Friday, December 30, 2011

Course Correction in Higher Education


Course Correction in Higher Education

"To save the U, Bob Bruininks had to destroy it," declared Minnesota Monthly in its July 2011 report.  The administration prefers to refer to this destruction as Transforming the U.   
Here are some suggestions for a course correction.

1.  Scrap the "high tuition high financial aid" experiment and roll back tuition.


This experiment is described in the July 2011 report in Minnesota Monthly aptly entitled The Man Who Slew the U.   In practice this model has been a financial disaster for students and their parents.

This method of financing undergraduate education works for students only if financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants keeps pace with the increases in tuition.  For most students this never happened.  Instead, students were forced to borrow more and more to pay the skyrocketing tuition.  See the October 14, 2011 report in the Star Tribune on Generation Debt.

The administration used part of the skyrocketing tuition for scholarships for students from lower income families.  This method of providing access to the University by shifting the financial burden to other students raised questions of fairness.  See the June 29, 2011 report in the Star Tribune on Tensions Rising Over Cost Disparities at U.
On December 8, 2011 chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter informed the Finance & Operations Committee of the Board of Regents that his office has now developed a method to calculate the cost of instruction and to allocate the sources of revenue available to pay that cost.  The report of the Committee notes that "this type of analysis has not been presented to the Board of Regents in the past."  See  p. 4 of the report of the Committee.  So over the past 10 years the senior administrators and the Regents made a series of decisions that doubled undergraduate tuition without having such a basic analysis.
How does one determine whether increases in tuition are necessary and reasonable without knowing either the cost of instruction or the allocation of other revenues (such as state appropriations) to pay that cost?  The senior administrators and Regents who have done so are so far removed from the economic lives of most students and parents that they are oblivious to the hardship caused by skyrocketing tuition.
This ill-conceived experiment for financing undergraduate education should be abandoned before it creates an entire generation of indentured students.  Rolling back tuition is the most effective and efficient way to provide financial aid.  We need to once again make higher education affordable for all students.

2.  Reward quality teaching as much as quality research.


The current system rewards professsors for their research.  So enormous amounts of time and effort are dedicated to research that does little to advance knowledge.  See the December 4, 2011 commentary in The Chronicle of Higher Education on The Research Bust. Those professors who do produce valuable research are rewarded with fewer classes and with graduate students to teach the classes.

Professors who care about teaching should teach undergraduate students.  They should devote their time to improving their classroom instruction and to meeting with students.  Their pay and promotion should be based primarily on the quality of their teaching.
Those who care about research should be research fellows in a separate Institute of Research at the University.  Their pay and promotiion should be based primarily on the quality of their research.

The few who have both the skill and the time to excel at teaching and research should be paid a bonus.  They will have earned it.

3.  Roll back the costs of administration and restore the ideal of public service.

During the past 10 years the administration has increased spending on operations at the University by 50% to $3 billion per year.  This is due, in part, to the explosion in the costs of administration since 2005.  See section 3 in University Inc. Part II.  This explosion includes the extravagant compensation of senior administrators that now far excceds the compensation of their fellow public servants in state government who have similar qualifications and duties.  See On The Cost of Administration.

Skyrocketing tuition also provided a gusher of money to hire numerous additional administrators to report to the senior administrators.  We now have an administrative structure that is incomprehensible even to the insiders.  See Rube Goldberg Administration.  The "cost pools" used to support this structure have become financial black holes that drain tens of millions of dollars from the colleges at the University.  See Stop Using Students as ATMs.
There should be substantial reductions in the compensation of senior administrators and in the sheer number of administrators.  Those senior administrators who believe that they should continue to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and benefits each year would be free to seek such compensation in the private sector or at other universities whose leaders fail to ask Questions of Value.  There are many qualified persons in our state who are still dedicated to public service.

4.  Give real authority to the faculty senate and eliminate most of the faculty committees.


At present the administration is able to simply ignore the faculty, as it did when it combined the positions of medical school dean and vice president of the academic health center and when it reorganized the graduate school.  See Faculty Governance is an Oxymoron  and An Offer She Can't Refuse.

Every major proposal of the administration should be subject to the approval of the faculty senate.  The administration should be able to submit major proposals to the Regents only if it is able to successfully make its case to the faculty.

At the same time most of the faculty committees should be eliminated.  The numerous committees produce much talk and little action.  Instead of spending time in committee meetings, the professors should devote the time to the instruction of their students.

5.  Repeal the Bayh-Doyle Act (the University & Small Business Patent Procedures Act).

This 1980 federal legislation enables universities to obtain patents for inventions even though though public funds are used for the research.  The mere prospect of profits has generated huge increases in the operating expenses and capital costs related to research.  (The U of M spends hundreds of millions of dollars on research each year.)  Federal grants cover only a part of those expenditures.  Only a few universities realize sufficient revenues to make a profit.  See  On The Hidden Cost of Research.

To make matters worse, the law of unintended consequences took effect.  The hopes of senior administrators for a huge financial payoff for their own institution promotes secrecy that blocks the free flow of information among scholars.  The quest for the advancement of knowledge has been submerged in the quest for profits.  See University Inc. The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education by Jennifer Washburn. 

As costs have mounted and federal grants for research have declined, the universities have looked more and more to corporate sponsors.  See the December 10, 2011 report in the Pioneer Press on U Open for Business Research.  This has produced a blurring of the priorities of non-profit institutions of higher education and the priorities of for profit corporate sponsors.  See The Markinson Files and Continuing Disgrace. The increasing reliance on corporate funds can also cause senior administrators to attempt to block the public presentation of research that might offend major corporate donors.  See The Troubled Waters of Big Ags Influence.

Research is an essential function of the University.  But it must be done in the right way for the right reasons with the right safeguards.

6.  Leave busines to business.

As the senior administrators at the U of M looked for ways to increase profits, they decided to transform UMore Park into a unique combination of a commercial gravel pit and a utopian residential community.  They told the Regents that this new business model would produce from $3 million to $10 million in revenues each year.  This projection turned out to wildly unrealistic.  See section 1 in University Inc. Part II.

The gravel pit will be located on land that has been used for agricultural research that has produced hundreds of millions of dollars for the economy of Minnesota.  It appears that the senior administrators and the Regents made the decision on UMore Park without consulting either the professors who were engaged in the research or any agricultural economists.  See Rethinking MoreU Park.

This is what can happen in the new corporate university when senior administrators and Regents go moonlighting and use public funds to start business ventures on the side.  It is easy for senior administrators and Regents to take enormous financial risks on such business ventures as they are not using their own money.

7.  Transfer the major revenue sports teams.

In fiscal year 2009 the University ranked No. 20 in the nation on expenditures on athletics at $70.3 million.  The color of the financing is red.  Each year the athletic department continues to receive multi-million dollar subsidies from the general fund of the University.  Meanwhile, the administration plans to continue to eliminate academic programs and to replace professors with part-time instructors.  See Expensive Icing.

In the 20th century intercollegiate athletics evolved from club teams to big business, especially in the major revenue sports of football and men's basketball.  There was a transition from a game in which a limited number of coaches with modest salaries instructed local students to an annual $70+ million financial enterprise at the University in which numerous coaches with lavish compensation engage in the national recruiting of young men merely for their athletic skills.

The result has been an endless series of embarrassments for the University:  the on court riot instigated by some members of the basketball team of Bill Musselman; the cash doled out by Luther Darville to certain football players of Lou Holtz; the group sex in Madison by some basketball players of Jim Dutcher; the academic fraud during the tenure of Clem Haskins; the 2007 conviction of a Gopher football player for criminal sexual conduct for ejaculating on the face of a young woman intoxicated to the point of being unconscious; the star basketball recruit who arrived on campus in 2009 with a felony assault charge for allegedly breaking facial bones of a young woman by punching her when she had the nerve to resist his attempt to pull down her pants; the dismal graduation rates for the football and men's basketball teams.
There is a solution that would permit the University to disentangle itself from the big business of major revenue sports while allowing those programs to continue.  The football and men's basketball teams should be organized as separate corporations.  The University would grant a license to those corporations to use the University name for the teams. 
The fee for the license would be a percentage of the revenues the corporations generate from ticket sales, broadcasting rights, advertising, etc.  The University would use part of the license fee income to support the non-revenue sports it decides to retain, such as track and swimming.  This is a solution that would enable the sports fans to continue to enjoy the games and enable the University to focus on its academic mission--the reason for its existence. 

Michael W. McNabb

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


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Deck The Halls

[My friend and fellow alum, Michael McNabb, writes:]

Students from the U of M School of Music performed Deck The Halls in the atrium at the business school on November 23.  One can see the spirit generated by the performance in the faces of the business students who were present.  Now a tone deaf administration announces a plan that will crush that spirit by charging business students with "differential tuition."  Within three years the undergraduate business students will pay $2,000 more per year in tuition than other U of M undergraduate students.  See the December 1, 2011 report in the Star Tribune.

The administration asserts that it must increase tuition in order to hire more faculty due to increased enrollment.  Yet that increase in enrollment has produced a corresponding increase in the total amount of tuition paid by business students.

The Provost claims that state budget cuts prevented the administration from implementing a plan to hire more faculty.  The fact is that the senior administrators and the Regents are the persons responsible for determining the allocation of state appropriations to the business school.  In fiscal year 2012 the University will receive $484 million in state appropriations for its general fund.  Senior administrators (with the approval of the Regents) made the decision to allocate less than 1% of the state appropriations ($3.3 million) to the business school.  See Off Course in Higher Education.

"Differential tuition" can be justified only if the cost of instruction at the business school exceeds the amount of tuition paid by the students, state appropriations, and the corporate and individual contributions dedicated to that cost.  The real problem here is that the administration has not calculated the cost of instruction.  In the absence of an accurate calculation of that cost there is no rhyme or reason to imposing a greater financial burden on the students (and their parents).  See also Going To Market.                                                                     


"I will push back on anything that begins to put a financial barrier in front of qualified students."

President Eric Kaler at p. 8 of the Fall 2011 issue of Reach, the magazine of the College of Liberal Arts (emphasis added).

Kaler is recommending that the board change a regents policy to allow the tuition surcharge ["differential tuition"].  If it passes, it would make it easier for other U colleges to get similar approvals.

December 1, 2011 report in the Star Tribune.


Friday, December 2, 2011

 Thoreau: We have become the tools of our tools...

The Minnesota Daily Pulls Another Tooth -

 Technology Worship at the Dental School?

DentSims: to teach or to tout?

When the School of Dentistry brought 20 DentSims to the University, it characterized them as something that would revolutionize learning. But the lab is vacant 85 percent of the time, and some say the product doesn't match the publicity.

In 2008, leaders of the University of Minnesota’s School of Dentistry got what they were looking for — a clinic to put the institution at the forefront of dental education.

Part of the clinic featured DentSims, a virtual simulation tool that the University said could revolutionize the way dental students learn. The school was the first in the Big Ten to get them.

Each DentSim features a mannequin with an adjustable head, a lifelike mouth and a set of plastic teeth. An infrared camera tracks students’ work and displays it on a screen. A computer offers instant feedback on how students perform and provides a 3D representation of the tooth they’re operating on.

The University spent $1.5 million for 20 DentSims during a roughly $10 million renovation of Moos Tower’s fourth-floor clinic area. The DentSims cost $75,000 each and sit in the School of Dentistry’s Advanced Simulation Clinic, part of a larger simulation area.

Nearly four years later, the dummies sit unused about 85 percent of the school year, according to a Minnesota Daily records analysis. The lab is in use for an average of 8.4 hours a week.

But only half of that use is for classes, and they’re mostly introductory ones. Tours, cleaning and maintenance take up the other half of the lab’s schedule.

Judith Buchanan, interim dean of the University’s School of Dentistry, has been researching virtual reality teaching tools since the late 1990s.

Buchanan found students learn almost twice as fast with the technology, she told the Daily in 2006.

Former School of Dentistry Dean Patrick Lloyd celebrated the University’s new DentSim units when the lab opened in 2008.

“The equipment has made us re-evaluate the way we educate dental students,” Lloyd said in a statement from that year. “It’s dental education designed for students raised in the digital era.”

But nearly four years later, the machines sit largely unused. Faculty members and students say the lab is often empty when they walk by it.

Schedules from fall 2010 through fall 2011 show the clinic is unused about 85 percent of the time. The clinic is booked for an average of 8.4 hours a week.

“They sit there vacant most of the time,” said one clinical faculty member who asked to remain confidential for fear of risking his job.

The previously mentioned clinical faculty member called the machines an “administrative toy.”

“When they wanted to impress the president with the School of Dentistry, what did they show him?” he said. “They held his hand, they brought him into the computer simulation area and they turned on all the lights and bells and whistles. They let him play with it because you can do that.”

He said DentSims fool people who aren’t familiar with dentistry and the machine’s actual capabilities.

Many directly involved in using the clinic for courses, research or demonstrations declined to comment publicly about the lab or didn’t return multiple requests for comment.

Lloyd also declined to comment.

An upper-level dentistry student who asked for confidentiality because of a student leadership position came to the University because of the DentSims and other technological upgrades in the school that were touted at the time.

The student said it’s well-known within the school that the lab is rarely used and that there are problems with the technology.

“Everybody that’s there knows it,” the student said. “The students all know it, the faculty all know it and the administration thinks it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

Dentistry second-years Nicole Haus, Salma Helal and Amy Ott said the clinic was plugged during their interviews at the School of Dentistry, but its use never really materialized.

“When we did our interview, that was huge,” Ott said. “They were like, ‘Oh, look at this, no other school has this.’”

The three agreed that their introductory class in the clinic wasn’t very useful and glossing over the material was easy. If she messed up drilling a tooth, Ott said she would just redo it.

“I wouldn’t do it the right way,” she said. “You can totally cheat the system for the class.”

In Pennsylvania, Maggio said she has used “superglue and gum” to hold parts of her older models together. But, like Buchanan and others, she stands behind the technology because of its educational potential.

The upper-level student disagreed.

“You have administrators who think that’s the new way of dentistry, and it doesn’t work.”


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Student debt is sky-high

Minnesota has the fourth highest post-grad 
average student debt in the U.S.

Can't say it enough times....

Maybe the Kaler administration will rise to the challenge?

From the Daily:

A report recently released by the Project on Student Debt reflects the abysmal realities of Minnesota college graduates and the recent trend of Minnesota’s waning support for public higher education.
From the fourth highest average student debt upon graduation — an average of $29,058 — to the fifth highest percentage of students graduating with debt at 71 percent, Minnesota’s drift away from affordable higher education cannot be simply dismissed from public discourse. The access to post-secondary education should remain important.
With Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, becoming director of the Office of Higher Education, the public conversation needs to center on the fastest-growing type of personal debt in the country. Young Americans have the potential to pull us out of economic stagnation if we give them the chance.
Our society does not merely encourage but basically compels many young individuals to get a college degree, which invariably means taking on debt. We think that it is a bad idea for 18-year-olds to have credit cards, yet we pile on $30,000 of debt and dim job prospects onto hordes of 22-year-olds.
The average Minnesotan college-hopeful ought to understand that society is presenting a double-edged sword. Odds are students will spend years or decades paying down debt that they are told they must take on if they want a high-paying, fulfilling job.
No practical solutions have been proposed to this dilemma, and the general public doesn’t seem to care about students’ undeniable plights. Suffocating amounts of debt should not be the price for doing what society tells us we need to do to be successful.

My comment on the Daily site:

Some of us have been complaining about this situation at the U for many years.  For example see the latest post on The Periodic Table - Administrators vs. Students  - link: - and links therein.

We know the solution to the problem. It is called transparency about educational costs and unreimbursed costs of research. It also has to do with grandiose schemes to achieve world class greatness by the previous administration.

See: University of Inefficiency:

and my article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: World-Class Greatness at a Land-Grant University Near You:

The time for talk is over. President Kaler, let's start to take some steps to address our tuition nightmare.   


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

University of Minnesota to Limit Transfers,

as Enrollment at Other State Colleges Swells

A funny thing happened on the way to more cooperation between the University of Minnesota and MNSCU...

A bid to shrink the ranks of transfer students to the University of Minnesota has opened a rift among the state's public higher-education institutions.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System has sounded alarms over the U's plan to trim transfer student enrollment roughly 8 percent over the next couple of years. MnSCU supplies 45 percent of U transfers.

The U's plan is "troubling and disappointing," said Larry Litecky, interim vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at MnSCU. It goes against the state's commitment to improve access to four-year degrees for all residents, added Litecky, who noted that amid talk of closer cooperation between the U and MnSCU, he heard of the plan through the media.  

But U officials say the flak is unfair.

[They would.]

The U's plan doesn't mesh with the state's push to increase minority, low-income and first-generation student enrollment, said MnSCU's Litecky. The planned transfer limits come at a time when the system is graduating more students - and more of those under-represented students - than ever.

"In a lot of ways, this decision couldn't be timed any worse," Litecky said. "It's a time of record-high demand." 


It should be noted that the U of M is in the process of increasing the number of students admitted to the U, ramping up to a thousand more in the next few years.  An economic analysis would make clear why transfer students are more costly per head than first-years.  

But is a decision based on this fact desirable?  Is it in the best interests of the state to cut down on transfers to the U?

Seems to me that the U admin is engaged in a bit of the bait and switch game here.  They may pay for it at the legislature.

And, if President Kaler and Chancellor Rosenstone are such close personal friends, why is it that, as Litecky notes, MNSCU officials first learned of this in the newspaper?

As the higher ed pie stays static or even shrinks, a battle for resources seems inevitable. A 50/50 split may not be in the cards unless real cooperation occurs, not just talk. This lack of agreement between MNSCU and the U on an important issue is not a good way to start the much ballyhooed new age of cooperation.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Administrators v. Students

My friend and fellow alum, Michael McNabb writes another of his timely and important analyses of financial matters at the University of Minnesota. In the absence of full and transparent disclosure at the U, these essays have been widely read by those interested in returning to the U's original land grant priorities and in making it an institution of which all Minnesotans can be proud.

During the past 10 years the administration has increased spending on the costs of operations at the University by 50% to $3 billion per year.  This is due, in part, to the explosion in the costs of administration since 2005.  See section 3 of University Inc. Part II and Rube Goldberg Administration.  This explosion includes the extravagant compensation of senior administrators that now far exceeds the compensation of their fellow public servants in state government who have similar qualifications and duties.  See On The Cost of Administration.
The senior administrators have financed their billion dollar increase primarily through skyrocketing tuition that has more than offset the reduction in state appropriations.  See section 1 of $tate of the University--A Parent's Perspective. This skyrocketing tuition is creating a generation of indentured students who are also confronted with a dismal job market.  See the October 14, 2011 report in the Star Tribune on Generation Debt.
So the senior administrators have now created a financial conflict of interest with students (and their parents).  Scores of senior administrators now collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and benefits each year.  The administration defends this lavish compensation as within market range for the positions.  This economic justification--straight from the Wall Street executives who gave us the Great Recession--fails to provide an ethical justification for the pursuit of personal wealth by the leaders of a non-profit institution dedicated to public service.  See the dedication engraved above the entrance to Northrop Auditorium.  See also section 3 and the Postscript to $tate of the University--A Parent's Perspective.
The Code of [Ethical] Conduct for the University proscribes conflicts of interest.  See Section III, subd. 8 of the Code.   Recall that the Regents demanded that Steve Sviggum resign from his position in the School of Public Affairs so that he would avoid any conflict of interest with his duties as a Regent.  See  First the Sentence Then the Verdict.
The financial conflict of interest of senior administrators is not removed by requiring the Regents to approve the budget.  The Regents are part-time volunteers.  They rely on the senior administrators to sift through the volumes of information about the operations of the University, so they see only the information selected by the administrators. 
Nor do the Regents have much time to listen to other members of the University community with different perspectives.  The Regents develop a bond with the senior administrators with whom they spend most of their time and thus have a tendency to dismiss other viewpoints.  They should ask Questions of Value.  Instead, each year the Regents approve the budget proposed by the administration, almost always by unanimous vote.
So what is the remedy for this financial conflict of interest?  Perhaps the senior administrators should be barred from participating in the development of the budget on the compensation of administrators whose annual compensation and benefits exceed $200,000.
Or perhaps the state legislature should enact a student and parent version of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.  That federal legislation requires the approval of shareholders for executive compensation.  See the summary of Title IX, Subtitle E  of the Act.  The state version would require the approval of a majority of all 67,000+ students for the compensation of the most highly paid administrators at the University.
Or perhaps the state legislature should set certain conditions on the allocation of state appropriations.  This solution would recognize both the constitutional autonomy of the University and the constitutional power of the legislature to allocate state funds.  Congress often imposes conditions on the allocation of federal funds to the states.
Legislative conditions may be necessary course corrections for a land grant institution whose leaders are transforming it into a quasi-private corporation at the expense of the students, their parents and the citizens of our state.  See Off Course in Higher Education and Going to Market.
If nothing is done about the skyrocketing tuition, then the students will vote with their feet by going to colleges that provide better value.  Because even with the billion dollar increase  in annual spending on operations the administration is planning to continue to eliminate academic programs and to replace professors with part-time instructors (or, cheaper yet for the University, with online instruction).  See section 1 of  $tate of the University--A Parent's Perspectice.  Not even the "Because" advertising campaign on which the administration is wasting millions of dollars will convince the students and their parents that such actions increase the value of education available at the University.  See section 2 of  University Inc. Part II.

The real issue is increasing the value that we the University bring to the State of Minnesota, to its stakeholders and to our students.  Increasing that value, communicating it and demonstrating it will be the major goal of my presidency.
President Eric Kaler in the July 7, 2011 report of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (emphasis added).

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. . . .  Without authority invested where the real work of this University is done, the light of excellence will only grow dimmer
President Mark Yudof in his 1997 Inaugural Address (emphasis added).  See Tenth Anniversary of Inauguration.

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

Monday, November 21, 2011

 UC - Davis 

The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

The chancellor of the University of California Davis has been involved in some earlier experiences that did not exactly cover her in glory.  This pepper spray incident may be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel's back.

My friend Roy poses writes in an email:

(emphasis mine)
A very big story last week was how campus police pepper sprayed unarmed, peaceful student demonstrators at the University of California - Davis.  This lead to widespread calls for the resignation of the University Chancellor, Linda Katehi.  This aggressive, violent response to peaceful protest seems to be the latest example of the arrogance of some current leaders of our important organizations. 

This case appears directly related to the problems in leadership and governance we discuss on Health Care Renewal (   Ms Katehi has the distinction of having been already written up twice on Health Care Renewal for questions about her leadership.

On her arrival at UC-Davis in 2009, she showed ignorance of, if not hostility to the fundamental university mission by suggesting the university should enthusiastically embrace the development and marketing biotech products:

At that time, I called this an example of "how the leaders of academic institutions seem to be forgetting or radically deconstructing their academic missions."

In 2011, Ms Katehi showed her support for the self-interest of management by defending the entitlement of the medical center CEO to nearly a  million dollars yearly in compensation:

Although I could not have predicted that Chancellor Katehi would preside over the pepper spraying unarmed students for peaceful, legitimate protest, it is not surprising that a leader without respect for the academic mission and who supports executive exceptionalism would foster an authoritarian climate in which such an incident could happen.

You heard it here first on Health Care Renewal (

Keep your eye on Health Care Renewal for continued discussion of parallels between problems in health care and in the larger political economy.



