If you ran the University of Minnesota, what three things would you do to make it better?

The University of Minnesota is in the process of selecting a new president. The lone finalist, Eric Kaler, is taking part today in a public interview with the Board of Regents. Today’s Question: If you ran the University of Minnesota, what three things would you do to make it better?

  • Bryan

    First, I’d rename it “University of Wisconsin – Twin Cities!”

    In all seriousness, one thing I’d copy from the Badgers is how effective they’ve been in commercializing their research discoveries. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) has been a key element in the UW’s success in this area.

  • Steve the Cynic

    One thing: get rid of football and announce to the world that this is a serious academic institution.

  • Jeff

    I would put more focus into the science and engineering fields (since those types of jobs will be the future of this state and country). I would increase the resources in those fields and I would reduce the number of required liberial education classes (currently it is practically impossible to graduate within 4 years for most engineering majors due to these requirements). Next I would reduce salary and benefits of some of the top paid people at the University so you don’t have professors getting raises on top of their $100k salaries while students are going over $100k in debt to pay for tuition increases.

  • DNA

    What three things would I do to make it better?

    Expand research into cybernetics, entheogenics, and oneirogenics, including all things Hemp/Cannabis, from history and medicine to mythology and technology. Of course University Extension would be expanded to support statewide and world-round increase of intelligence and wise application with technology (and the arts) for the betterment of all beings and the planet.

  • Kevin VC

    I have learned the University of Minnesota use to be free to Minnesotans who maintained a GPA and were natives, not sure if this was true.

    But the 20% per year tuition hikes need to stop.

    That is worse then many credit cards.

    1.) Emphasis on making the money go to education, Administration and sports are not what I paid tuition for.

    2.) Make opportunities for students who can not afford college more affordable. That its NOT limited to bellow poverty or connections. To many of the scholarships and grants are NEVER openly shown as opportunities to students of need. And each of the tuition hikes hurt the middle to lower income students proportionally then others. Additionally jobs on campus having fast track to hiring to STUDENTS or persons enrolling.

    If you can maintain your grades above a B and you are bellow 50K a year college should really made affordable. And I do not MEAN LOANS!

    3.) That classes are not 500 students big with a Teacher’s Assistant who does not speak English natively is NOT ALLOWED.

    Nothing more annoying then trying to get help and they do not even know English. And that had happened to me in a computer science class.

  • Duane

    1) eliminate General Coillege; use MNSCU system for unqualified students and raise admission standards to the undergraduate units of the University of MN

    2) Consolidate academic units to various centers of excellence academic programs to reduce duplication.

    3) Prioritize research endeavors to attract the most talented academic faculty and graduate students. To attract private business opportunities to Minnesota by bolstering a well educated and trained population.

  • Jim

    I would change these things:

    1. Eliminate sport scholarships

    2. Increase class offerings. Classes taught every year vs. every other year, so students can graduate faster.

    3. MAKE PROFESSORS TEACH!!! When I was a Grad. student there, the College of Biological Science professors were expected to teach ONLY 1 quarter class every other year. That was 30 hours of classroom time every 2 years. Imagine the education if the professors taught.

  • Amy

    As a graduate of University of MN- Duluth ( all campuses are under the same umbrella), I would say the biggest thing would be figuring out a way to lower tuition! There was a 50% increase in tuition from the time I started my first semester to when I graduated, which is completely ridiculous. That was 2001-2005, so I can’t even bring myself to see what tuition costs for students now…. Other issues I think should be resolved are availability and selection of classes. Registration was a nightmare because you never really knew if you were going to get the classes you wanted before they filled up, can’t even imagine what its like now.

  • Joanna

    FYI, Duane, The General College was already eliminated a couple of years ago.

    My three suggestions (as a UofMN faculty member who is neither overpaid, nor underworked)

    #1 to improve the undergraduate experience: Fix the formula by which money is allocated internally. Right now, money is being sucked out of the College of Liberal Arts (which does 50% of undergraduate teaching) and redistributed to other Colleges and Central Administration. While some redistribution of funds to support central programs such as libraries and IT is necessary, the net result has been that CLA departments are understaffed, both in terms of faculty and support staff such as advisers and IT support. This is one reason why undergraduates cannot take the classes they need in a timely manner to graduate (and NOT because there are “too many” liberal ed requirements for engineers!). This mechanism affects all the colleges negatively, not just CLA, but that is the one I know best.

    I recommend that people read the CLA 2015 Task Force report for some very specific recommendations about how to fix this problem (including very clear explanations of the math of the budget allocation formulas).

    Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Liberal Arts (Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) DO pay for themselves by generating revenue through tuition credit-hours (ie: numbers of students taught); they DO have internationally recognized research agendas; professors in CLA DO teach their full course loads; like other Colleges at the U, CLA does have many award-winning teachers, and has pioneered nationally recognized innovations in Learning Abroad, Service Learning, Undergraduate Research opportunities, use of digital technology in instruction, and any number of other graduate research programs and nationally recognized Research Centers.

    But we lost 10% of our faculty last year alone due to cancelled searches. That’s one in ten professors–poof! vanished. How can we staff our classes without people? How can departments fulfill their missions when they lack key staff support for advising, scheduling classes, carrying out basic communication? This is not rocket science. Even a literature professor like me can do the math.

    #2 In spite of tough times, the majority of people working at the U are working very hard to do the best in difficult circumstances. Some respect and support from alums, the general public and the legislature instead of whining about the football team would go a very long way in boosting morale!!! Engage positively and help us preserve one of Minnesota’s greatest assets.

    #3 I’d ask the STUDENTS themselves to become more active in letting their wishes be known, and taking part in shaping the vision of the University. I asked my students what questions they’d have for the new president, and was astonished that none of them had every acted on any of their complaints. Students have a big role to play in University governance. Stop behaving like passive consumers, and make a positive and constructive contribution to working with faculty and administrators who DO care about you and about your education.We can’t do it without you! See something not working? don’t just complain about it; do something to help fix it, starting by COMMUNICATING with the University Admnistration. They need to hear from you directly.

  • Joe

    I am a former staff member at the U. In the 5 years I worked there I witnessed far, far too much wasteful spending which needs to be stopped in order for the U to survive at reasonable tuition rates.

    I’ve witnessed everything from hundreds of thousands wasted on consultants and piss poor software packages, to replacing employee’s computers every year and even giving them huge or dual monitors for working on spreadsheets.

    I also know quite a few individuals at the U who are essentially dead weight employees (I’m not being harsh, but honest) whom make upwards of 100K / yr. Not to mention I’ve also seen managers making this salary who manage literally 3-4 people. This is money taken directly out of the pockets of students.

    If something isn’t done to tighten the wasteful spending, eliminate redundant or useless positions the U will continue wasting $$ on non-essentials to education.

  • Ron

    1-Change the mindset among administrators – the University is NOT a business. That does not mean the University does not have to spend wisely and meet budgets. However, the mission of the University is much, much different that any business. And reduce the number of administrators, which has grown substantially in the past decade.

    2-Work with faculty to create two distinct faculty tracks: 1) Teaching faculty and 2) Research faculty. Faculty cannot do both (well) and those who try to focus on teaching are generally punished by departments to doing so. Teaching faculty track would focus on teaching as a high level. Research faculty would focus on research. Both tracks are on same pay scale and advancement process. This would benefit students GREATLY.

    3-Get serious about what a true university education is really about – it is not just about learning skills to make money. It is about a broad exposure to a number of areas and then focusing on a specific, rigorous discipline. But it is also a very safe environment in which to take some risks, expose yourself to new areas, broaden your knowledge and challenge your beliefs. Incorporating strong liberal arts courses into all disciplines greatly increases the likelihood of pushing students to becoming more than just someone with skills and a degree – it pushes them to become well-rounded thinkers, leaders (in work and in community) and visionaries who not only have a better shot at a fulfilling career but more important a fulfilling life.

  • JO ANN

    1. I would work on helping students plan for a how their education can be applied in the real world. Yes, the UM does owe the student a career/employment opp on graduation–the students have just spent over $40,000 to be educated–it has to be worth more than a piece of paper.

    2. Online. Use tech. Get rid of those buildings! Push creativity!

    3. Yes, I am in the arts and I say we need a top of the line football team–that is where the big buck donors are attracted.

  • Jeff

    Joanna – “This is one reason why undergraduates cannot take the classes they need in a timely manner to graduate (and NOT because there are “too many” liberal ed requirements for engineers!).”

    Actually the lib ed requirements do at least a semester (beyond 4 years) to many of the engineering degrees. Virtually every person I knew in the electrical engineering program went to school for 4.5 years (if not 5 years), I got done in 4 years but it took 4 summer classes to do it. If you look at the EE program it takes 103 credits just to finish the technical program (all required or prereq’s for those required classes) and then there are an additional 14 lib ed requirements (not credits but actual classes). The EE degree only requires 126 credits but almost everyone has at least 135 cedits by the time they graduate, I ended up with 139 credits at the end and every single class I took counted toward some sort of requirement toward my degree (I didn’t take a single class for fun or for the hell of it). If students are having problems getting into a class it only takes a couple of e-mails to the administrators/professors and they will give you “magic numbers” to enroll in that class; just tell them you are attempting to graduate in 4 years and you absolutely need that class to graduate they’ll let you take whatever class you want.

  • Joanna

    Jeff, respectfully, engineering is an outlier in that regard; your experience and that of engineering in general is not the norm, and has to do with CSE’s requirements.

    And the days of “magic numbers,” alas, are long gone for most of us. It is unfair of me to admit students on the basis of an email (that does not always contain all the facts) over those who are on the waiting list and who have equally valid reasons to need the class. I refer students who lobby me personally to our advisors, who work with them to find the best solution to their needs, with access to their transcripts and programs. Overcrowding my classes does not serve my students well.

  • Paul

    #1: Merge the U’s puny “system” with MNSCU to eliminate duplication with the State Colleges. In other words, do what Wisconsin does. And that’s why tuition is is $3,000+ less per year at their flagship school and their rankings (OK, and football team) are so much better.

  • Lawrence

    Obviously, making tuition affordable for Minnesota students is first, even if that means making deals with for profit companies. I’d also like to see us place more emphasis in the college of liberal arts. The U is already known for its medical research, business college, public policy, and animal medicine schools. Not much is really known about its liberal arts degree programs Build the University of Minnesota brand name. Michgian and Ohio State are known for their sports, Wisconsin and Northwestern for its academics, Iowa and Purdue for agribusiness skills, but it seems Minnesota, nationally is just known for being the Gopher State. It would be nice to be known for something, instead of just being another Big Ten School, like Illinois, Penn State, and Indiana.

  • Dennis s. Ferche, Ph.D.

    If I ran the U., I would annouce to All a program to do the following: I) Inform All that I view the role of public bodies to First Do No Harm–I would REVIEW to see where harm may have been done, and where it may be occuring, due to the Us. influence, then, II) I would involve All is Planning and Responsibly Responding to Findings via the above review–Currently I would generate public input and concerns pertaining to: a) pesticides and fertilizers (Nobel Prize winners) that are harming our waters from here to the Gulf of Mexico, b) Pharmaceuticals

    that are disrupting our hormone systems, c) Antibiotics and Growth Horomones affecting animals and humans as well d) Athletic Directors with million dollar contracts–I’d request that all at U. meditate to figure out how to pay coaches at least $1 less than I and that employeses not come to work until they figure it out. e)……..and I would arrange for REVIEW of the effectiveness of the Responses for taking responsibility. 3) I would Plan New endeavors towards a more healthful, joyful, and sustainable future; e.g., in the field of energy–end the primitive burning of coal on campus (no nukes please)–remedy the shaky windows; and, I would REVIEW the new endeavors on a regular basis; REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW and then celebrate, if and when proven results of worth are attained. Cheers, Dennis

  • ben

    1) Make text book publishers offer text books as e-books at GREATLY reduced prices, like 99 cents.

    2) Offer all lectures on-line live and podcast for later viewing.

    3) Improve on-campus parking.

  • Peter T

    As others have remarked before, the level of tuition is concern number one. I don’t think there are concerns number two and number three, maybe four and five, quality of teaching and of research, respectively. Every Minnesotan student with sufficient GPA should be able to visit a university without having to shoulder a crushing debt burden. State support for the U should be made conditional on meeting that goal. If the U continues to hike tuition instead of lowering it, the state should support other colleges.

  • Alex V

    1) Re-open General College

    2) End the “Party Patrol” operation of the UMPD

    3) Refuse to buy new editions of textbooks from publishers every year, and push them to offer their books in electronic format at a reduced price.