Monday, September 15, 2014

The Phantom Reduction Part II

The Conjurer
"The Conjurer," painted by Hieronymus Bosch. The painting accurately displays a performer doing the cups and balls routine, which has been practiced since Egyptian times. The shell game does have some origins in this old trick. The real trick of this painting is the pickpocket who is working for the conjurer. The pickpocket is robbing the spectator who is bent over. Source

The Phantom Reduction Part II

"OK, so you're not raising tuition; why do the costs increase so much that we have to buy that freeze?"

State Senator Terri Bonoff in the September 12, 2014 Star Tribune report.

There are two principal reasons for the continuing escalation of costs at the University of Minnesota:

(1) The promise to reduce the cost of administration by $90 million over a six year period will not reduce the U of M budget by a single penny. President Kaler intends instead to simply spend the $90 million on "mission and mission support." See The Phantom Reduction.

(2) Reductions in some categories of expenses are more than offset by increases in other categories.

There was a net increase of $41.7 million in expenditures for mission support and facilities (from $956,896,120 in fiscal year 2012 to $998,643,697 in fiscal year 2013). There was a net increase of $7.9 million in expenditures for leadership (from $263,801,546 in fiscal year 2012 to $271,699,441 in fiscal year 2013).

The one expense that is most symbolic of the cost of administration is the compensation for leadership. The highly paid senior administrators, deans and directors collected an additional $2,250,198 in compensation for fiscal year 2013. (The total compensation for those leaders in fiscal year 2013 was $104,088,093.) See A Complete Accounting.

A former interim U of M president observed in November 2013 that "with real productivity gains, tuition could actually be reduced, assuming that state funding for the U holds where it is at currently." (emphasis added) See A Question of Productivity.
The Star Tribune has advocated a concentration on greater efficiency:
A freeze at the price Kaler and Rosenstone propose appears to resume a pre-2008 growth rate that had long exceeded the rate of inflation. It wouldn't appear to give the institutions much incentive for changes in higher education that might slow that growth rate or bring costs down. 
See the September 18, 2014 Star Tribune editorial
It will be necessary to stop and then reverse the escalating costs of higher education in order to reduce the staggering amount of student loan debt. The eventual solution will involve substantial reductions in the cost of administration and better allocation of state appropriations. See Whose Fault--Crushing Student Debt  and Devouring Our Children.

Michael W. McNabb

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

For the Record: Most damning evidence in #Markingson case from Minnesota Board of Social Work

The U of M administration uses this 2005 FDA conclusion as a primary reason to reject calls for another investigation. But in 2012 the Minnesota Board of Social Work took corrective action against the social worker who was the study coordinator. Perhaps the most damning findings were these:

2(g)(1) Despite the large amount of data gathered as part of the CAFE study, the records are devoid of any evidence that the data was critically analyzed or used in the treatment planning process. . . 
2 (g)(4) There were critical omissions in Licensee's [U of M study coordinator] documentation that were relevant to suicide prevention and chemical dependency treatment. . . 
2(h) On March 17, 2004 Licensee received an e-mail message from the CAFE study sponsor warning of a new risk of hyperglycemia and diabetes for patients taking medications used in the CAFE study. This new information effectively invalidated client #1's [Dan Markingson's] original informed consent.

See pp. 3--4 of the report of the Minnesota Board of Social Work (emphasis added).

See also A Question of Accountability

Monday, September 8, 2014

For the Record: Univ. of Minnesota faculty concerns about investigation into clinical trials

Sep 7, 2014

Last fall 14 faculty senators at the University of Minnesota called for the Faculty Senate to take action to address ethical concerns arising from the tragic death of Dan Markingson in a clinical trial conducted at the University of Minnesota. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution last December calling for an independent investigation, and President Kaler agreed to conduct such an investigation. Unfortunately, events since then have led some of the senators who called for a review to have serious concerns about both the scope of the review and the impartiality of the team conducting it. The letter appended below, which we have sent to Vice President for Research Brian Herman and Professor Will Durfee, expresses some of our concerns. 

The team conducting the investigation will be on campus this week (Tuesday and Wednesday).

Two of the signatories of the letter, Naomi Scheman  have agreed to serve as our media contacts.

In addition, at the end of the email, you will find useful links that provide background information about the independent investigation.


