Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It takes more than two to SweetTango

A Poison PR Apple at the University of Minnesot

From the (local) Red-Wing, Minnesota, Eagle:

June 30, 2010

The deal just seemed wrong to Vince Steffen.

The Mazeppa apple grower said an agreement between the University of Minnesota and Lake City-based Pepin Heights Orchard unfairly restricts the production of a highly coveted apple.

"It makes a big disadvantage," he said Tuesday. "It just doesn't seem to be the right way to do things to Minnesota growers."

Steffen joined a group of 26 Minnesota apple growers suing Pepin Heights and the university, claiming the agreement limits their ability to sell and distribute the SweeTango apple, a cross between the Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties.

Other Minnesota growers can - and have - been producing the SweeTango, but the agreement prohibits them from selling to wholesalers or pooling production to wholesale the apple.

"The only manner by which plaintiffs can sustain their business is by selling SweeTango to large wholesalers or retailers," the civil complaint states.

The suit claims a 2009 advanced marketing campaign between the university and Pepin Heights proclaimed SweeTango "the Honeycrisp killer" - a reference to the popular apple variety.

Since the growers help provide university funding, "we should have some of the benefits of that product," Steffen said.

According to the complaint, the university's development team is to receive 33 percent of the apple's sales royalties. Another one-third of royalties goes to the university's research office, while 25 percent goes to the university's department that supported creation of the apple's intellectual property.

The final 8 percent goes to the apple creator's college, the complaint states.

The University of Minnesota is an economic engine for the state? Cui bono?

The University of Minnesota creates jobs? Looks like this greedy and mean-spirited unilateral licensing agreement will put many Minnesota growers out of business.

Is this what a land grant university should be doing?

Another absurd PR move by the Morrill Hall Gang...

Homeopathy - The Cartoon Version

A lucid account that should be understandable by lay people.

It is clear enough to prompt the question: Why is homeopathy being promoted at the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota?

I thought our medical school was evidence based?
There are also serious medical ethics problems.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Is Homeopathy quackery or is it witchcraft?

The University of Minnesota

Academic Health Center actively encourages

the practice of homeopathy

From the British Medical Association:

Homeopathy is "witchcraft" and the National Health Service should not pay for it, the British Medical Association has declared.
From the Daily Mail (UK):

Homeopathy is worse than witchcraft - and the NHS must stop paying for it

From the University of Minnesota Website:


What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine that works with the body's innate ability to heal. It uses very dilute doses of substances that stimulate the body's own defense mechanism and healing powers and return it to a state of balance-physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Very dilute is the understatement of the century. The probability that a molecule of the so-called active agent is present in a homeopathic dose is infinitely small.

For example, homeopathic substances are very dilute, so much so that they may not have any measurable "substance" left in them. In addition, the action of the remedy is to stimulate a healing response.
And so if there is nothing in the dose, how can it work? Magic? How is this healing response stimulated by nothing?

To make matters even worse, the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center will even help you locate a homeopath!

How Do I Select a Qualified Homeopath?

Homeopathy is a field that attracts many different types of individuals, some with conventional medical training and credentials, and others without. (Some of the most renowned homeopaths in the world today have no formal medical training or licensing.) In addition, there are many different paths of study and regulation, and licensing varies from state to state.

If there is a serious, complex, or chronic health issue, the patient needs a homeopathic practitioner who is classically trained.

[A serious, complex, or chronic health issue should certainly not be treated by a homeopath. For the Academic Health Center to recommend such a course of action is both unethical and unconscionable.]

Below are the various certifying organizations.

Council for Homeopathic Certification (CHC) has been certifying professional homeopaths in the U.S. since 1991.

American Institute of Homeopathy certifies medical and osteopathic doctors in the U.S. via the American Board of Homeotherapeutics.

The Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (HANP) certifies naturopathic doctors in the U.S.

A good resource to help you find a practitioner is the North American Society of Homeopaths (NASH), which registers professional homeopaths in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Homeopaths need to be certified by CHC (above) before they can be registered with the NASH.

Examples of classical training institutions in the U.S. include, but is not limited to, the following:

* Atlantic Academy of Classical Homeopathy in New York
* Arizona Center for Health and Medicine in Scottsdale, Ariz.
* Hahnemann College of Homeopathy in Pt. Richmond, Calif.
* National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Ore.
* New England School of Homeopathy in Amherst, Mass.
* Northwestern Academy of Homeopathy in Minneapolis, Minn.
* Pacific Academy of Homeopathic Medicine in San Francisco, Ca
Driven to Discover what?

That pushing junk science in an Academic Health Center is acceptable?

Not in an evidence based medical school. Not in an institution that aims to be one of the top three public research universities in the world.

This head in sand behavior of the AHC administration is yet another example of avoiding dealing with a real health issue until forced to.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Join the discussion:

Minnesotans share their

insight and expertise"

Community Voices Blog

I've started blogging on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune site "Community Voices."

A link to the site may be found at top-left.

So far the posts include:

Who's dismantling the Ivory Tower at the University of Minnesota

The UGospel According to President Bruininks - The Apocalypse

Transformational Verbigeration at the U


Homeopathy at the University of Minnesota Academic
Health Center


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Homeopathy at the Academic Health Center

of the University of Minnesota

From the Telegraph (UK):

Homeopathy is "witchcraft" and the National Health Service should not pay for it, the British Medical Association has declared.

Hundreds of members of the BMA have passed a motion denouncing the use of the alternative medicine, saying taxpayers should not foot the bill for remedies with no scientific basis to support them.

Now, the annual conference of junior doctors has gone further, with a vote overwhelmingly supporting a blanket ban, and an end to all placements for trainee doctors which teach them homeopathic principles.

Dr Tom Dolphin, deputy chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee in England told the conference: "Homeopathy is witchcraft. It is a disgrace that nestling between the National Hospital for Neurology and Great Ormond Street [in London] there is a National Hospital for Homeopathy which is paid for by the NHS".

Gordon Lehany, chairman of the BMA's junior doctors committee in Scotland said it was wrong that some junior doctors were spending part of their training rotations in homeopathic hospitals, learning principles which had no place in science.

He told the conference in London last weekend: "At a time when the NHS is struggling for cash we should be focusing on treatments that have proven benefit. If people wish to pay for homoeopathy that's their choice but it shouldn't be paid for on the NHS until there is evidence that it works."

In February a report by MPs said the alternative medicine should not receive state funding.

The Commons science and technology committee also said vials of the remedies should not be allowed to use phrases like "used to treat" in their marketing, as consumers might think there is clinical evidence that they work.

In evidence to the committee, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain said there was no possible reason why such treatments, marketed by an industry worth £40 million in this country, could be effective scientifically.

Why are we wasting resources on junk science at the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center while cutting corners on real medicine?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

University of Minnesota Budget,

Then and Now

An alum writes in the Daily:

A friend of mine picked up and passed along a copy of the June 16 issue of The Minnesota Daily. The graph on page five indicated that while state funding for the University of Minnesota has remained fairly constant, tuition has increased almost fourfold in the last 14 years. It is time for the University to revisit the high-tuition, high-financial aid budget model.

In the boring nostalgia department, my contemporaries and I are shocked at the current model. I worked 20 hours a week for minimum wage, lived at home, paid for University tuition and books on a cash basis, and came out with a bachelor’s degree owing $200 on an unnecessary student loan.

The degree then had all the national prestige that it would have now. When my children went to the University during the past decade, I was initially impressed with the impeccable landscaping down to the River Flats (eliminating my old parking lot), all of the clean brick and shiny metal, the second renovation of Coffman Union (I covered the first as a reporter for this paper in the ’70s), etc.

However, the luster has dimmed significantly with the tens of thousands of dollars in loans that I have signed or cosigned to finance this palatial educational opportunity for my children.

In my current bankruptcy law practice, I see a lot of unwelcome change and other misery in private sector business and consumer situations. While I hope for the best possible outcome for all University personnel, they and other public employees need to understand that they are in one of the last economic cocoons in a drastically changed world, and that the cocoon will have to open eventually. I hope we see the top administrators and faculty “stars” step up to share the financial burden with the custodians and clerical staff.

Kurt Anderson, University alumnus

Thank you for your wise advice, attorney Anderson!

You should know that many of the faculty - not stars or administrators - were willing to step up to the plate in sharing the financial burden, but the Morrill Hall Gang is hiding behind a so-called pay cut of ca 1%. One of the faculty - and rightly so - referred to this action as a band-aid. The Gang also make the absurd claim that the current cuts are progressive - even the Dean of the Carlson School recently made this ridiculous statement at a meeting of the Board of Regents!

It is time for us to take back our University of Minnesota. This will not happen while the current Gang is running the show. Changes at the Board level are also going to be necessary.

U's Under the Table SweetTango Agreement

"A travesty of a mockery of a sham?"

From the Daily:

“It was absolutely signed before many of the apple growers even knew about [the deal],” said the growers’ attorney Lisa Lamm Bachman. “I think one of the big questions is, how is it that Pepin Heights came to be the only grower to receive the exclusive licensing agreement for this new variety … that’s a question that needs to be asked of the U.”

The apple’s public debut was last September, two months before the University’s Honeycrisp patent expired.

The University has also been urged by political leaders to use revenue from its intellectual property to help fund further discoveries, University spokesman Dan Wolter said.

[That Dan Wolter?]

On top of collecting royalties on sales of the apple, the exclusive sales rights to the SweeTango were sold to Pepin Heights, who in turn limited the number of trees allowed to any given orchard. This level of control angered several local orchards.

Apple growers agreed the University was doing a fine job marketing the new apple, but that it came at the expense of local growers because Pepin Heights allowed only 1,000 Minneiska trees, which bear the SweeTango, per orchard.

It is typical for a larger orchard to plant between 4,000 and 5,000 trees of a popular apple.

We looked at this particular apple differently than other apples,” Jim Rhodes, assistant business development specialist at the University, said last fall.

[Some apples are more equal than other apples?]

Rhodes said the aim was to better control the distribution of the apple so the University could control its quality and that by capping the number of trees allowed per orchard, the University was helping to level the field for smaller orchards.

[The orchardists don't appear to think so...]

Soon, however, many orchards took offense and began to organize. They formalized their complaints in a lawsuit filed last week.

“This agreement is unprecedented in terms of the exclusive licensing piece of it,” Bachman said. “The concern is this agreement will have a negative impact on the Minnesota apple growers and the Minnesota apple industry."

The coup de grâce was administered by a commenter:

Right now, apple production is not economically significant in Minnesota, and Minnesota is not significant in this nation's apple production. By restricting most orchards in the state from full production of what likely will be the most profitable cultivar adapted to Minnesota (for the next 10 or 15 years anyway), it would seem that the University's goal is to prevent growth in Minnesota apple growing. Talk about your land grant mission!

Administrations and Regents (present AND past) deserve blame for this sorry episode by allowing intellectual property to be sold in back room deals. Not one of the the current or recent Regents seems to have noticed that the 'Plant Licensing Task Force', requested by the state legislature in 2006 to look into licensing of this apple cultivar, was turned into a sham by the University. And now the University will no doubt turn all of this into a "travesty of a mockery of a sham".

Monday, June 21, 2010

SweetTango is Strange Fruit

for Some Minnesota Orchardists

From Courthouse News Service:

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - Fourteen orchards and a dozen apple growers claim that the University of Minnesota's tight restrictions on growing and selling the SweetTango apple will drive them out of business, as older breeds are replaced by the new "breakthrough apple variety." The orchardists say the restrictions are particularly unfair as the UM used public money to develop the SweetTango.

In 2005, Pepin Heights Orchard, of Lake City, Minn., signed an exclusive license agreement to grow and sell SweetTangoes for the university.

The agreement restricted all other growers from planting more than 1,000 Minneiska trees, and barred them from pooling harvests and from selling to wholesalers.

"The Minnesota Apple Growers for Fair Trade are looking to level the playing field, preserve the mutually beneficial relationship with the University and its apple breeding program, and ensure that Minnesota consumers have access to the quality locally grown apple varieties at fair and competitive prices," the group wrote in a June 17 "Communication to All Apple Growers" posted on, a Twin cities-based food magazine.

The growers claim in the lawsuit that SweetTango is being marketed as the next great apple and is meant to replace the popular Honeycrisp.

If this comes to pass, the orchardists say, all Minnesota growers save Pepin Heights will be at a disadvantage.

The growers cite a 2009 marketing campaign launched by Pepin Heights and the university that called the SweetTango the "Honeycrisp killer," touting the new breed's superiority.

The group claims the agreement violates the land-grant university's policies on new inventions and technologies for the consumer market, which require the school to seek the greatest benefit for the university and taxpayers.

Pepin Heights did not return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The growers sued the university and several administrators, Pepin Heights and its president and vice-president, and David Bedford, an apple breeder at the university who developed the SweetTango and more than 27 other apple varieties.

The growers want the agreement voided and the university and Pepin Heights enjoined from limiting the production and sale of the SweetTango.

SweetTango will also be bitter fruit for the U of M whether the orchardists win or lose their case. How can the U claim to be acting in the best interests of ALL of the state orchardists when these actions may drive many of them out of business?

Kudos to Casey Selix

[For actually reading the U of M budget
that will no doubt be rubber-stamped
by the Board of Regents (Bore)]

From the Next Degree:

School of Dentistry students will find it’s more expensive to attend dental school in the 2010-11 academic year depending on which classes they take. The University of Minnesota’s budget includes four new fees ranging from $187 to $1,790 for instrument usage and equipment each semester. A number of fees will increase from 7 percent to nearly 8 percent.

These are the types of details [page 58] that I found deep down in the 80-page proposed budget. The Board of Regents meets Tuesday to vote on President Robert Bruininks’ proposed operating budget.

To meet the university’s $152 million "challenge," an interesting description for the budget hole and a reduced state appropriation, the budget recommends increasing tuition 4.4 percent. That will bring in $47.1 million in new revenue. It also suggests $104.9 million in "unit reductions/resource adjustments."

And the budget calls for new fees, including $56 for choir dresses and $100 locker rental for non-music majors [page 57] in the College of Liberal Arts. A new fee in the Academic Health Center also caught my eye: $1,000 for a Reiki Healing field trip [page 46].

I counted 70-something new fees in my electronic search of the budget [pdf].

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Biomedical Discovery District or

Using the Credit Card For Grand Visions

My friend and fellow University of Minnesota alum, Michael McNabb contributes:

See pp. 1-2 of the March 11, 2010 report of the Board of Regents at

President Bruininks commented that the "investment" in the biomedical science research facilities is one of the most important and transformative investments ever made by the State of Minnesota and the University. It is so significant that it has been "branded" as the Biomedical Discovery District [apparently a subset of the Driven to Discover brand].

Vice President Cerra explained that the proposed facilities are to be built using $292 million in bonding authority [debt] approved by the State of Minnesota in 2008. The State will pay 75% of the capital costs and the University will pay the remaining 25% along will ALL of the operating expenses.

Vice President Pfutzenreuter reported that the one time and on-going operating expenses are anticipated to be $109 million between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2019 ($40 million in non-recurring expenses and $69 million in recurring expenses). ASSUMING that $31 million will be funded through grants, the remaining "challenge" is $78 million ($40 million in non-recurring expenses plus $38 million in recurring expenses).

[In other words, no one yet knows where the University will come up with the $40 million in non-recurring operating expenses and the $38 million in recurring expenses, not to mention the $73 million to pay its 25% share of the capital costs financed through borrowing (bonds).

The "branding" of the Biomedical Discovery District has started on the University web site. See

Michael W. McNabb
Attorney at Law

Thursday, June 17, 2010

[Honeycrisp Apple, U license fee to (all) growers = $1.65.
The patent is running out so we cross HC and Zestar = SweeTango.
Shazam! New revenue stream. Higher licensing fees.]

Strib Headline Writer Hits Home Run

"U's hot new apple already made into tort..."

But seriously folks, another example of the Morrill Hall Gang's being mean and greedy and, when exposed, trying to appear to take the [pseudo] high road.

From the Strib:

Not since Adam and Eve has an apple caused so much furor.

[slight overstatement]

More than a dozen apple growers filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court Wednesday over an exclusive licensing agreement that the University of Minnesota and Pepin Heights Orchard have struck over what's being touted as the latest and greatest apple to hit the market -- the SweeTango.

... the growers who filed the suit argue the university's licensing agreement with Pepin severely limits their ability to grow, sell and ultimately profit from the SweeTango, a cross between the Honeycrisp and Zestar varieties.

The growers complain that the deal limits the number of trees other orchards can grow and allows them to sell only directly to consumers or individual stores rather than through the wholesalers who are an essential source of revenue for most orchards. The deal also prevents smaller growers from pooling their crops to fill orders from large retail stores.

[restraint of trade?]

"Such restrictive limitations ... result in unfair competition likely to force some of [the growers] out of business and significantly impair efforts of other Minnesota apple growers to remain viable," the suits says.

[I thought the U of M was supposed to be an economic engine for the people of the state? Isn't that what's claimed at the lege?]

The lawsuit points out that state funding was used to help develop the SweeTango.

University spokesman Daniel Wolter said Wednesday night that officials there are reviewing the lawsuit.

[That Dan Wolter? And this apple unhappiness has been known to the U for quite some time. See Daily editorial: Sweet Tango a Rotten Deal, 9/23/09 ]

University officials say the more restrictive limits on the SweeTango are meant to maintain high quality standards that will better protect the long-term value of the product as well as provide revenue for horticulture research at time when other revenue streams are dwindling.

[High quality standards, cough, cough. I understand the U made $8mil for HoneyCrisp. Would not a figure in that ball park be reasonable, rather than gouging the small orchards and putting some of them out of business? This is a strange position to take for an institution that claims to be an economic engine for the state.]

... Lisa Lamm Bachman, an attorney representing the growers and others in the lawsuit, said the exclusive deal is "unprecedented" and violates public policy, state and federal anti-trust laws and constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. She also contends the restrictions promote unfair competition, and create consumer confusion.

[Wow, now there's a load of buckshot.]

Kenneth Port, law professor and director of the Intellectual Property Institute at William Mitchell College of Law, said such licensing agreements -- even exclusive ones -- are "very common."

But Port said one hitch in the Pepin deal may be a written university policy that establishes that university research should have the maximum possible beneficial effect for Minnesotans and realize a fair financial return to the university, provided it doesn't interfere with the common good provision.

[And of course there is the court of public opinion, where once again the U has lost.]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to Save Money at NIH

and at the

University of Minnesota?

Hint: Stop wasting money on "Alternative Medicine"

At an institution with an administrator who espouses homeopathy, the Morrill Hall Gang and the Academic Health Center should find this piece on the Forbes web-site informative:

Save Taxpayer $$$:Eliminate Alternative Medicine Research

This past week, President Obama called on all federal agencies to voluntarily propose budget cuts of 5%. Well, Mr. President, you might be surprised to learn that there's a way for you to cut the National Institutes of Health budget without hurting biomedical research. In fact, it will help.

Here's my proposal: save over $240 million per year in the NIH budget by cutting all funding for the two centers that fund alternative medicine research--the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM). Both of them exist primarily to promote pseudoscience. For the current year, NCCAM’s budget is $128.8 million, an amount that has rapidly grown from $2 million in 1992, despite the fact that not a single “alternative” therapy supported by NCCAM has proven beneficial to health. OCCAM’s budget was $121 million in 2008 (the latest I could find) and presumably higher in 2010. That’s over $240M, not counting money these programs got from the stimulus package (and yes, they did get some stimulus funding).

These two organizations use our tax dollars – and take money away from real biomedical research – to support some of the most laughable pseudoscience that you can find. To take just one example, NCCAM has spent $3.1 million supporting studies of Reiki, an “energy healing” method. Energy healing is based on the unsupported claim that the human body is surrounded by an energy field, and that Reiki practitioners can manipulate this field to improve someone's health. Not surprisingly, the $3.1 million has so far failed to produce any evidence that Reiki works. But because there was never any evidence in the first place, we should never have spent precious research dollars looking into it.

In addition to funding pseudoscience, NCCAM also “educates” the public about alternative medicine. I put “educate” in quotes because much of what NCCAM has on its website is misinformation, which serves to mis-educate rather than to inform. For one example (and there are many), under homeopathy the website states that

“homeopathy is used for wellness and prevention and to treat many diseases and conditions.”

Note how carefully this is worded: homeopathy is "used for prevention", from which one might easily infer that homeopathy is effective. It is not.

NCCAM’s homeopathy page goes on to state that

“most analyses have concluded that there is little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific condition; although, some studies have reported positive findings.”

Again, note the careful wording of that last phrase: strictly speaking, it is true, but let me state it a bit more accurately: “some poorly designed, poorly controlled studies with small patient groups, published in low-quality journals, have reported positive findings.”

Homeopathy is based on principles that scientists know to be false: for example, homeopaths believe that an active ingredient is stronger if there is less of it in a solution. In fact, the opposite is true. They also believe that solutions can be diluted infinitely and still retain their effectiveness. Even NCCAM admits that “its [homeopathy's] key concepts are not consistent with the current understanding of science, particularly chemistry and physics.” So why does NCCAM insist on maintaining misleading information on its website?

And why does the University of Minnesota?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

[More University of Minnesota
faculty go off the rez,
this time in the medical school]

University of Minnesota Faculty Advisory Committee

Requests Vote Of Medical School Faculty

Question of Dedicated Dean

A unilateral decision was made on this topic by the Morrill Hall Gang earlier.

No one I've talked to on the Medical School faculty thinks that this new arrangement was a good one. We are very much annoyed that even a kowtow toward faculty governance was not paid. These actions are in the same category with the unilateral attempt to rub out the graduate school.

Is faculty governance and adequate consultation at the University of Minnesota a joke?

From the Survey:

1. Medical School FAC Time-Sensitive Request for Faculty Vote

The Medical School FAC asks every faculty member to please read the background information and vote on the following motion. This motion was unanimously supported by a vote of the FAC on Tuesday, June 1st 2010.


The Medical School should have a Dean whose sole responsibility is the optimal function of the Medical School and the Dean of the Medical School should report directly to the President of the University.


From 1970 until this academic year the Academic Health Center (AHC) was led by a Senior Vice President who was responsible for the six collegiate units, each led by their own Dean.

This model was changed by President Bruininks so that the same individual currently is both the Senior VP and the Dean of the Medical School.

In both the prior and current structures, the Senior VP reports directly to the President of the University. With the upcoming changes in University leadership at the levels of the President, AHC Senior VP and Medical School Dean, faculty governance and administrative groups have carefully considered the functionality of the current system prior to the hiring of new AHC and Medical School leaders.

These groups believe it wise to provide clear input to the President and Board of Regents prior to the hiring of new AHC and Medical School leaders and President Bruininks has indicated his desire for broad faculty consultation. Since he plans to make a decision about the administrative model this month, the FAC believes it is important to have Medical School faculty-wide input prior to this decision.

The Medical School FAC met with President Bruininks and discussed how to optimize the leadership structure for the health sciences, including the medical school, and the FAC sent him a letter expressing the our views.

The FAC feels that the current administrative structure creates conflicts of two types for the joint Senior VP / Dean individual. The first is a conflict of time allocation – as given its size, scope and impact the Medical School Deanship is clearly a full-time job (parenthetically, the FAC commends Dr. Paller for his excellent service in his Medical School role).

The second concern is that there is a potential conflict of interest; the Senior VP/Dean cannot argue strongly as an advocate for the Medical School relative to the other AHC Schools, while simultaneously there is risk of being perceived as biased in decision-making as Senior VP. The final FAC concern is that there is continued reduplication of effort and resources between the AHC and constituent colleges.

Currently the joint Senior VP/Dean reports directly to President Bruininks. Given the size and importance of the Medical School to the University, the FAC views this as a very desirable aspect of the current structure and believes that going forward the Dean of the Medical School should report directly to the President. Some facts in support of this reporting relationship are that the Medical School currently:

- garners more than one-third of the University’s external research funding

- is the primary home of more than 40% of University faculty

- constitutes a large fraction of the University’s overall (all funds) budget

The leadership Councils of both the Clinical and Basic Science (Department) Chiefs also met with President Bruininks. At the Medical School Faculty Assembly and at meetings of the FAC the leaders of both Councils have indicated their opposition to the current joint Senior VP/Dean administrative structure and strongly support a structure such as the one indicated in this motion.

The FAC very much appreciates the faculty’s attention and involvement in these important considerations!!


1. The Medical School should have a Dean whose sole responsibility is the optimal function of the Medical School and the Dean of the Medical School should report directly to the President of the University.

[My vote is indicated above. I predict that the result will be overwhelmingly in support of the resolution. President Bruininks and Board of Regents: Show me that you are serious about faculty governance and consultative input.]

Note added July 6: the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the resolution (92%). For details, please see:
University of Minnesota Medical School Faculty Votes Overwhelmingly for a Dedicated Dean.

Three Minutes of Input

at the University of Minnesota

Board of Regents Open Forum

Eva von Dassow, once again, speaks truth to power...

This text is from the FRPE site.
We are told that the university is in financial crisis, a crisis so severe as to necessitate eliminating academic units and programs. Yet, as set forth in the budget plan for fiscal 2011, the university’s budget continues to grow: total revenues, assets, and expenditures are all increasing. Indeed the state appropriation has declined, but only to 2006 levels. That doesn’t look like a severe financial crisis. Meanwhile, we look around and see the administration dedicating huge sums to new initiatives, new construction, selected sports – and to itself: expenditures for central administration keep rising. Financial stringency leaves undiminished the numbers of vice presidents, not to mention the salaries of top coaches.

No, these highly-paid positions are not to be reduced; rather, the university must shed faculty. To cut costs in its burgeoning budget the university must slash the numbers and variety of courses it offers students, whose tuition it keeps raising. It must shrink graduate programs, withdraw instructional support for the curriculum that remains, and cut funds for research and public engagement.

This is how to achieve excellence? This is how to guarantee undergraduates an extraordinary education? This is how we become one of the top three universities in the universe?

Meanwhile, we are all asked to participate in the quest to generate new sources of revenue, as well as finding ways to hold down costs and enhance “productivity.” Yet the university’s current budget model effectively requires units to compete against each other for funds, inhibiting the collaboration that would best serve the institution both financially and academically. Now the plan is to cut our way to distinction by pruning the tree of knowledge.

All of the verbigeration about “excellence,” about “strategic investments,” about “advancing quality,” and so on, is deployed to obscure the goal of using the present financial crisis as a tool for starving certain parts of the university in order to feed others. No explicit relationship is ever articulated between revenue generation and other elements of the propaganda. But the objective is evident: those programs engaged in the production of knowledge that is readily turned into money are the targets of “investment,” while the rest are to be downsized into an efficient credit-and-degree factory, featuring a handful of well-supported “star” faculty to make the programs look good – while as much curriculum as possible is delivered by the cheapest possible instructors.

Accordingly, the College of Liberal Arts, which has already lost dozens of faculty positions, stands to lose dozens more, while the construction of a new biomedical facility is to include the addition of 40 new faculty. Certainly biomedical research is valuable, but why should students pay $11,000 per year to get an etiolated liberal-arts education on an assembly-line model? CLA is a significant revenue generator, teaching by far the most students while receiving proportionately the lowest share of the state appropriation, so that CLA students effectively subsidize the rest of the university through their tuition. (Same goes for IT.) This cash cow will be milked yet harder now – but at the price of the quality the administration advertises, and to the detriment of the university’s educational mission.

The Regents ought to use their authority to exercise far closer scrutiny of the university’s expenditures and how they do or do not align with its core mission of education, research, and public engagement. The present administration’s plans would transform what was erstwhile a great research university into a handmaiden of industry, where, for the price of a real education, students receive gussied-up vocational training and exit in debt.

Amen, sister.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Progressivity in Salary Cuts

at the University of Minnesota?

The FCC struggles mightily, and brings forth - no resolution!

From the FRPE website:

The minutes from the FCC meeting also indicate how little consultation there was regarding the structure of the cuts. Kathryn Hanna noted that the administration "did not seek any feedback on them [alternative models] as they were developed." Instead, the administration only presented more progressive models to Professors Chomsky and Oakes, and these data were not shared with others "because some of the numbers (percentages) were so high." (Er, if the numbers were so high, then it would seem that presenting them would have strengthened, rather than weakened, the administration's case.)

Professor Hanna "reported that there is a lot of sentiment on the Committee on Faculty Affairs in favor of more steps in the progressivity of the reductions (beyond the 1.15% and 2.30% for senior administrators)." Professor Gonzales added that "she understood the argument that more progressive salary reductions could cost the University some of its "stars," but said she would like to point out that it is the hard work of people who are NOT stars that allows the stars to be stars. She said she supported more progressive salary reductions because the stars are not often mindful of other people who do work—teaching and service work, for example— that allows them to be stars, and the stars also need the Minnesota "brand" to which all employees contribute."

Finally, Professor Cramer (the future vice chair of the FCC) "commented that he has not heard today anything he has not heard before, and asked that the resolution be tabled. (It was noted that a motion to table was not necessary because there was no proposal before the Committee to do anything.) He said he did not want to discuss the subject again and did not want the resolution to go to the Faculty Senate.

So don't hold your breath waiting for the FCC to bring forward a meaningful resolution on progressivity in pay cuts to the Faculty Senate next year.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Minnesota State Senator Cohen

gets to hear from

University of Minnesota faculty

unfiltered by the Morrill Hall Gang

(Senator Cohen chairs the Senate Finance Committee and sits on the Senate Committee on Higher Education)

From the FRPE site:

Upon Cohen's arrival, after introductions we invited him to enlighten us on how the U is perceived at the Capitol.

He first spoke in general terms of how successive presidents present the U to the legislature, and of the U's importance as the "economic engine" of the state.

As to appropriations, being chair of the finance committee, he also outlined how target appropriations are set. We then steered away from the "economic engine" concept of the university, explaining that we believe it to be harmful to education and research in manifold ways.

We brought up the differential budgetary allocations among colleges, the effects (practical and ideological) of rising tuition, the U's budget model, and the deployment of resources for new initiatives that putatively have economic promise at the expense of parts of the U that putatively don't; in this way disciplines that are most easily instrumentalized get supported while disciplines that are inherently non-instrumental are starved, despite their being essential to the U's core mission.

Cohen received these ideas and data readily, disavowing the utilitarian notion of education (in particular higher education), and he expressed consternation at realizing that, through their tuition, students in the College of Liberal arts in effect subsidize the rest of the U.

Prompted by a question from Cohen about the search for the next president of the University, as well as other remarks touching on the faculty role in governance, we described how the faculty are excluded from any meaningful participation in governance; the University Senate has no real governance powers...

We asked Cohen whether Governor Pawlenty's notion that "basic" university courses should be offered on line, rather than in classrooms, is widely shared among legislators. Cohen said it was not, and expressed incredulity that Pawlenty himself could really hold such a view.

Finally, we explored the idea of developing a program of faculty outreach to legislators and their constituencies, with a view to enriching and transforming the public debate over what the university is and does (likewise, more broadly, education).

Cohen mentioned that there used to be fairly frequent meetings, often held in people's homes, involving legislators and faculty members -- many U of MN faculty live in his district, making it fairly easy to get people together.

He wasn't sure how this practice was instigated or why it lapsed. He said legislators would gladly agree to recommencing such meetings, and suggested procedures for organizing the faculty to participate...

...many issues got aired, and we as well as Senator Cohen came away from the meeting newly informed about them.

This kind of dialog between people who do the actual work of the University, unfiltered by the Morrill Hall Gang, is going to be essential if we are to enlist the aid of the legislature and the citizens to take back our public university.

As Mark Yudof put it:

To the best of my recollection, no great scientific discoveries, no insightful social science tracts, and no novels have been produced in Morrill Hall.

No classes are taught in Morrill Hall. No patients are made well in Morrill Hall.

Help, or get out of the way!

Without authority invested where the real work of this University is done, the light of excellence will only grow dimmer.

University administrators have not yet cornered the market in acumen and foresight; a monologue will not suffice.

Friday, June 11, 2010

iPandering about iCollege

A Sam's Club Republican


A Walmart Education...

This unfortunate lack of understanding about the educational process has been part of the Governor's shtick for at least two years.

The only thing surprising is that he continues to spew this line which is a cruel example of his pandering and intellectual dishonesty.

I wonder how the Governor would feel about getting his law degree from an iCollege ?

He is apparently a Sam's Club Republican pushing a Walmart education, at least for those without the wealth to afford a private education? After he went up the ladder of public education at the U, he now wants to pull it up behind him?


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Interesting tweet related to

University of Minnesota

General Counsel's Office:

Jenna Ross ByJenna Tidbit from proposed #UMN budget: a $145,000 increase for the Office of General Counsel “in recognition of increased outside legal costs”

See: "There he goes again..."

Costs of legal services is $5.7 million to outside counsel in 2009 in addition to the salaries and benefits paid to the 18 [sic] attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel at the University--see p. 13 of the 2009 Annual Report of the General Counsel.

Perhaps better legal advice by our General Counsel could save the U some money?

Unnecessary litigation costs money.

See: Jimmy Williams, Light Rail, GopherJackets, State Open Meeting law, ripping off the residents, etc.


Dirty Little Secret About Tuition Increase

University of Minnesota


The howling has begun - about the 4.5% tuition increase for U of M students next year. What will happen next year when a 7.5+% increase is announced? The incumbent will not be around to face the music. He will have bailed out.

U of M alum Jenna Ross has an article in the Strib:

College tuition is continuing its steady rise for Minnesota students. This week University of Minnesota regents will get their first look at a budget that attempts to soften the blow for families, but still calls for an overall 4.4 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates
The U's proposed $1.53 billion operating budget is expected to be the last to rely on one-time stimulus funds to soften tuition increases. Without it, undergraduate tuition would rise 7.5 percent this fall. After next year, tuition will be built on two years of full increases. In short, even if the U froze tuition for 2011-12, without stimulus money, students would pay 7.2 percent more, or $11,094.

So there it is, folks, in black (or red) and white. If you think a 4.5% increase is bad, then think about next year when it will be 7.5% plus whatever the Morrill Hall Gang thinks they can get away with. Time for some real changes in Morrill Hall?


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

There he goes again...

“It’s a lot of money every year out of our budget that we’d be able to either put into the pockets of the residents themselves or save,” Rotenberg said.

“We believe that our case is highly meritorious,” Rotenberg said. “We’re very pleased that the Supreme Court justices will give this case a very close look now.”

From the Daily:

The United States Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will hear a University of Minnesota case determining if Social Security taxes apply to medical residency programs. Oral arguments could begin in six to nine months.

"We believe that the case is highly meritorious" ???

The judgment of our General Counsel has not exactly been in the best interest of the university for many recent cases such as the Jimmy Williams matter and the losing attempt to evade the open meeting law. Nor do his actions/inactions put the university in good odor:

And it is really hilarious to hear the GC suggest: “It’s a lot of money every year out of our budget that we’d be able to either put into the pockets of the residents themselves or save,” Rotenberg said.

Ah, Mr. Rotenberg, that money RIGHT NOW goes into the pockets of the residents in the form of a contribution to their retirement funds. This action is in conflict with your statement. And to suggest that the saved money will go to the residents? I n y o u r d r e a m s.

As a doc put it the last time this can was kicked down the road:

Make no mistake about this...this decision is not about hurting the residents...Basically, the U of M and most academic medical centers have been screwing residents and fellows out of their retirement benefits in order to save money.

Former U of M Resident


Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Demagoguery About

On Line Learning At

the University of Minnesota

From ABC News - August 6 (2008)

"Why would you drive from Stillwater, Minnesota, in January an hour in rush hour to get over to the University of Minnesota campus, park in a remote parking lot, strap on your back pack, haul across campus in challenging weather conditions, get into a lecture hall, unpack, sit in a chair and have a sometimes gifted -- sometimes not -- assistant professor, lecture you on Economics 101 when you can’t even pay for it?"

"Why would you not get out of bed, pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit on your sofa, and dial it up on digital storage from any university in the world?" he asked.

Governor T. Pawlenty

"And to think, I could be home right now watching an econ lecture from Harvard and drinking Peace Coffee. But I am jogging over from Stillwater to the U because the econ department has hired a record number of new faculty members and they are awesome lecturers. I am Driven to Discover. (TM)"

From the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education Site:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

iCollege: The governor's solution

for the problems of higher ed

Among other things, he shared his analysis of the problems facing higher ed in Minnesota, which he compared to Blockbuster Video stores (read: out of date, behind the times). His prescription: become like an iTunes store (iCollege) and offer basic courses online. This will work, he presumes, because online courses are cheaper than brick and mortar classes, and because they don't have to be taught by tenured faculty (who apparently aren't very good at lecturing anyhow). He also claims that studies show that student learning is as good, or better, than the traditional classroom. I wonder which studies he is reading, because what I've read in the minutes from University Senate committees suggests a far more complicated picture in terms of cost and quality. Perhaps the real agenda is to get rid of all of the pesky tenured professors, since most of them probably don't vote for him anyhow.

My comments on the site were:

The governor's spewing of nonsense about online education is not new.

For an earlier example of his demagoguery,
please see my post of August 7, 2008, "How to cut the cost of higher education by 70, 80 or 90 percent..." [sic]

Some simple - rhetorical - questions:

Why are Carleton and St. Olaf not terribly concerned about distance education?

Who is going to PAY for the set-up of these distance education courses?

Please note that I am not totally against distance education and have in fact taught (excellent, from evaluations) courses over the very useful university UNITE system. This system allows students at Medtronic, 3M, Surmodics, etc. to "attend" on campus lectures and take the same exams, etc. as in person attendees.

For large lecture courses some departments, e.g. chemistry, have done an excellent job of providing on line courses in lieu of large lecture introductory courses. However, the naive tea bag sound bites of our governor on these matters are less than helpful.

It is time for faculty to step up to the plate and engage the community in a realistic discussion about online education.

Bill Gleason, U of M faculty and alum

Friday, June 4, 2010

Open Letter to the

University of Minnesota

Board of Regents

From the FRPE site:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Open Letter to the Board of Regents

Dear Regents,

We write to express our concern about how the administration proposes to address the budgetary crisis facing the University of Minnesota, and in particular about its proposals for new construction. The University faces significant challenges in the upcoming biennium, challenges that are all the more daunting since they are taking place in the midst of a leadership transition. We urge the Board of Regents to carefully consider how the decisions made in this year’s budget will affect the future restructuring of the University. In particular, we fear that new building projects will saddle the University with increased debt and ancillary costs that will hobble the institution in future years, thus posing significant risk to its quality and stature.

Why does new construction concern us? Building projects do not pay for themselves. Although construction costs are not paid out of the O&M budget, the University must pay maintenance and utilities on new buildings out of our operating budget. In some cases, new construction includes commitments to add faculty lines, even while faculty positions continue to be cut in most academic units. New construction therefore inevitably adds to recurring costs at the University of Minnesota.

For example, the administration wishes to move forward with the construction of a new biomedical complex. Although the project has been scaled back, according to the Minnesota Daily, the project will cost the University $109 million from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2019 over and above the cost of construction. Of this, $40 million will be for startup costs, $18 million for facility operations and overhead, and $51 million on programs and faculty. Forty new faculty principal investigators will be hired to work in the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research and the Cancer/Cardiovascular facility. The administration claims that $31 million of this will be paid for with grants. Aside from the risk of counting chickens before they hatch, the assertion that grants cover the cost of new faculty lines is simply false. Vice President for Research Mulcahy observed at a recent presentation to the Senate Committee on Research that grants do not cover their costs.

We have not seen a single budget projection that anticipates increased state funding in the near future. New projects that add to recurring costs or debt can therefore only be paid for by making deeper cuts to existing units, raising tuition, or some combination of the two. Embarking on new projects is imprudent in a fiscal environment in which existing academic units have already undergone cuts that severely damage the educational and research missions of the University. These cutbacks have already resulted in reduced teaching support, increased class size, layoffs, furloughs, and temporary pay cuts. Students have already endured both a decline in the quality of their education and repeated tuition increases.

The citizens of Minnesota and legislators may question the wisdom of major capital projects in today’s dire fiscal situation, in particular those investments that do little to enhance the teaching mission of the University. In addition to the concerns expressed above, we fear that spending on new projects at a time when existing programs are suffering could appear profligate to the wider public and hence jeopardize future state allocations.

Given these long-term implications, we recommend a moratorium on all major building projects until the University, in consultation with faculty and students, develops a viable long-term plan for dealing with the “new normal” of reduced state support.

We, the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education (FRPE), welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter with you before the June Board of Regents meeting. We are an independent network of faculty at the University of Minnesota. You can read more about us on our blog,, and can reach us by email at


Bruce Braun, College of Liberal Arts
Teri Caraway, College of Liberal Arts
Eva von Dassow, College of Liberal Arts

on behalf of Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education

Cc: Minnesota House and Senate committees on higher education