Monday, March 19, 2012

President Kaler Repeats Earlier Plea:

Judge the U Going Forward Under His Watch

[Added later: I have just received an email from the University of Minnesota that makes the absurd claim: "The piece has been warmly received." Please read the article and the comments cited below. There needs to be a reality check at the U very soon.  Such a claim, in light of the facts, just heaps more logs on the flames of outrage currently being experienced by Minnesota voters, parents, and past, present, or future students at the U of M. ]

As the leader of the University of Minnesota, I welcome a close look at how we do things. We are the state's university, and we need the public's confidence. I know we must earn it everyday.
Recent Star Tribune coverage has focused on the way the U has conducted business. I take full responsibility for all that happens here.
But where I can have impact isn't by looking in the rearview mirror. My most important role is to chart the road ahead.
I have committed to doing things differently. I am reviewing the effectiveness of programs, policies and practices, and I will make every decision with a single focus in mind: what is best for our students.
I need all Minnesotans to join me in supporting state investments in our state's only land-grant, public research university. But I know that to gain your support, you must have confidence in the U and in my decisions.
Not everyone will agree with every decision. But I want you to know that all of my decisions rest on three guiding principles:
1. Put students first. Create value for them and their families by reducing administrative costs and investing in academic excellence.
2. Advance research and innovation globally, while solving the state's most vexing problems.
3. Partner across industries to create jobs and advance prosperity across our state.
Take my decision to seek a new athletic director, but also to retain Joel Maturi for another year, primarily as a fundraiser. I anticipated that this would be controversial, and it was.
Consistent with my commitment to transparency, I didn't hide from this controversy. I was clear about my intentions and rationale, and open about Joel's privately funded compensation and the results we expect from him.
Or look at my first capital request to the Legislature. Sensitive to the state's budget challenges, our request is modest, reflecting my commitment to stewardship. It ensures that our infrastructure is upgraded and energy-efficient, thus cutting costs long-term.
Among the decisions I have made that put students first was one last summer to use additional state funding to reduce this fall's planned tuition increase from 5 percent to 3.5 percent. That will be the lowest tuition increase this century.
Or examine my budget outline for 2013. It improves education, reduces costs and positions the university for global excellence.
I am investing $21 million to support innovative academic programs and new faculty. It will be competitively awarded. I have budgeted a 2.5 percent compensation increase for faculty and staff.
Our terrific group of employees, like many in the state, have sacrificed through three years of pay freezes, furloughs, layoffs and increased health care costs.
To be more effective and efficient, I have proposed a year-round academic calendar to help students graduate earlier and make better and higher use of our classrooms and labs; I have asked our deans to evaluate 265 centers and institutes, and we are finding cost savings by reducing bureaucracy and improving work processes across our organization.
As I promised when I took office in July, I am holding the line on administrative costs. For the fiscal year 2013, the increase in administration costs at the university is going to be zero.
Leading a culture change at this or any university takes time. But I am determined to move us from an entrenched default mode of "no, we can't" to one of "yes, we can do things differently."
The recent reports are troubling to me, but it is critical to place them in context. This university has a $3.7 billion annual operating budget. More than 69,000 students are educated on our five campuses and earn more than 14,000 degrees every year.
We have 500,000 alumni around the world. In the past two years, our faculty and researchers have attracted $1.5 billion to the state in research grants. For every dollar the state invests in the university, we generate $13.20 in economic activity statewide, a return on investment of more than 13 to 1.
I expect and welcome close scrutiny of the decisions my team and I make to move the University of Minnesota forward.
I expect to be judged on what I do and, more important, on whether or not my decisions steer a path to a stronger future for the university, for the state we serve and for the state's future leaders, our students.
Eric W. Kaler is president of the University of Minnesota.

Some comments from the Star-Tribune web site:

Mr Kaler, I applaud your article. I hope that you will take real action to the misbehavior at the U in recent months. I work in the private sector and we are not nearly as tolerant of unethical behavior as you seem to be. These are grown up people who make a good living and if your current culture makes it OK to do these kinds of things you need to take action and change it with consequences. Until the public sees otherwise, we will see the U as it is today. An unethical, ineffective and bloated dinosaur.

