Sunday, February 10, 2013

Clueless in Morrill Hall

The administration has retained Sibson Consulting of New York to conduct an analysis of the administrative structure at the U of M.  Is Sibson the right firm to conduct this analysis?  The firm recently worked with the administration to produce a classification of University employees.  So the firm has an interest in keeping on good terms with the administration for additional business in the future and for recommendations to other universities for similar work.

Recall the example of the Tripp Umbach consulting firm that went from university to university--including the U of M--to prepare "economic impact sudies" that the universities could use in their public relations campaigns for greater state appropriations.

Then there is the scope of the "spans and layers" analysis for which Sibson has been retained.  President Kaler has announced that the analysis will answer this question:
Does the University have the appropriate number of organizational levels and do managers at various levels oversee the proper number of people?

But the issue is not simply a matter of counting the number of levels and the number of people--it is at least as much about counting the compensation of the scores of senior administrators at the top.
Even if the senior administrators were persuaded to look at their own compensation, would Sibson Consulting be the firm to provide an independent analysis?  Here is the description of a recent presentation by the firm:

Incentives are becoming increasingly more common in higher education, as institutions seek creative compensation to reward for performance, excellence and attract and engage highly qualified talent.  Join us for an interactive discussion on how incentives have been successfully implemented in some institutions, and what you can do to introduce the concept in your organization.

The senior administrators have already introduced this concept at the U of M.  See The Cost of "Top Talent"  and The Cost of "Top Talent" Part III.

And the total cost of administration includes far more than the compensation for those persons in positions that are now classified as "administrative oversight."  See On The Cost of Administration Part III.

Michael W. McNabb 

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

Saturday, February 9, 2013

University of Minnesota Medical School Dean 

and Academic Health Center Vice President

Dr. Aaron Friedman
to Step Down

I have never met Dr. Friedman in person. But I did engage in an interchange with him on the pages of the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Regular readers may find it noteworthy that he is, apparently, an espouser of homeopathy:

Why Would an Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy? 
Bill Gleason, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 22, 2011

Response: Why Would an Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy
Dr. Frank Cerra, former Vice President, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean
Dr. Aaron Friedman, Vice President, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean
Chronicle of Higher Education, February 11, 2011
That two medical school deans would write such an article is pathetic. Look at the comments on their piece,  e. g.:

Drs. Cerra and Friedman are blowing smoke. Homeopathy has already been studied and found to be without effect. Their response is a perfect example of PR doubletalk. 

What exactly is “Spirituality”? Do the smoke blowing Drs. actually know? Why do they need that term in the title of their program at all?

The arguments made in this essay in support of the Center for Spirituality and Healing sound like sleights of hand, and in most cases side-step the issue.

You want to be treated with a homeopathic “drug” that is chemically indistinguishable from pure water? Fine; go see a homeopath. Just don’t expect a better result than you’d get from a placebo, and don’t expect that responsible allopathic physicians will recommend it. But be very surprised if a major state university medical center offers it.

No doubt Dr. Friedman was in an awkward position - that of being medical school dean and Academic Health Service VP - at a time when the medical school faculty made it clear that they overwhelmingly prefer a dean who was dedicated solely to the medical school. It is regrettable that President Kaler decided not to follow the advice of the faculty. 


Latest from the University of Minnesota Medical School All the News That's Fit to Manage? (link)

University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Aaron Friedman: Driven to Dissemble? (link)

University of Minnesota Medical School Faculty Vote Overwhelmingly for a Dedicated Dean (link)

From the Minnesota Daily:

Dr. Aaron Friedman will step down as vice president of the Academic Health Center and dean of the Medical School at the end of 2013, according to an email from University President Eric Kaler on Friday afternoon.

Friedman, who has served in these roles since January 2011, will continue his leadership roles through the rest of the year.

“[Friedman] has been a strong leader through a time of transition and a strong voice for the health sciences,” Kaler said in the email.

The University will begin a national search for Friedman’s replacement in the next two weeks and will keep the positions of AHC vice president and Medical School dean combined, Kaler also said.

The Academic Health Center houses the University’s six health science colleges: Dentistry, Nursing, Medical, Pharmacy, Public Health and Veterinary Medicine.

A 2011 internal review of the AHC  said the position of vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School should be split, according to a previous Minnesota Daily article. But in the email, Kaler said he would keep the two positions combined based on a 2012 external review.

The search committee will be co-chaired by Bobbi Daniels, vice dean for clinical affairs in the Medical School and CEO of the University of Minnesota Physicians, and Leon Assael, dean of the School of Dentistry.

The Medical School will postpone its search for a new head of medicine because of Friedman’s stepping down, Kaler said.

Dr. Wes Miller will continue as the interim head of medicine through 2014.

University of Minnesota

 Hires Consultant to Analyze Administration

And Workforce

[Note: this is a case where the U is damned if they do, and damned if they don't.. Overall, getting an outside firm is a good idea because the U's credibility right now on these matters is not that great. But getting a firm that has a prior - and perhaps future - financial connection with the U is not a good idea.

My friend and fellow alum Michael McNabb has written an essay on this matter:
Clueless in Morrill Hall. ]


The University of Minnesota has hired an external firm to analyze its workforce and report back to the Legislature.
Sibson Consulting, based in New York, will study the "spans and layers" of the university's structure, drilling into how many administrators supervise how many employees. The university will pay then $48,000 for the work, which includes $8,000 for travel and other expenses, according to the contract
"The analysis will answer the question: Does the university have the appropriate number of organizational levels and do managers at various levels oversee the proper number of people?" U President Eric Kaler told the Board of Regents on Friday.
The consultants' report will include "a set of recommendations ... including action steps and timelines," the contract says.
State Senate leaders requested the report after a Wall Street Journal article singled out the University of Minnesota, saying that the school had gone "on a spending spree over the past decade," inflating its ranks of administrators. Kaler has called parts of that article inaccurate but also stressed that he's not satisfied with the status quo.
The report to lawmakers is due mid-March.
U leaders chose an outside firm for speed, Kaler said, as well as "the external validation that a firm like Sibson will provide to the results." The university has worked with the human resources consulting firm before, on a deep look at its employee classifications, which the university is revising to better describe what employees do.

Any manager know that outside consultants can be brought in to cut the fat or to create data to silence critics. It will be interesting to see how the U management will use this data.

Only at a public institution would taxpayer money be wasted trying to figure out what should already be known.

"“The analysis will answer the question: Does the university have the appropriate number of organizational levels and do managers at various levels oversee the proper number of people?”"------- how about the level of compensation and the hundreds of employees employed by alma mater that are in the "hated" 2%? Very good websites hosted locally that show the extreme numbers of employees making $100k +...... From the public coffers.

The $48,000.00 should come out of Kaler's paycheck.....aren't these duties of the President of the U? Abundance of administrators with Kaler being at the top of the totem-pole and the U has to hire someone else to figure out why.

I find it ironic - the U has the Carlson School of MANAGEMENT - but needs to hire an out of state firm to do this? At least they are only wasting $48K on this. From the U I would have expected so much more to be spent.

They need to hire a consultant to figure out who reports to who and whether they are doing their jobs? What a joke. That's the President's job, or at least it should be. Sadly, among the sea of administration at the U, there is probably not anyone doing any basic management of the place.

A beautiful example of how clueless the U admin has become. Do they have ANY idea how completely the word "Consultant" is equated with "idiot" out here in the real world? And- $50,000??? This will keep us cackling in the Minnesota bars and cafes- for years to come.

Scrolled through local database of U of M salaries. Each page had 25 employees. I scrolled through 99 pages until i got to salaries UNDER six figures. Seriously? kaler is asking for MORE funding? Who has not been paying attention to this runaway train?