I just put a longer version with quotes and an embedded video of the pepper spray story, and slightly longer discussion of our previous write up of Ms Katehi up as a post on Health Care Renewal:

Roy Poses, M.D.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Can Conceal and Carry Permit Holders

Who Are Not Students or Employees
of the University of Minnesota

Bring Guns on Campus?

It appears so....

If this is true, then some action by the legislature is called for...

Public Postsecondary Educational Institutions

Any public postsecondary educational institution may establish policies restricting the carrying or possession of firearms by its students while on the institution’s property. Public postsecondary educational institutions are not authorized to generally prohibit the lawful carrying or possession of firearms by members of the public who are neither their students nor their employees. Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 18(b).

Unsurprising given the gun nut wackos, like Cornish, being egged on by Mitchell P. Berg who wants to make "gunz" a wedge issue in next election...

 < ! >

Dirty Laundry Gets Spin Cycle

The University of Minnesota Administration's Reaction 

to Criticism has Been Too Focused on Public Relations Spin

From the University of Minnesota Daily:

The Minnesota Daily Editorial Board has been extremely disappointed with the response from administrators to criticism of the School of Dentistry’s arrogance, autocratic management and questionable ethics.

The guest column “Dentistry dean took school forward” that ran Tuesday, Nov. 1, was signed by several members of the dentistry school. The authors signed the column with their faculty titles, but neglected to inform readers that every one of them is also a member of the dentistry school administration, most being department chairs and associate deans.

Furthermore, the authors of the guest column wrote it before the news story was finished. Its purpose was clearly an effort by the dentistry school administration to drown out criticism by talking past the point.

The column’s failure to acknowledge any real criticisms of the dentistry school is characteristic of the arrogance we criticized them of last week. The relentlessly positive perspective of the column shows either a great deal of hubris or a cynical commitment to projecting a certain image of the dentistry school regardless of the reality.

Provost Tom Sullivan and Vice President for Health Sciences Aaron Friedman also wrote a letter last week called “Interim dean selected fairly,” which ran Nov. 2. This letter also missed the point and failed to address criticisms of the dentistry school.

The letter argued that faculty were consulted before a decision to hire an interim dean was made. The criticism, however, was that those faculty were simply given lip service and ignored. At one point in the letter, Sullivan and Friedman write, “We … [received a] list of nominees from a segment of the faculty. [Interim dentistry school dean Judith] Buchanan was on that list.” She was indeed; she was last.

The combination of these pieces shows an administration not only unwilling to address its problems, but one so arrogant that it will not even acknowledge it has any. Instead, it resorts to attempts to change the discussion and confuse the public with lies of omission.

The administration of the dentistry school clearly places a higher priority on managing its public perception than on seriously addressing its problems.
It is important to note that this attitude is not specific to the dentistry school. Many areas of the University of Minnesota and its administration have been more committed to improving the perception of the University than its actual quality.
Undoubtedly this attitude has trickled down from former President Bob Bruininks’ administration’s strategic positioning agenda which sought to improve key statistics that factored into national rankings more than it did on improving real quality.

A new president has now taken office, giving the administration a chance to change course and renew its focus on matters of substance instead of superficiality. Karen Hanson will also replace Tom Sullivan as Provost at the beginning of 2012, and the dentistry school will be hiring a permanent replacement for former dean Patrick Lloyd, who was responsible for many of its problems.

We hope this new set of leaders brings more humble leadership that is more willing to analyze itself critically in a genuine attempt to improve.
Our current administrative leaders have shown they would rather deny a problem’s existence than solve it. We are profoundly disappointed in them for their cynical spin campaign and for placing their own reputations above the good of the school they serve.

We look to the future for administrators who aren’t afraid to engage with criticism seriously, admit faults and work sincerely to fix them. Our current leaders in the dentistry school, including Sullivan, have failed on all these counts.

Friday, November 11, 2011


My friend, Mr. Michel McNabb, writes: 

At the November 1, 2011 meeting of the Senate Committee on Finance & Planning the deans of the law school and the business school again asserted that state appropriations provide less than 10% of the annual operating budgets of their schools.  This assertion fails to identify the senior administrators and the Regents as the persons who actually determine the allocation of state appropriations to those schools.
In fiscal year 2012 the University will receive $484 million in state appropriations for its general fund.  Senior administrators (with the approval of the Regents) made the decision to allocate less than 1% of the state appropriations to the law school ($3.6 million) and to the business school ($3.3 million).  The state legislature does not direct the allocation of those funds.  See question (8) in Questions of Value.

What is the response of the deans to this decision of central administration to allocate a minuscule percentage of state appropriations to their schools?  They tell the committee that "they have the capacity to raise tuition."  Once again we have the reliance on tuition, which senior administrators describe as "the revenue stream with the highest potential for significant, long-term growth."  See section (1) in $tate of the University--A Parent's Perspective.