Teri L. Caraway
Associate Professor and Faculty Senator
Department of Political Science
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities


Dear Vice President Herman and Professor Durfee 

As members of the University of Minnesota Faculty Senate who called for an investigation into human subject research at the University in the wake of the Markingson case (as detailed in the "whereas" sections of the resolution), we would like to express our concerns with the process as it is unfolding so far. Although the resolution passed by the Senate and supported by President Kaler called for a review of present policies and practices, it has been clear to us that a review can serve the stated purpose of clearing the cloud of suspicion about the treatment of vulnerable human subjects only if it also looks at relevant aspects of the past. In particular, an investigation of "present practices" needs to include how the University has dealt and is dealing with--including learning from--serious allegations concerning past practices. 

Our intention of communicating that conviction to the review team has, however, come up against concerns regarding conflicts of interest on the part both of members of the review team and of AAHRPP, which selected the team and is supervising the review. Put simply: we are convinced that a credible review would need to investigate the Markingson case, but that such an investigation would itself need to be credible, especially in light of the history of the University's appealing to clearly noncredible reviews as supposedly exonerating; and the conflicts of interest raise serious questions about the credibility of the present review. 

We do not want to prejudge the work of the review team or to impugn the integrity of its members. We do, however, want to put on the record our sense that the review is not proceeding in a way that seems likely to satisfy the principal requirements behind the resolution we brought to the Senate: for a genuinely credible, independent review that takes a hard look at how the University dealt--and continues to deal--with activities that are widely perceived as profound breaches of ethical responsibility.


Teri L. Caraway, Associate Professor, Political Science
Cesare Casarino, Professor, Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature
Francis Harvey, Associate Professor, Geography, Environment, & Society
Amy Kaminsky, Professor, Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies
Rick McCormick, Professor, German, Scandinavian, & Dutch
William Messing, Professor, School of Mathematics
Kevin P. Murphy, Associate Professor, History and American Studies
David Pellow, Professor, Sociology
Riv-Ellen Prell, Professor, American Studies
Naomi Scheman, Professor, Philosophy
JB Shank, Associate Professor, History
Karen-Sue Taussig, Associate Professor, Anthropology 

cc: Eric Kaler, Eva von Dassow, and Rebecca Ropers-Huilman


October 2013 letter from 170+ scholars calling for an investigation:

List of signatures from October 2013 letter:

November 2013 letter from faculty senators to the FCC:

Minutes from the Faculty Senate meeting that passed the resolution calling for an investigation (starts on page 16; the resolution was amended as described in the minutes):

The RFP:

The AAHRPP's proposal:

Professor Trudo Lemmens's et al April 2014 letter to President Kaler regarding the RFP:

Public Citizen's letter expressing concerns about the investigation:

Professor Trudo Lemmens's et al June 2014 letter to President Kaler:

Professor Leigh Turner's July 16, 2014, letter to the AAHRPP regarding conflicts of interest:

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

U of M Scoreboard: Athletics Department 84, All Other Departments 16

U of M Scoreboard: Athletic Department 84  

All Other Departments 16

The U of M administration has announced a $25 million donation from Land O' Lakes. Of the total amount $21 million (84%) goes to the athletic department and $4 million (16%) goes to all other (academic) departments.

This new commitment and innovative model of support . . . will further position the U as a continued leader in addressing society's pressing challenges.

President Eric Kaler in the September 3, 2014 Star Tribune report at (emphasis added).

Especially that pressing challenge of winning football and basketball games.

The writer of a letter to the editor in the September 5 Star Tribune argued for excellence in both sports and academics at the U of M. But there is a limit to available funds. Most large universities, including the U of M, continue to provide annual multi-million dollar subisdies (in direct and indirect support) to their atheltic departments despite the exponential increase in TV revenues. See Athletic AccountingBeyond the cost, big time sports are simply irrelevant to the purposes of a university.

The window to the U of M is not athletics (as President Kaler claimed in the September 5 column of Sid Hartman) but rather its performance in the fields of education, research and public service. Imagine the effect of the Land O' Lakes $25 million donation if the U of M administration had persuaded the company to give most of the funds for those purposes. A donation for agricultural research would have promoted the University and the state economy as well as the corporate purpose of Land O' Lakes, the purpose of its foundation, and the financial interests of its shareholders.

Michael W. McNabb

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

University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member 

Comment by Bill Gleason:

I noticed a tweet from the Ministry of Propaganda this morning:

Seems a little misleading in light of the distribution of the loot ...

Perhaps they are embarrassed?