The U picks a consultant. Let me guess what the results will be? It appears that the U staffing and organization is very similar to its peers. Minor changes might be desirable to improve efficiency.

This is far too little of an engagement to get to the bottom of this. They should let the legislature choose the consulting firm and have them report back to the legislature. A line by line assessment of the budget at the U should be conducted in addition to the organizational recommendation. Agree that the U should already know this stuff. Don't we have a pretty good MBA program over there? Put some of them to work benchmarking best in class university models. No pain, no gain. This needs to be done right.

The College Bubble will burst eventually; putting a band-aid on your internal problems Kaler won't solve them.

This is long overdue! So much waste. There is so much more then too many administrators. The audit firm should be hired by the legislature and report to them. It also should be more comprehensive then the current scope of work. They would find so much waste!

- if most of those six figure salaries are professors - I'm 100% fine w/ that. you need more info to make the call if there is waste - or how much waste - without deeper data.

  Is this really going to be a comprehensive report that is unbiased? Who hired the firm? It sounds like it will be as honest as political candidates who we know don't ever communicate with their super pacs....
 I worked at the U for 7 years in the late 90s on the Finance and Operations side of the house (ie non teaching).I could not take the sense of entitlement and a complete lack of performance expectations. Here is an example: on my first day while showing me around, my manager walks me through an area of open cubicles during a lunch hour. We walk by a guy in his late 50s (obviously a lifer), he is leaned backin his chair...sleeping...literally sleeping. My manager, explains, he is the Director of the Engineering department. The an open work area...sleeping !?!? When I inquired 'why was he sleeping?'...the response from my new manager was..."it's his lunch hour, he can do that". I could never forget the impression that made on me. I went on to experience things I could just not justify in my mind...and it was the norm. At the end of fiscal year, if you had money left in your were expected to "spend it"....because if you didn't, "we would not get that money in the next budget cycle". In 7 years, I never had a performance review. Ever ! By the second year, I wrote up my own goals and objectives and gave them to my manager and asked that we review them at year end...guess what...never had my review. Just a few examples, but if the rest of higher Ed runs the way the U did back's seriously broken.

The article mentioned that the U has worked with this firm before. Of course they aren't going to be overly critical of Kaler and his administration. They want to come back again and again, they aren't going to bite the hand that feeds them. The credibility of what they find should be questioned.

Here are the results of the study: 1. The U is very close to it's peers in staffing levels, etc. 2. Some jobs will need to be reclassified to justify the position and the pay. 3. Some jobs will need to be retitled to justify the position and the pay. 4. There are no further efficiencies to be wrung out, as all are overworked already and we cannot afford to cut any positions, only reclassify and re title. 5. We went over budget because this is a big project, so here is our bill. I probably missed a few points, but...

I'll do it for $40,000 and will guarantee a report that will find enormous waste and scores of recommendations for cost savings.

This won't work and here is why. The U is broken up in three parts: Faculty and PNA, Professional Civil Service and Unionized Civil Service. The largest groups that have Administrative duties are in the Faculty /PNA group. This group has always been off limits and more than likely will be now. Instead they will go after the two Civil Service groups. And only one of those groups includes Administrators. Right now the U has far too many Administrators with faculty and PNA titles and not enough in the other two groups. Plus in the Faculty and PNA group, they get a one year notice of termination while the rest (like rehab) get 28 days. The other problem is consulting firms never solve issues they basically take money and try to stay on the payroll and do little else. The U is top heavy and not with Civil Service. To solve it they must look at the top tier group that is Faculty who only do Administrator and non-teaching duties and they will not. Instead they will disseminate an already too small working group of Civil Service. Only the consulting firm will win in the end.