We aren't asking you to fix what has taken place. We need you to ensure the nonsense never happens again. That means some people need to fired. That means the cronyism stops now. And most of all, it means that you and the legislature need to perform a line by line audit of the U of MN budget and root out the waste, fraud, routing of funds to pet projects, etc. Please do not come asking for money until you get this university operating within a reasonable level of financial responsibility.

Good article but we prefer to base our judgments on the past and the present and not on politically-spun rhetoric, in other words, actions speak louder than words! If recent decisions/lack of action (Maturi, Bruininks and now Delaney) are indicative of how you will make decisions then your article is nothing but grandstanding. You have the ability to reverse the golden parachute of Bruininks and his cronies, you have the opportunity to do more than "reprimand" Delaney but you choose not to do so. Many posts about Delaney are from individuals who worked in her department and they all relate the same malfeasance and mismanagement, nepotism and ineptitude but her total punishment consisted of a verbal reprimand and the inability to hire a full time staff person for one year....that's hardly what I would call accountability and thus your words ring rather hollow to me.

This is a joke...RIGHT??? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice....

President Kaler - By taking responsibility for past indiscretions you put yourself into a mess that didn't happen on your watch. Uber foolhardy. We want you to do well. As Minnesotans we don't expect you to take responsibility for other's actions. But we do expect you to show leadership and change the culture. Along the way it would help if you showed the citizens of Minnesota - who pay the bills - some ethical butt-kicking of those who created the mess and brought shame to the U of M.

Mr. Kaler. The world is different outside the U o fM. Budgets are pinched and we do more with less. There is no reason for excesses in the academic world that we are seeing. The U of M is in business to educate, so please run it like a business to get the best value for the dollar spent. That's the way to serve the students first.

The article is right. Don't judge the U of Minn on the last forty years of missteps and questionable decisions. Instead plow more money into to the U to make it a world class institution once again.

"Don't look back"? Aren't we taxpayers at least able to look back a little? To the day that Dr. Kaler extended a platinum parachute to the retiring AD, Mr. Maturi, who can not possibly raise more than he will cost in lost contributions from all sources. I hate to be so pessimistic, because I want to be very proud of or flagship university, but she is listing hard to port, and in danger of sinking.

What a crock. University administrators hiring their buddies at $400k a year so they can come back and be "professors"? Or "special assistants"? Maybe they could learn nursing, in the nursing school, where the same scam is going on? If you're 70 years old (I'm 65), why don't you retire and let someone in their 30's become a "professor", at a rate that is probably 25% of what they pay for "past expertise". Sickening.

The waste of taxpayers money and the rising cost of tuition caused by outlandish salaries and administrative costs should be regulated by the legislature. Is everyone asleep at the switch? It sickens me to see these benefits and golden parachutes when most of us can barely afford health care and help our grandchildren attend the U---which would be a great adventure.

I hope the U gets it's act together, but I'll believe it when I see it. Let's hope that 10-15 years from now, the articles are different from the ones that have been in the Strib over the last few weeks.

With all due respect, President Kaler: You ask us to judge you by your actions. Fair enough. So now we've read your words and are waiting for those actions. What are you actually going to do to about a dean who shows a persistent pattern of not understanding basic ethics? (Does one need to be told it's unethical to hire one's own brother? And when one's hands are slapped once for hiring someone on a double-dipping arrangement (Jacko) and then turns around and does it again (Clancy)? Is this person even susceptible to learning right from wrong? Keeping this dean would be a powerful statement to our community about U of M ethical standards — or lack thereof. Meanwhile, what would it do to the morale and reputation of the embattled School of Nursing?

