions about transparency of financial information at the university, and controversy over the legality of the process by which the faculty are being asked to vote on potential cuts. (See the blog Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education and these blogs for more information on these issues and the faculty response.)

Fortunately for the faculty activists and critics, the university recently changed the Board of Regents policy on Academic Freedom and Responsibility. As of June 12, 2009, the new policy reads, in relevant part, with emphasis added:

Academic freedom is the freedom to discuss all relevant matters in the classroom, to explore all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, and to speak or write without institutional discipline or restraint on matters of public concern as well as on matters related to professional duties and the functioning of the University.

Facts Are Fungible at the University of Minnesota

Yet another example of the Morrill Hall Gang - and their front man - to change their facts to fit the story has appeared in the Daily:

After handing the University of Minnesota an all-or-nothing alcohol sales policy for TCF Bank Stadium last year, the Legislature is considering allowing the University to choose where exactly to sell alcohol in its sports facilities, as was originally planned.

Controversial amendments to a liquor bill would change the requirements regarding alcohol sales on licensed, University-owned property, such as the stadium or Mariucci and Williams arenas.

The stringent requirements were added last session. Prior to that, liquor sales were left to the University’s discretion and served in premium seating areas only.

Sen. James Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, introduced the amendment last week, and the Senate Higher Education Committee will hear the bill Tuesday.

[Senator Metzen is the brother of former Regent Dr. David Metzen, who served for many years at the unofficial regent for athletics at the U of M. Booze for the suit(e)s was his brainchild.]

Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, the committee’s chairwoman, said she supports the amendment and said the University’s budget troubles make it likely the bill will be passed by her committee.

“We’re in a position of having to cut the University’s budget,” Pappas said. “We should not be also cutting their ability to raise money in other ways.”

[Senator Pappas, why not sell alcohol, in moderation, to all of legal age. This would allow the U to raise money - and a lot of it.]

But critics of the bill, including the chairman of the House Higher Education committee, have challenged the logic of framing the debate as an economic issue.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, Minn., led the charge that got the original restrictions in place last session. He said he heard rumors that a similar bill might be introduced in the House this session and decried the University as “elitist” for allowing only premium ticketholders to drink.

University officials do not have a formal position on the legislation this session, but administrators have opposed allowing alcohol sales throughout the stadium since the debate began, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail.

University police also weighed in against it, citing concerns about the effect alcohol could have on a crowd.

In June, following the original bill’s passage, the University’s Board of Regents prohibited the sale of alcohol at the stadium and both arenas, despite the expected loss of revenue attached to the decision.

Wolter said the brunt of revenue losses doesn’t stem from the lack of actual alcohol sales, but from un-renewed premium seats and losing suite holders, as well as the resulting lower prices used to spur demand.

Wolter said it is estimated that the University faces a yearly loss ranging from $1 million to $2 million in terms of premium seating at TCF Bank Stadium and Mariucci and Williams arenas. Losses related to actual alcohol sales only add up to about $200,000 yearly, he said.

[Do you mean from the sale to the suits or the whole stadium? Revenue from the whole stadium would be at least a million dollars and probably more. This information should be fairly easy to obtain since alcohol was sold at Gopher games in the Metrodome.]

Under the bill’s provisions, the renewed income from alcohol sales would be set aside for merit-based scholarships for University athletes.

[Merit? Please explain? Are they going to donate these millions of dollars that will be generated from making premium seats available, or just the profit on the relatively small amount of money that booze for the suits will generate? We all know the answer to that one. ]

GOP Dream of Destroying Obama

Dies With House Health Care Package

From PoliticusUSA

For almost a year and a half Republicans have been nurturing a dream that they could turn Barack Obama into Jimmy Carter by stopping the passage of health care reform, but with the House passage of the health care bill by a vote of 219-212, Republicans have not only seen their dream of turning Obama into a one termer shatter, but their dream is dead, and Obama remains strong.

Remember Jim DeMint’s dream of breaking Obama. DeMint said, “‘If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,’” House Republicans continued to meander along with the talking points that worked so well for them during the summer town hall meeting. Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) claimed that the health care bill was historic because, “unprecedented and unconstitutional mandates on our states.” Rep. David Nunes (R-CA) claimed that the bill was, “the cornerstone of [a] Socialist utopia.” Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) summed up the GOP position as the Republicans, “decided apparently that they benefit from virulence, hatred, disruption.”

In comparison to the insane ramblings of gloom and doom coming from the Republican side, Democrats seemed sane. Throughout the hours of debate, it was as if the two sides were not even debating the same issue. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) said, “Amidst angry and at times even hateful rhetoric, amidst the misinformation and scare tactics, there exists one simple truth, and that truth is that the current system is unsustainable.” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said, “This may be the most important vote that we cast as members of this body. We have a moral obligation today, tonight to make health care a right and not a privilege.”

The entire GOP strategy for turning Barack Obama into a one termer centered on stopping health care reform, and giving him his defining defeat. They wanted to make Obama look like another weak Democrat. They risked everything on health care, and tonight they lost big. The Republican Party had a glimmer of hope and relevancy, but it was extinguished tonight. Democrats should pray every night that the Republicans ignore the economy this fall and run on the decided issue of health care reform. By doing so, they will be playing into the Democrats hands.

Even worse for the GOP, Obama and the Democrats are now free to focus on the economy and jobs for the next 8 months until the mid-term elections, and Obama now can add an historic piece of legislation to his stellar resume. The Republican hopes of defeating Barack Obama in 2012 hinged on stopping health care reform. They tried to turn Superman back into Clark Kent, and now all they have left is white rage, a pile of tea bags, and 18 months of doing nothing for the American people.

The Daily Questions

University of Minnesota

President Bruininks'

Salary Cut Proposal

The University should not hastily approve any pay cuts.

During spring break, University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks announced a last-minute change to the furlough plan that all University employees would be subject to. Instead of workers taking three furlough days and executive administrators taking six, those who aren’t hourly workers will take a 1.15-percent pay cut and executive administration will take a 2.3-percent cut. The plan remains unchanged for hourly workers.

There are several glaring flaws in the plan, not the least of which is the timing of the announcement only 10 days before the intended vote and during spring break. The University of Minnesota’s Faculty Senate intends to vote on the plan Thursday, which is not enough time to properly review and debate the plan.

There are many questions the administration will need to address; for example, how will they ensure that the missed work of a furlough day will not need to be covered by paying someone overtime to do it? Will hourly workers lose a full day’s pay in one paycheck, or will the loss be spread over all their paychecks?

Once again, the savings of this plan are a temporary solution to an ongoing problem. University employees will have a scheduled two-percent pay raise pushed back, but will still receive it eventually. Tuition increases, on the other hand, are in effect indefinitely. Students shoulder an unfair share of the University’s financial burden in the long term. If there truly is a “new fiscal reality” as the administration claims, permanent solutions — not temporary fixes — should be the goal. The administration and faculty senate should take more time to resolve these issues rather than hastily approve an underdeveloped plan.

Well put, Daily.

Once again the Morrill Hall Gang demonstrates the kind of behavior for which they have become famous. The timing - over Spring Break - is indeed suspicious. They were aware for quite some time of the amount of money they would be getting from they State Legislature.

And yet, they dawdled. In fact they have been aware for years of the coming financial crisis.

Although Our CFO claims to have been aware of the 27 week paycheck situation, he also acknowledges having done nothing about it.

It also appears that the President's request to the Faculty Senate to vote on a salary cut on the 25th is in violation of the tenure code.

Leadership matters. Time for a change?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Whistle Blowing on Financial Stringency Issue

at the University of Minnesota

From a resolution that will, hopefully, be considered at the Faculty Senate meeting on March 25:

WHEREAS: The president of the University proposes to declare a state of financial stringency, and accordingly asks the Faculty Senate to vote its assent to a temporary reduction of faculty compensation (while also proposing to reduce the compensation of all other salaried employees of the University), in accord with Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure;

WHEREAS: The administration has failed to provide to its employees, the Faculty Senate, and the public at large sufficiently detailed information to enable the Faculty Senate to confirm that all reasonable economies short of reducing compensation of employees at all salary levels have been, or are in the process of being, implemented;

BE IT RESOLVED: That, prior to asking the Faculty Senate to vote on its proposal to reduce faculty compensation, the administration provide to the faculty and the public a detailed account of all current and projected University expenditures and savings, justifying each item and amount in terms of its relationship to the University's primary missions of education and research

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the Faculty Senate requests an independent audit of the finances of the University, including specifically an independent itemized analysis of the expenses of administrative overhead, with a view to identifying areas where additional economies might be realized with minimal impact on the University's primary missions of education and research.

COMMENT: The president proposes a reduction in faculty compensation, and requests that the Faculty Senate vote its assent to his proposal, under Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure.

Informed assent requires full disclosure of the University's budget, including a detailed account of all expenditures, as well as reductions already made or considered, explaining how each expenditure relates to the University's primary missions of education and research.

It requires further that the faculty have the opportunity not only to scrutinize expenditures but to propose reductions other than those contemplated by the administration, and that the administration consider such proposals, justifying their adoption or rejection in terms of sustaining the University's mission.

To date, the administration has provided the Faculty Senate and the University community at large with information on decreases in revenue and figures for savings projected to be achieved through its proposed reductions to employee compensation, without explaining how resources are expended or attempting to demonstrate that all reasonable reductions consistent with the University's primary missions have already been made.

The faculty are willing to accept temporary cuts in compensation as part of a long-term strategy to rectify the University's financial situation, if and only if the administration first implements cuts that do not impair the University's primary missions of education and research, and provides access to all budgetary information, detailing both expenditures and revenues, in order that the faculty may scrutinize the budget, participate in determining what expenditures to cut, and, should it become necessary, provide informed consent to a reduction in faculty compensation.

Faculty alone are empowered to grant such consent by vote. However, the allocation or withdrawal of financial resources affects all members of the University community. It is therefore incumbent on the faculty to require financial transparency of the administration, and to demand that measures be taken to address the present budgetary shortfall that involve neither inequitable reductions to compensation, nor potential termination, of the lowest-paid employees of the University.

So President Bruininks,

Do You Truly Want a Salary Reduction

That is Fair and Equitable?

How about this?

From a resolution that, hopefully, will be presented to the Faculty Senate Meeting on March 25th:

WHEREAS: The administration asks the Faculty Senate to vote its assent to the temporary reduction of faculty salaries, while also proposing to reduce the compensation of other employees of the University, in accord with Section 4.5 of the Regents' Policy on Faculty Tenure;

WHEREAS: The reduction of faculty salaries on the plan currently presented (1.15% for all faculty and 2.3% for academic and administrative officers) is projected to yield savings of $18.5 million;

WHEREAS: In a comparable situation of economic duress, in 1932, the Regents of the University of Minnesota imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above certain thresholds and imposing no reduction on salaries below a certain threshold;

WHEREAS: The imposition of a salary reduction on a sliding scale, down to zero for salaries below a certain threshold, would readily achieve or exceed the savings projected to be achieved through the minuscule reduction of faculty salaries currently proposed; for example, a reduction of 20% on the increment of all salaries above $200,000 per annum, a reduction of 10% on the increment of all salaries above $150,000 per annum, a reduction of 5% on the increment of all salaries above $100,000 per annum, and a reduction of 2.5% on the increment of all salaries above $70,000 per annum might yield savings equivalent to those that the present salary reduction plan would yield;

BE IT RESOLVED: That in place of its proposal to reduce salaries of all employees of every category and salary level, the administration develop and present to the Faculty Senate an alternative plan that calls for temporary salary reductions on a sliding scale, with no reduction for salaries below a certain threshold, in order to achieve the same savings.

Comment regarding resolution from Karen-Sue Taussig, Bill Beeman, and Steven Ostrow:

We appreciate the administration's revised proposal as an effort to respond to concerns faculty have expressed about equity in dealing with the University's financial troubles. Nevertheless, we are disappointed with the administration's proposal of a uniform pay cut since this will be inherently regressive in its disproportionate effect on lower income members of the university community. With this resolution we offer an alternate proposal with two primary aims. First, we seek to distribute the burden of salary reductions in an equitable and progressive way across the faculty. We offer one of a number of possible strategies for achieving the same savings as the administration's current proposal that would protect salaries under a certain threshold. Second, we seek to establish a model that protects employees who lack the privilege of tenure, who are the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of our community, and who are not given representation in this forum, from any salary reduction, job loss, or layoffs at all. A 1.15% pay cut seems to be a relatively small amount, but we know that such a cut represents a far greater portion of expendable income for someone earning $45,000, than it does for someone earning $200,000.

During the financial crisis of the 1930s the regents implemented salary reductions on a sliding scale similar to the one we now propose. According to the minutes of the April 21, 1932 Board of Regents meeting, at that time "The regents put into effect a slash of 20% on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15% on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10% on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure $1200 [sic] a year."

The following is an illustration of a sliding scale model for salary reductions, with a 20% reduction on increments above $200,000, a 10% reduction on the increment $150,000-$200,000, a 5% reduction on the increment $100,000-$150,000, and a 2.5% reduction on the increment $70,000-$100,000:

Someone earning $70,000 or less would not take a reduction.

Someone earning $100,000 would take a $750 salary reduction (.75%)

Someone earning $150,000 would take a $750 reduction (on that portion between $70,000 and $100,00) + $2,500 reduction (5% on that portion above $100,000) for a total salary reduction of $3,250 (2.17%)

Someone earning $200,000 would take a reduction of $3,250 (on the increment between $70,000 and $150,000) + $5,000 reduction (10% on the increment above $150,000) for a total salary reduction of $8,250 (4.125%).

Someone earning $250,000 would take a $8,250 reduction on the increment between $70,000 and $200,000) + $10,000 reduction (20% on the increment above $200,000) for a total salary reduction of $18,250 (7.3%)

This example is meant to be illustrative: If a sliding scale was deemed suitable in the 1930s, it should be deemed so today.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Big Spenders at the Legislature

From MPR:

Posted at 4:56 PM on March 19, 2010 by Tom Scheck

The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board released its report of spending at the Minnesota Legislature in 2009.

The report shows that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce continues to be the top spending at the State Capitol. The business advocacy group spent $1.8 million on lobbying in 2009.

Education Minnesota, the state's teacher's union, spent $1.38 million on lobbying in 2009. That's double what the union spent in 2008.

Three energy firms, Xcel Energy ($980,000), Flint Hills Resources ($920,000) and Center Point Energy ($860,000) rounded out the top five with the Minnesota Business Partnership ($860,000).

Here's the top ten spenders:

1) MN Chamber of Commerce $1,800,000
2) Education MN $1,380,000
3) Xcel Energy Services Inc $980,000
4) Flint Hills Resources LP $920,000
5) CenterPoint Energy Resources Corp d/b/a CenterPoint Energy MN Gas $860,000
5) MN Business Partnership Inc $860,000
7) Minneapolis Radiation Oncology Physicians $680,000
8) League of MN Cities $625,619
9) MN School Boards Assn $620,000
10) MN Auto Dealers Assn$452,000

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Graduation Rates, Noted...

Bradley Center is one of the sites of the NCAA basketball tournament in which the Minnesota Gophers will be playing.

Xavier is a 6th seed and the U 11th. But the Musketeers have already bested us in an important metric, graduation rate. In fact our graduation rate is an embarrassment; only Georgia Tech of the Milwaukee group is worse.