I swear that colleges/universities have so many employees you don't know where to turn to. Yes, I graduated with a Master's degree and saw a lot of waste at the schools I attended. I hope this consultant will make changes, the U needs it!
$40k for consulting fees? That's barely enough to write the final report. Somehow I think this "study" is going to "prove" that the U is doing just fine, no changes needed.

As a local HR Consultant, I question why the U of M did not hire a local consulting company. There several in the Metro that are just as good or better than the New York firm and wouldn't charge for travel.

It is obvious the U hire the consulting firm that will give them results they want.

The U wants 96 [million dollars additional funding] from the state. If you went into a bank for a 96 [million dollar] loan and brought your own credit report do you think they would give you the loan? Don't you think they would want to do their own due diligence? This along with the "staged" student rally by the students this week is just more games by Mr Kaler and the U. They need to do some serious transformation before the state gives them any more money.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Representative Glen Gruenhagen and Richard Pfutzenreuter

Discuss University of Minnesota Budget 

I have attended meetings  of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee at the state capitol this week. It has been instructive to hear what the University administration has presented our representatives.  An excerpt is above. Those with an interest in this matter may wish to consult the Minnesota House of Representatives video archive

As regular readers know, I have been writing about the UMore Park situation for some time. In my opinion Mr. Pfutzenreuter has not given a fair picture of what has happened at UMore  Park. 

For example:

See section 3 of The Rest of the Story 

On the matter of deteriorating University facilities please see:

My friend and fellow U of M alum, Michael McNabb, sent a  message to members of the committee earlier this week.  A slightly shortened version  follows. The full version is available for download in pdf format here.

At the January 28, 2013 hearing of the House higher education committee the chair remarked:

Where it [U of M] appears to have great difficulty is showing us where it's had to make tough choices.
The reason is that the U of M administration has not made really tough choices--despite a reduction in state appropriations.  In fiscal year 2002 the total operating expenses for the University were $2,005,138,000.  In fiscal year 2012 the total operating expenses were $2,948,366,000.
The fuel for this billion dollar explosion was skyrocketing tuition.  In fiscal year 2002 the administration collected a net amount (after scholarships and grants) of $293,127,000 in tuition and fees.  In fiscal year 2012 the net amount of tuition and fees collected was $696,278,000.
The senior administrators and the Regents have shown no mercy to the students (and their parents).  This skyrocketing tuition far exceeded the reduction in state appropriations.  In fiscal year 2002 the University received $643,088,000 in state appropriations.  In fiscal year 2012 the amount was $572,075,000. 
The U of M chief financial officer testified that the administration has cut $228 million since 2006.  See the January 31 Star Tribune report on House Asks U Big Questions on Budget.  From fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2012 the total operating expenses for the University were just under $17 billion.  See the U of M annual financial reports. 
So the cuts amount to 1.3% of the total operating expenses.  Does the administration view this as making tough choices?  Or making a serious effort to contol costs and tuition?
Michael W. McNabb

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

Thursday, February 7, 2013

 University of Minnesota Students Rally

Behind  Budget Request to State

 From the Star Tribune:

Students cheered for robust funding of University of Minnesota at the Capitol on Thursday. But their shouts may compete with an uproar this session over the U's administrative spending.
Hundreds of students from the system's five campuses gathered in the rotunda Thursday, wielding Goldy Gopher buck-teeth-on-a-stick and ticking off the U's research feats.
"Minnesota has not been making the same investment in education that we used to," Taylor Williams, president of the Minnesota Student Association, told the crowd. "Students want a better future ... but we have slowly left them behind as the cost of higher education skyrockets and Minnesota's investment in their future stagnates."
The U is requesting $91.6 million more in state funding over two years, an 8.4 increase. Meanwhile, legislators have their own demand: more data about the university's workforce.
Lawmakers who have asked difficult questions of the university on Thursday emphasized their support for its students and its research. Rep. Gene Pelowski, chairman of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, told the crowd that "it's time to stop the bleeding of higher education."
"It's time to stop the historic cuts. It's time to stop the historic tuition increases," he said. "It's time to stop the historic debt." U officials have tied part of their request -- an increase of $42.6 million over two years -- to a two-year tuition freeze for Minnesota resident undergrads.
During a hearing this week, Sen. Terri Bonoff asked that U President Eric Kaler commit to that freeze no matter the funding. "I'm asking you, regardless, to find a way to cap tuition for these students," she said.
After the rally, students scattered for meetings with legislators. Andrew Sletten, a junior at the Morris campus, hopes telling "a simple story about how in debt we are, how terrified we are about finding a job" will affect lawmakers, he said. "If any of that can stick here, I feel it's worthwhile."
Sletten said he thinks a tuition freeze is a good idea but worries it would be a bandage "on a much deeper problem."
All 12 members of the U's Board of Regents attended the noon rally. At their meeting afterward, they learned about progress on an analysis that legislators requested earlier this session.
After a Wall Street Journal article in December thrust perennial controversy over the university's spending into a brighter spotlight, Bonoff and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk asked for a report on its workforce by mid-March.
The university is "on a very fast track" to completing that analysis, said Kathy Brown, vice president for human resources.
It will likely show that "we have some areas which are very well-organized," she said, and others where managers might supervise too few people. "The question that arises is, 'Does that area need some reorganization?'" Brown said. A careful review will follow, she said. "These are real people and real jobs, so you have to be thoughtful."
In his budget, Gov. Mark Dayton set aside an $80 million increase for the U -- contingent on results of the March report.
During his speech in the Capitol rotunda, Kaler referred to the challenge. But, he told students, "I like our chances."

Some reader comments on the Strib article  follow:

If anyone would like to be amused, or enlightened, or perhaps just plain angered, google "Minnesota Public Employees Salaries"and click on "". It's a great database published by "that other" newspaper in town. Click on the U of M tab on the far left. You will have to click through 100 pages before you leave the list of persons that make more than $100,000.00 per year. Granted the majority of them are professors, but there are a load of administrative persons as well. I did not go lower than $99,000, but I bet there are lots of administrative people right around that point also. Btw, this is a good database to check out how much anyone makes who is any sort of public employee. It doesn't include K-12 though.

I am a U of M student, and was asked via email to go to this rally but I refused. The email stated that every 'student' that attended would get a free T-shirt, free lunch, and free transportation from the U to the Capitol and back. The students who went to this rally have to dig deeper getting behind President Kaler. Kaler will continue to support his do-nothing administrators who receive 6 figure salaries including his own. I want a tuition freeze as well, but the problem here is an internal one. I hope students got that message today.

I'm all for "robust funding" of the U and other public universities, but NOT until there's an audit.

The students have this wrong. They ought to be focused on Mr Kaler and the Regents. The U has self inflicted wounds due to their arrogance and refusal to reform. The U continues to be a bloated dinosaur who continues to fund their financial mismanagement on the backs of the students.

The students are getting the worst of both worlds. It is true that there has been mismanagement of funds by top administrators. This needs to stop. However, there has also been a severe decrease in state support for the university over the past decade, and Republicans have often used high profile stories about bad behavior by administrators as cover for deep cuts that usually hurt students and low-level staff instead of people at the top.

The UofM will NOT spend new taxpayer money on tuition relief. It will be windfall to blown as usual. Students ought to protesting the U of Ms bloated budget. The UofM is out of control.

Funding hasn't kept pace with skyrocketing costs. Go figure. Maybe the U should do something about the skyrocketing costs and then we can talk about funding.

"Republicans have often used high profile stories about bad by behavior by administrators as cover for deep cuts that usually hurt students and low-level staff instead of people at the top." Please provide a source that shows these deep cuts.

Before we give them any more money they need to get control of what is going on there now. Checkout UMore Park. This is the future city the U is planning with a staff (4 people - director making 171,000) and consultants(10 million). How does this waste continue when the they are demanding more money.