President Kaler I applaud your response to the article about Dean Delaney however the School of Nursing needs change in leadership and that change begins with you. You owe this to the students, alum, faculty and staff at the School of Nursing. You also owe this to the many faculty members at the Academic Health Center that Dean Delaney chooses not to work well with. Because her leadership responsibilities extend far beyond the School of Nursing, I will point out that her actions impact far more than the SON. As a former employee that worked closely with Dean Delaney, I can assure you that her leadership and representation is very partial. She surrounds herself with a team of people that support her without question, and does not always look after the University's best interest. Far beyond the issues Tony Kennedy was able to substantiate are a host of other mismanaged relationships or events that have unfortunately been unilaterally decided by Dean Delaney. She will continue this pattern unless you take a very aggressive approach to stopping it!

Mr. Kaler, for the most part I wasn't impressed with your piece and I'll tell you why. Most of the commenters here have it right. Nobody wants to read about what you are going to do, or how you shouldn't be judged for past misconduct by others. People around here would have preferred to have seen some action, some no-nonsense, in your face, there's the door type of consequences for much of what has gone on over there since you've been here and before. You knew when you took the job of all the past criminal, unethical, immoral behavior of certain administrators, deans, especially the medical school, clinical trial investigators etc etc. I assumed you had a game plan to make changes. This piece tells me you didn't. Sounds more like some political advertisement. Elect me president and I'll change everything in this country. Everything will be better. Just wait and see. Well Mr. are President...and so far it's been the norm...broken promises. And by the way...are you backing the bioethics professors who have been challenged for just doing their job. Haven't seen any action yet.

The op-ed is spot on when it comes to the role of the university and its focus on research and teaching. What is lacking is some commitment to change the culture and ethics of the U. The public has no sympathy for poor personnel decisions. How can you move forward when you have a dean that has chased 100 nursing faculty away? How many research dollars fled with them? Where is your new ethics policy? I am waiting.

Actions speak louder than words. So far we have seen no positive actions, only words.

Yes of course unethical behavior does occur in the private sector but the consequences are swift and harsh once discovered. They would have immediately fired the Nursing School leader as opposed to "increased supervision on future hiring decisions". The private sector also has something called upward feedback. If leaders are receiving bad feedback from employees and turnover is high, corrective action occurs quickly or again you are fired. The private sector can't afford to ignore or bury problems like that. Apparently the U looks the other way or provides a small reprimand.
George Santayana (1863 – 1952), a Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist once said that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

As others have said, actions speak louder than words, and until he does something about these recent actions, payouts to Maturi, the UMD provost, and this Nursing leader, all his words mean nothing. He had to do a piece like this while legislature is in session. As U alum, it will be a long time before I make any more donations, until after I have seen some changes.

As for his decisions, Kaler needs to understand that the high profile decisions made, especially regarding Joel Maturi but of course not limited to him, are wildly unpopular with the bosses, who are of course the taxpayers of Minnesota. Fix those decisions. Then we'll talk about going forward.

I agree with most. Just words with no action, the U of M has turned into a money pit. President Kaler should have fired Delaney if he wanted to show he means business, instead he does the usual slap on the wrist and don't get caught again.

My #1 pet peeve of all time. What good does it do when you say "I take full responsiblity for.... whatever it may be. You hear it so often nowadays that it truly means nothing. With Kaler taking "full responsibility" is he stepping down, or firing some of the wrongdoers?  I don't think so. The words mean nothing Mr.Kaler. Try holding those accountable?  Now that sounds good! Won't happen.

Mr. Kaler, The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Given the recent actions by U administration, your words do little to assure the taxpaying public that things will change.

I just received an email stating now is a good time to make a contribution to the U based on Eric's OpEd in today's Strib. Wow! I sure hope he reads the many comments to see how out-of-synch he is with MN residents and alumni.

A positive course of action. Then achieving positive results. Which is not what we have seen at the U of M. Actions speak louder than words. Promising "Hope and Change" may have worked for some politicians in the short term, but we need more than empty promises to restore our faith in the U of M. Don't tell us. SHOW US your words aren't empty.

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