On the evening of April 2, 2015 students, staff and faculty of the University of Minnesota gathered on campus in Ford Hall for The People’s State of the University. The Peoples State of the University was held an hour after the carefully scripted university’s State of the University address given by President Kaler.
In his PR driven script Kaler maintained his typically vague language and claimed credit for much of the hard work done by students, staff and faculty at the university to achieve meaningful and progressive gains over the past year. Kaler also laid the foundation for hard hits to students in the form of a tuition increase when, in his prepared remarks “We will probably get back to a period in which we have relatively modest 2 or 3 percent tuition increases,” after highlighting “his” great accomplishment of a tuition freeze over the past two years.
The real source of pressure to hold the line on tuition came from SDS in the form of years of resistance and demands to end the increases to tuition and cut administrative spending. These efforts culminated in a 2013 all campus election referendum that passed overwhelmingly by over 85% that demanded an end to tuition increases, a cut to administrative bloat and an reinvestment in the educational mission of the university.
While in 1993-94 tuition was $3,421 it has skyrocketed to $13,626 today, an increase of 143% after adjusting for inflation. While Kaler has insisted, like many administrators, that the source of this rise has been state or federal spending cuts a recent New York Times article highlighted the source that SDS has been citing all along with its allies- bloated administration.
In the wake of a damning report from the Wall Street Journal last year, which cited the University of Minnesota as the most over administrated university in the United States, the New York Times article highlights, “a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration,” adding that between 1975 and 2008 there was a 221% increase of administrative roles.
The Wall Street Journal cited the University of Minnesota as having the most excessive spending on administration but it also highlighted the same facts pointed out by the Times regarding the outrageous ratio of administrators to students, staff and faculty.
Thus what Kaler is suggesting the university has to “get back” to is a tuition rate that increases at double the rate of inflation and that in total will double every decade to fill he and his administrators pockets with more money.
While President Kaler tries to take credit for “freezing” tuition, what we really need is a reduction of tuition. Any cut in tuition will require a cut to administration, which is why we have been telling administrators for years to “fund education not administration!”
President Kalers carefully scripted State of the University also used buzzwords and elitism to entice corporate investors and big money donors while ignoring the impact that it has had on education at our states major land grant public university.
For example President Kaler proudly stated that “we must intentionally reject complacency about diversity and campus climate,” but in doing so neglected acknowledging his own “ntentional efforts to avoid meeting with and engaging in meaningful dialogue with students of color in the ‘Whose Diversity?’ collective when they occupied his office after months of administrative negligence and rejection.
President Kaler also tried to claim that it was born of his own efforts to remove “some” racial description from crime alerts, suggesting it was at an open public meeting over “six months ago” that a few students addressed the issues for the first time with him. The PR machine even adopted two students to grant credit to while neglecting to mention the demand was risen over six months ago in a set of demands authored by ‘Whose Diversity?’ which was delivered to administrators well over six months ago.
President Kaler also failed to mention his efforts to create an inclusive and diverse environment on campus include cutting the Chicano/Chicana Latino/Latina Studies program. Cutting ethnic studies programs that were waged through student led struggles historically can help white wash and strip the power of students to have a meaningful voice in creating a truly inclusive, inviting and democratic environment where student needs come over administrative greed.
Finally President Kaler “recognized” that research ethics at the University of Minnesota are “a problem,” for the first time after years of vocal criticism from professors like Bio-Ethics professor Carl Elliot and many other student and community voices.
Kaler had little choice after two independent investigations recently condemned the university at length forcing it to stop all research involving human subjects after it was found there is a “a culture of fear and intimidation around research ethics.”
There remains much to be explored and unveiled in terms of extensive conflicts of interest between research at the university and private pharmaceutical companies who help the university conduct research. A systemic failure like this can only be the result of institutional corruption, negligence and deceit from the highest levels. Accountability must come down on the medical research programs as well as the President and the Board of Regents who have continued to ignore, deny and categorically cover up the scandal for years.
The time has long since passed for change at the University of Minnesota. Students for a Democratic Society will continue to demand justice and accountability. We say “Education is a Right!” There is no more time for empty rhetoric, PR campaigns or cute photos of administrators with students and staff that they systematically extort in the name of education. Join us in our struggle for justice and education!
-Wall Street Journal Article:
-New York Times Article on the Real Reason College Costs So Much:
-On the Research Practices of the University of Minnesota: