So far we’ve heard comments mostly from folks at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.
So I asked Mark Privratsky, a U of M Morris student who’s also vice chairman of the University of Minnesota Student Senate. He was one of the student leaders who has a sit-down with Kaler today before he faced the Board of Regents for final questioning.
Here’s his take, which I edited for length and focus:
Eric Kaler was great conversationally, showing humor when appropriate and also confidence in his answers. He seems like a great natural leader to me, which, as a student who is involved in campus and university government, means a lot. Not all administrators are always personable and show natural leadership characteristics, but Kaler certainly seems to. As I had read in articles, he also comes across as someone who hears what you say and will take it into account. He was very able to display how he had found problems at Stony Brook, and created a good solution, which I appreciated. However, his knowledge of the U of M as a whole was not outstanding. I expected a bit more specific knowledge of the University from him, as he has been involved in the search for some time.
He did seem to have good ideas in terms of cutting administrative costs, which anyone below administrative level always loves to hear. He was clear that he has great experience dealing with legislators, describing his experience in NY politics as “an 8000-level political science lab course.” However, it is hard to be optimistic about any new president gaining us ground in the upcoming budget cycle.
Kaler stated clearly that the U of M is not diverse enough, and went on to describe his track record of improving diversity (such as Stony Brook’s graduation rate of African Americans being higher than its graduation rate for whites). When asked about GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) issues he stated that we must be an “open and accepting environment.”
Overall, his best quality to me may be that he was straightforward and honest. He lacked knowledge about the coordinate campuses (Editor’s note: That means other U of M campuses), but didn’t especially try to cover that up. I think he will be someone that individuals at the University of Minnesota will like to have conversations with. He seems to bring a creative perspective on how to raise revenue, cut costs, and develop our program goals at the University as a whole. I think that with six months of training, Eric Kaler with be very prepared to be the next President.