Saturday, July 30, 2011

The University of Minnesota's

Public Relations Deception 

In a letter [2] published in today’s Minnesota Daily (7/27/11), Provost Tom Sullivan writes that total financial aid has increased from $81 million in 2004 to $152 million in 2010. At first glance, this seems like a large improvement, increasing by 87.6 percent over 6 years. But while this statistic is technically true, it is intentionally deceptive.

Over this same period of time, tuition has risen [3] 48 percent (by 69 percent if one starts counting from the 03-04 school year, but at least 48 percent). Furthermore, the size of the undergraduate student body has [4] grown [5] 6 percent during this period of time and inflation has gone up [6] between 15 (beginning of 2010) and 19 percent (end of 2010). These three factors account for a large portion, if not all, of the increase in the total dollar amount of financial aid. The lack of context in Sullivan’s letter gives readers a false impression.

The Daily Editorial Board has criticized [7] the University administration for using these factually true but misrepresentative figures before. The nature of public relations communications is spin, misrepresentation, and lying by omission, especially when the facts don’t fit one’s desired narrative, but we expect a better, more honest discussion from our University leaders. Kaler is still in a transitional period in his administration, but this is an unequivocal instance of a problem of the Bruininks regime persisting under new leadership.

Kaler and the rest of his administration must stamp out the use of these deceptive statistics wherever they find it. Because the rosy hue they see emanating from the University is actually just the tint of their glasses.

--Eric Murphy

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