Feb. 8, 1312:03 PM
I hope our politicians have the good sense to evaluate any funding to the U based on merit and results instead of a "staged" event like this. Sounds like the Vikings Stadium all over again...

The little men who weren't there...

Or - Is there something rotten in the state of Denmark

Here is what I wrote about the study last month for the Mad in America blog:

“Later, in a trial known as Study 41, AstraZeneca compared Seroquel XR – the extended release version of Seroquel – to placebo in patients experiencing acute schizophrenia. The University of Minnesota was one of the study sites, and Charles Schulz was the site investigator. Remarkably, Study 41 showed Seroquel XR performing no better than placebo for schizophrenia.  In emails, AstraZeneca officials refer to Study 41 as a “failed study,” or “code red.” Advisors (such as Schulz) and employees were instructed not to discuss the study. So what did AstraZeneca do? They buried it and tried it again, this time in India, Bulgaria, Romania, the Philippines, Russia, Greece and South Africa. That trial was called Study 132, and it turned out positively. So in 2007 AstraZeneca published that study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The second author of that study was Charles Schulz, who presented the data at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association and served as the academic point man in company press releases.”

Mike Howard filed a complaint with the university about Schulz’s involvement in Study 41, pointing not only to the hiding of research results but to the fact that the study randomized some acutely psychotic patients to placebos, effectively depriving them of treatment for the duration of the study.  The response  to Howard came from Mark Rotenberg, the General Counsel, who wrote, “Dr. Schulz did not participate in Study 41, because no subjects were enrolled at the University.”

Rotenberg’s statement that Schulz was not involved appears to be at odds with the published study itself, which appeared in Psychopharmacology Bulletin in 2008.  In that journal article, Schulz is listed as a Study 41 investigator.  In fact, the published article has another surprise: Steven Olson is also listed as an investigator for Study 41.  Olson, of course, was the University of Minnesota principal investigator for the CAFÉ study in which Dan Markingson died.

This news raises a number of intriguing questions.  Did Study 41 actually take place at the University of Minnesota?  Was the protocol approved by the IRB?  Did Schulz and Olson each sign a Form 1572 for the FDA?  And why would Rotenberg claim that Schulz did not participate in the study when the published literature indicates that he did?

University of Minnesota Seeks State Funding

Lawmakers Want Administrative Spending Answers

From Minnesota Public Radio:

by Alex Friedrich, Minnesota Public Radio
February 7, 2013
(emphasis mine)
"Do we have too many people who are doing administrative kinds of things? We're working hard to find that out."
- Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS — For years, University of Minnesota chemistry professor Bill Gleason has been a vocal critic of university officials and the way they run the school.
One targets of his six-year-old blog, called "The Periodic Table," is what he considers a bloated bureaucracy.
"They've pretty much ignored most of the issues that I have raised," Gleason said.
That changed in December, when the Wall Street Journal reported the university had the largest percentage of managers and administrators among top research universities last year.
It said the university has hired a thousand administrators in the past decade even as tuition and fees more than doubled, far beyond the average increases among four-year public colleges.
University president Eric Kaler came into office at the end of that period, and he has promised to investigate. But Kaler says the Journal's data and conclusions are off.
Universities report their administrative data inconsistently, so the Journal's comparison wasn't fair. Kaler has pounded home that message in hearings and press conferences.
"It was an article written without a lot of context about the university," Kaler said. "It's one that clearly advocated a particular point of view around what drives tuition without focusing on the loss of state aid."
But some legislators have grilled university executives in recent hearings. Senate leaders expect an interim report on administrative spending from the university by March 15.
All this happens as the university also requests $92 million more from the legislature this biennium. University officials say that will enable them to fund research initiatives and enact a two-year freeze on tuition.
The governor has set aside $80 million for that in his budget proposal, but has made it contingent on a satisfactory report on administrative spending.
State officials haven't yet said what would constitute a satisfactory report. And it's unclear how much of the university's budget request the state will ultimately be able to afford, satisfactory report or not.
DFL state Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley said lawmakers do support students and the university' mission.
"I think what has changed is that there is a lot less confidence by legislators that appropriations sent to the University of Minnesota will feed their primary missions of teaching students and doing research."
For now, Kaler said he is not worried about the issue.
"Do we have too many people who are doing administrative kinds of things? We're working hard to find that out," he said.
Scrutiny of the university's administrative spending comes at a time when public tolerance of high tuition and student debt is at a breaking point nationwide. Almost two-thirds of University of Minnesota students graduate with student loans. The average debt of those university graduates is about $27,000.
Meanwhile, states have decreased higher-ed funding, prompting cuts at universities.
Making the matter worse, were news reports last year that the university paid out more than $2.5 million in separation and transition packages to 10 departing top university executives. Regents revamped executive compensation rules after that.
Mark Misukanis of New Pharos Consulting is the former director of finance and research at the state Office of Higher Education agrees with the Journal's conclusions, and says the current uproar is the most severe reaction he' has seen in 20 years of observing state relations with the university.
Misukanis says administrative expenses aren't the sole cause of high tuition, but they are an understandable target for parents, who then pressure legislators to reform the university.
"They're looking for a reason: Why do I have to borrow against my home in order to simply send my child on to college? What are the issues creating this big increase -- and why are you doing this to me?" Misukanis said. "Very personal. It becomes very personal."
Misukanis says that like many higher-ed institutions, the U tends to build a lot of centers and institutes, which leads to a lot of administrative overhead.
Gleason says parts of the university suffer from a mentality that resembles what he saw during his decade as a senior research chemist at 3M.
"People will brag about their headcount — how many people work for them. The more people who work for them, the better," Gleason said.
State Rep. Gene Pelowski of Winona said past legislatures bear some of the blame.
The DFL chairman of the House higher-education committee said lawmakers have failed to thoroughly question the university's spending in past years.
In his office, Pelowski flips through a hefty volume — one of the proposed higher-ed budgets from the late-1980s.
"It's huge. It's about 151 pages long. It has every change order, a description of what's being funded and what's being changed," Pelowski said. "And this is what we used to do for a thorough understanding of the budget."
Nowadays, he said, such a document would be about 10 pages. Pelowski said he has started to change that by demanding more data and asking tougher questions.
Regents will discuss elements of the university's interim report to the legislature at a regular meeting today.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Minnesota Senate Higher Education and 

Workforce Development Chair 

Asks University of Minnesota to Freeze Tuition

Regardless of Final Size of State Allocation

President Kaler as well as faculty and students made an appearance before the Higher Ed Committee yesterday. The stories told by three students about the size of the debt they face were very moving.

For more information, the complete session is available on line through the Minnesota Senate's Video Archive which may be found here

Saturday, February 2, 2013

To get funding boost, 

University of Minnesota 

must prove its need, lawmaker says


From the Minnesota House of Representatives Session Daily:

 - Sarah Lemagie

After weathering years of state funding cuts, University of Minnesota leaders are asking the Legislature for a significant bump in aid this year. To get it, they’ll have to do a better job showing exactly where the money goes and how much previous cuts have hurt, one key lawmaker told them Monday.

“The University of Minnesota has apparently no problem, in the course of any legislative session, showing us how successful it’s been,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona), chair of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. “…Where it appears to have great difficulty is showing us where it’s had to make tough choices.”

Pelowski’s terse remarks came midway through the committee’s first meeting of the year, days after Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a two-year budget proposal that includes $80 million in new funding for the university. At Pelowski’s request, several university administrators appeared at Monday’s meeting to give the committee a basic overview of the university and its budgeting process. That presentation included a slide summarizing more than $228 million in cost-cutting that the university has done since 2006, from staff layoffs to reduced spending on equipment.