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan repeated a proposal he first brought up in January - that schools should be banned from the NCAA men's basketball tournament if they fail to graduate 40% of their players.

By that measure, one of the teams competing at the Bradley Center Friday would not be playing. Georgia Tech graduated 38% of its players, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, based on the most recent data.

The other graduation rates for the basketball players on the other seven teams playing in Milwaukee are: Xavier (89%), UC Santa Barbara, Oakland and Oklahoma State (82%), Pittsburgh (75%), Ohio State (60%) and Minnesota (44%).

The NCAA responded to Duncan's remarks by saying it shares his concern about low graduation rates for some programs, but said it did not make sense to ban teams now based on evidence gathered years ago. The most recent graduation rate data is based on the class that entered college for 2002-'03.

The University of Minnesota Finds a Way to Get Around Alcohol Ban...

Suit(e)s to get alcohol in the House That Bob Built?

(I thank a friend for calling this interesting development to my attention.)

From MPR:

Barley pop at the Bank?

Posted at 9:27 AM on March 18, 2010 by Tom Scheck

The University of Minnesota is making a move to sell alcohol in special seating at TCF Bank Stadium. DFL Sen. Jim Metzen successfully amended** a liquor bill last week that was being heard in the Senate Commerce Committee. It would allow the U of M to sell alcohol in premium seating.

**[2.3 (3) to the Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota for events at Northrop

2.4Auditorium, the intercollegiate football stadium, or at no more than seven other locations

2.5within the boundaries of the University of Minnesota, provided that the Board of Regents

2.6has approved an application for a license for the specified location and provided that a

2.7license for an arena or stadium location is void unless it requires the sale or service of

2.8intoxicating liquor throughout the arena or stadium if intoxicating liquor is sold or served

2.9anywhere in the arena or stadium]

[It should be noted that Sen. Metzen is the brother of Former Regent David Metzen - who was the unofficial regent for athletics at the U of M. Dr. David Metzen has been mentioned on this blog before.]

The U of M sought the liquor exemption last year but was rebuffed when the Legislature required alcohol be sold in the entire stadium if the decision was made to sell alcohol in the stadium. In other words, alcohol had to be sold in the entire stadium if it was sold at all. U of M President Bob Bruininks later announced that alcohol wouldn't be sold at all at the stadium as a result of the legislation.

Metzen's amendment would allow for the U of M to sell alcohol selectively in the stadium (my understanding is it would also apply to The Barn and Mariucci Arena).

The bill also requires any proceeds from alcohol sales to be dedicated to athletic scholarships at the U of M. athletic scholarships. Metzen's amendment also calls for a study of the issue to gauge its impact by January 15, 2012.

[Great! Athletic scholarships... I guess that would make it ok?]

The bill moved to the Senate Higher Education Finance Committee.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Case Study in Bad University Management:

How to Go From Fundamentally Sound

in October 2008

to Financial Crisis in 18 Months

I thank a friend for suggesting this post.

I hope the people at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota will use this as a case study. It is an excellent example of an institution digging itself a deep hole through poor priorities and lack of transparency about what is being done with money.

From my post in October, 2008:

The University's Financial Health,
Or Our Finances are Fundamentally Sound...

Executive Summary: The financial situation at the university is fundamentally sound. This is because of careful strategic planning and financial management.

"I want to assure you that, through careful strategic planning and financial management, the University is positioned to weather this current storm. Make no mistake: local and global economic challenges will impact the U—but the University community is responding decisively to ensure our future financial strength, encourage investment in the U, protect our employees, and continue to reward performance." President Bruininks

And we spent five million dollars [ten by now] on MoreU Park and five million on Driven to Discover. And on athletics...

And where exactly would "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three public research universities in the world" fit into that, Bob? This goal is inappropriate for a land grand university under severe financial pressure. Are you ready to finally admit that our priorities need some serious community discussion or is a monologue sufficient?

... does this administration know how to operate in a time of scarce resources, Bob? Lead, follow, or...dissemble?