State of the administration

Students have a much different view of the university than top administrators do.

Daily Editorial Board

In his March 1 State of the University address, President Eric Kaler spoke of many issues pertaining to the student body but not always with our interests as first priority. From a radical new academic calendar to salary and tuition increases, many of his points were couched in optimistic language but disconnected from the typical student’s experience. It’s rather difficult, from a student’s perspective, to see the “balances” in his vision. The burden of declining state support, for example, is not balanced across the University of Minnesota. Students have taken large tuition increases year after year, while the salaries of top administrators continue to rise.

A more extraordinary idea revealed at the address, and perhaps the most student-friendly, was that of a three semester academic calendar. Only time will be able to sort out the details, but it seems that this would add flexibility and options for students, especially those who change majors later in their academic careers, study abroad or opt for multiple majors. His principle claim that students would graduate early, however, would not actually lower costs for those students, and the option is inaccessible to those who need to work in the summertime to pay for their continuing studies.

Kaler also proposed cutting paperwork by no longer inventorying 23,000 currently tracked pieces of equipment. This type of focus highlights how the administrators are “penny wise and pound foolish.” The “hundreds and hundreds of human hours” this project would save come from low-salary employees and pale in comparison to what cutting top administration could achieve.

Many of the speech’s attendees were keen to criticize the large severance packages former President Bob Bruininks gave to top administrators. The new administration has hardly improved. For example, Kaler recently gave athletics director Joel Maturi what effectively amounted to a golden parachute.

Kaler also pledged to “hold the line on administrative costs.” These words are simply hollow. His recommended compensation increase for all employees includes administrators, and his own compensation is significantly larger than his predecessor’s.

Kaler has on numerous occasions lambasted the state’s waning support for higher education funding, and this occasion was no exception. Yet Kaler also seems to maintain a deaf ear to the public’s vocal demands that his treasure hunt begin in Morrill Hall with administrators’ bloated salaries and severance packages. Students don’t expect our president to be entirely selfless and renounce his whole salary. We do, however, expect him to value students and faculty ahead of administrators.

His last initiative was to encourage leaves of absences to researchers’ development of commercial ideas. It is unclear right now whether this would create private profit from publicly funded research, detract from the University’s income from faculty’s creations or attract otherwise unattainable faculty while increasing technological and academic innovation.

The current state of the University for students is far from ideal. Tuition will still rise next semester. The two-thirds of students who graduate with an average of almost thirty thousand dollars in debt were admitted by Kaler to be “a real challenge.” Our tuition pays Kaler’s salary of more than $600,000 — we should demand more than his acknowledgment of our plight but rather a concrete solution to this challenge we face. The state of the University for top administrators is not the same as it is for its students.