But Pelowski made it clear that he wants a more detailed accounting of how the university’s programs have been hurt, criticizing administrators for what he says is a habit of illustrating that harm “in such a big picture it’s hard to comprehend.”
“We’d be happy to provide much more detail, if that’s what you would like,” replied Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university’s chief financial officer.

House members also expressed concern about rising tuition and student debt, both at the university and nationwide. In return for its requested bump in state aid, the university has pledged to freeze undergraduate tuition for Minnesota residents for the next two years.

Pelowski has said that the committee will also be taking a close look this session at the university’s administrative spending – a hot topic since a recent Wall Street Journal article singled out the university for ballooning administrative costs. Legislators have requested a report on the topic that that university plans to complete by March 15.



Friday, February 1, 2013

Crumbling Academic Infrastructure

at the University of Minnesota 

In October 2012 new U of M vice president Pamela Wheelock expressed her surprise about the physical condition of the Twin Cities campus:

When she was at the state she saw the University receive a lot of money for capital projects and assumed that the University buildings would all be in great shape--she was surprised at the magnitude of the capital issues the institution faces.  She noted the maps of the Twin Cities campus she had provided indicating by color code the overall condition of each building, and quite a number--more than half--are rated fair, poor (pink) or critical (red).

See p. 2 of the October 23, 2012 report of the Senate Committee on Finance & Planning (emphasis added).

The color codes used in the maps are based on the Facilities Condition Needs Index.  This Index shows the comprehensive condition of the building, taking all building system needs into account, but it does not necessarily reflect the functional nature of the building.  See Facility Condition Assessment.

Among the buildings marked critical are Morrill Hall, Johnston Hall, Eddy Hall and Scott Hall on the Minneapolis campus and the Crop Services Building and the Poulty Teaching & Research Building on the St. Paul campus.

Numerous buildings on the Minneapolis campus are in poor condition, including:

At the March 2012 Civic Caucas meeting President Kaler proclaimed that "we are the Silicon Valley of the food industry." See section 3 of The Rest of the Story. Yet most of the academic facilities on the St. Paul campus are in poor condition, including:


For more than a decade the U of M administration has devoted much of its energy and effort to securing hundreds of millions of dollars in state bonds for the construction of new buildings, including biomedical buildings, an alumni center, a football stadium, and a recreation center.  Major repairs and renovations of many existing academic facilities were relegated to the back burner.

The actions of the administration also created obstacles to obtaining the HEAPR bonds that are used for major repairs of existing buildings.  In 2008 the administration was castigated for its "arrogance" by the chair of the House Capital Investment Committee (that must approve all bonding bills).  See the May 28, 2008 Pioneer Press report.

In early 2012 the news broke that President Bruininks handed out millions of dollars in "transitional"compensation and golden parachutes to departing senior administrators.  This ignited a public firestorm about fiscal (mis)management by the administration.  The legislature responded by slashing the bonding bill for the University.  See The Incredible Shrinking Capital Request Part II

In June 2012 the legislative auditor concluded that the administration has "a fairly good preventive maintenance program for most University owned buildings on the Twin Cities campus."  That conclusion does not apply, however, to the major repairs and renovation for which HEAPR bonds are necessary:

This definition [of preventive maintenance] excludes repairs and renovation that are most often undertaken with capital as opposed to general operating funds. . . .
At some point, UMTC will need to replace large assets-due either to insufficient maintenance, breakdowns, or life cycles coming to an end--and UMTC may not have the necessary funds. . . .

We are at that point.  President Kaler provided the state legislature with the stunning estimate that the University needs "well more than $500 million if not closer to $1 billion" in HEAPR bonds.  See the February 9, 2012 Minnesota Daily report on Kaler Makes Pitch  (emphasis added).  The academic infrastructure is beginning to crumble around us.

Michael W. McNabb

University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974

University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member