This skyrocketing tuition is creating a generation of indentured students who are also confronted with a dismal job market. See the October 14, 2011 report on Generation Debt in the Star-Tribune. 
There are alternatives to endless increases in tuition. The senior administrators could allocate a larger percentage of the state appropriations to pay the operating costs of the schools and colleges. They could use part of the accumulated surplus of more than half a billion dollars in revenue that they continue to carry forward from year to year. See Question (7) in Questions of Value. They could make substantial reductions in the costs of administration that have exploded since 2005. See section 3 in University Inc. Part II.

Have the emergence of the corporate university and the pursuit of personal wealth replaced the ideal of public service?  Have the leaders of a non-profit institution of higher education lost their moral compass when they believe themselves entitled to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual compensation and benefits?  Should their decisions require students (and their parents) to incur tens of thousands of dollars in debt that will take years to repay?  See  the the Conclusion and the Postscript to  $tate of the University--A Parent's Perspective.

We are now off course in higher education.  See the recent essay entitled Our Universities--Why Are They Failing? by Princeton University history professor Anthony Grafton.  We can begin to find our way back by restoring the ideal of public service, by recognizing that an education in the liberal arts is more than vocational training, and by requiring our professors to be as devoted to the students in their classrooms as they are to their research.

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

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Double Standard on Financial Aid?

An open letter to administrators at 

the University of Minnesota

A former employee of the Academic Affairs and Provost office writes to Robert McMaster and Tom Sullivan.

By Andy Howe - University lecturer

Although I am a past employee of your office, I am writing today as a concerned alumnus of the University of Minnesota and taxpayer in the state. I received my Ph.D. in higher education from the University in 2009, so I have a keen interest in the integrity of the land grant mission of the University. As a taxpayer, I want to make sure that my contribution to the University is aligned with this mission and provides broad access to undergraduate education.
Lately, policies on which you have led give me concern about access to undergraduate education and integrity of the land grant mission. Let me first get a few things out of the way. I am fully aware of the competition in higher education, federal and state cuts, the research focus of the University, middle-class affordability and the needs of multiple stakeholders.
These concerns are substantial and need to be addressed.
The University is also a land grant university, so intersections of choice, access, affordability and student success are equally if not more important to consider.
Although many universities have made access and affordability a priority, low-income students are being priced out of public, four-year institutions. You and others have mentioned that the University is consistent with other public universities with tuition, fees and institutional financial aid. But if there is a national issue with institutional policy, comparing the University with others who are also pricing out low-income students does nothing but present a half-truth.
Because of recruiting strategies, decreased need-based aid, increased merit-aid, caps on enrollment, increased tuition and fees, and a host of other policy decisions on which you have led, what has been the outcome? Recently, Washington Monthly ranked universities on social mobility (enrolling and graduating students on Pell Grants). The University was ranked one of the lowest in the Big Ten and in all flagship universities. The University also has one of the highest achievement gaps in the Big Ten and in all flagship universities.
What then is the long-term strategy for choice, access, affordability and for low-income student success at the University? I am an advocate for balanced — but not open — admission, beneficial financial aid policies, and transparency and accountability to these policies at public institutions.
With that said, you both have mentioned and written that institutional financial aid has grown substantially over the past several years, yet I can find no clear evidence that indicates that the percentage of out-of-pocket expenses (net price as a percentage of income) from those families making $30,000 or less has decreased substantially. How does the growth of merit-based institutional aid compare to the growth of need-based institutional aid from 2008 until present? Over the same time period, what is the average net price as percentage of annual income for students from families at $30,000, $70,000 and $110,000?
You both take pride in the increase of ACT scores and high school rank of entering first-year students and hope to continue these increases. As Vice Provost Robert McMaster stated in a recent Minnesota Daily article, “Aside from Carleton College and Macalester College, we [the University] probably are the most difficult to get into in the state of Minnesota.” Taking pride in limiting access at a land grant university is not one of the founding principles of the Morrill Act of 1862, which established land grant universities. President Eric Kaler has said that one of the things he had learned in his 100 days of listening was that many people feel the University is “aloof and arrogant.” Policies and statements like McMaster’s do nothing to change the public perception.
McMaster also stated in the most recent Board of Regents meeting that he and others “pressure colleges when we see that they are not performing to our expectations.” When it comes to informing the public and being accountable to the land grant mission, it appears you are not holding yourselves to the same standard.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Legal Education and the Heir of Slytherin

 [Jim Chen is a former U of M law school prof. The following material is selected from the complete post that is well worth reading. Emphasis mine.]

... I still believe what John Steinbeck said in East of Eden: There is one story in the world, and only one. Whether the setting is Will Rogers High, Hogwarts, or the law school of your choosing, formal schooling often pits Socs against Greasers and Purebloods against Mudbloods. The narrative is one of epic, ceaseless competition between elites and outsiders.

If you've managed to miss one of the greatest cultural phenomena of the last generation, let me introduce you to the magical world of Harry Potter...  In the mind of the Dark Lord, only those born to pure-blooded witches and wizards deserve to command the potions, incantations, and spells of his profession.

All of this prepares me to open one of the darkest chambers of secrets in law and legal education. Law schools and the country's largest law firms have long occupied — and jealously guarded — the most coveted corners in the American legal profession.  BigLaw draws its talent from the most highly credentialed students emerging from our law schools. Without elite grades, no student stands a chance of scoring a BigLaw interview, let alone a BigLaw job.

At some schools, BigLaw does dig deeper in the talent pool. ... At schools such as Harvard, Duke, or Vanderbilt, or Virginia, Michigan, or Berkeley, BigLaw historically has been willing to interview a broader spectrum of students. At schools that historically operated under a municipal charter and have dedicated themselves to the higher training and useful education of local youth, BigLaw has been decidedly pickier.

This is not an altogether flattering portrayal. I admit as much. In fairness, I will say this: My own corner of the profession, legal education, has been complicit in this elitist exercise. ... If anything, academia has doubled down on BigLaw's bet. We draw our own faculty ranks from an even more selective pool of candidates. BigLaw and American law schools have anointed their superstars on the basis of schools attended and grades attained when these lawyers and professors were students in their twenty-something years...

Excessive emphasis on pedigree over performance has pushed the legal profession to a point of reckoning. ... Law schools can no longer indulge the conventional assumption that they can focus entirely on training their students to "think like lawyers," without attention to concrete skills or the pragmatic nuances of actual practice.  Every BigLaw hire that flames out after two unproductive years should prompt honest recognition of the limits of elite credentials. Honesty about the limits of the existing model of legal education should prompt all law schools to ensure their students a true return on their educational investment ... to be as fully prepared to serve clients and deliver results as a lawyer can be upon passing the bar exam.

This is not a jeremiad against legal education and elite law firms. ... I believe wholeheartedly in the transformative power of legal education, motivated by a passion for teaching and informed by serious scholarship. For me to believe otherwise would force me to declare my own life an evil, bankrupt waste, and I emphatically believe that I have not lived in vain.
 ...the benefits of working in BigLaw or the legal academy affirmatively compound the heavy burden that its defenders must discharge. Those of us who care most about the legal profession and have gained the most from it owe a corresponding duty to take a hard look at the weaknesses of our shared calling. Whatever personal or professional inconvenience we may incur, those of us at the pinnacle of professional success must tell the truth.

How shall we make things better? ... Speak the truth and point to hope. This message combines my own experience with insights from history and literature ....  The world of Harry Potter is one that pits the virtuous Order of the Phoenix against Lord Voldemort's degenerate Death Eaters. Those stories, real and fantastic, teach us useful lessons. Extreme opponents often become agents of reconciliation. The greatest breakthrough between the Communist world and the West came when Richard Nixon, the consummate Cold Warrior, visited "Red" China. By contrast, those who prevail through conflict and confrontation often do so by virtue of some close connection to the enemy, perhaps even kinship. At the risk of spoiling J.K. Rowling's books and the movies inspired by them, I will tell you that Harry Potter ultimately defeats Voldemort on the strength of a mysterious connection that links the boy wizard to the Dark Lord's most treacherous powers.

And so it must be that a critic of elite legal education, to be credible, must be one who has succeeded by its terms, both in school and in later professional life. With your indulgence, I'll make my argument very personal. In my twenties I enjoyed a double dose of privilege and prestige: Not only did I attend Harvard Law School alongside the future President of the United States; I also clerked at the Supreme Court of the United States. These experiences gave me the privilege of choosing between BigLaw and the legal academy. I spent many hours in my thirties divining some of the law's most intellectually challenging mysteries, from the use of macroeconomic indicators in utility regulation to the legal protection of biodiversity and functioning ecosystems as information platforms. All those things came to me, in large measure, because I turned in fantastic performances in torts, federal courts, and international business transactions. Those grades predicted intelligence of some relevance to the legal profession, and I worked my hardest to make good on the promise of my youth. But the task to which I have devoted my forties, that of managing a complex educational institution for the betterment of its students and the clients they will ultimately serve, is one that transcends my grades, my diplomas, my clerkships, and even the articles on my curriculum vitae. Everything I've done in life didn't get graded in law school. Grades were then. Life is now. As a firmly committed Muggle, I am no heir of Slytherin. Fate did bestow upon me a bundle of legal education's most elite experiences. And this is what I have learned since graduation: There is no value in prestige or credentials. There is only performance, and those who have the wisdom to prize it.