Regents profs ask to postpone Grad School reconstruction

The request by regents professors shows little signs of being met by administration.

A letter signed by 18 current and former University of Minnesota Regents professors will not be enough to halt the reconstruction of the Graduate School, despite the professorsâÄô specific request to postpone the measure. âÄúThis is not a matter that should be taken lightly: the Graduate School has served us for 104 years, and if we choose to disband it, we should do so with full understanding of the costs and benefits,âÄù the letter, which more than half of the UniversityâÄôs distinguished faculty signed, states. Regents professorships are the UniversityâÄôs highest honor a professor can receive and are appointed by the Board of Regents. In total, there are 27 current Regents professors, 14 of whom signed the letter. Four retired Regents professors also signed. The letter states the decision to âÄúdissolveâÄù the Graduate School jeopardizes the UniversityâÄôs core principles of âÄútransparency and faculty governance ,âÄù two principles that the letterâÄôs drafter, Regents professor Steven Ruggles, said President Bob Bruininks and Senior Vice-Provost Tom Sullivan have advocated in the past. âÄúIt just seems like it kind of flies in the face of those principles,âÄù Ruggles said. Many of the professors who chose to sign the letter, including retired Regents professor Sara Evans and current Regents professors Matthew McGue and John Sullivan , said they did so out of frustration with how the decision was made. In response to the letter, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail that the administration consulted with deans, faculty, and past and present directors of graduate studies about the reconstruction and that the issue has been discussed regularly for a number of years. The letter and numerous interviews with professors and student leaders in the school, however, contests the UniversityâÄôs claims. âÄúThere was no prior consultation with faculty,âÄù the letter states. âÄúOnly the collegiate deans âÄî who report directly to the senior vice presidents and depend on them for their budgets âÄî had any advance notice that this was taking place. None of the senior administrators âÄî not even the dean âÄî had any advance warning.âÄù Board of Regents Chair Patricia Simmons said they will respond to the letter directly and consider the professorsâÄô concern over the lack of faculty consultation, but the decision on how to handle the reconstruction is ultimately up the UniversityâÄôs administration. âÄúWhen it comes to creating any new programs or eliminating any programs then the board must act, but for reorganization we wouldnâÄôt,âÄù Simmons said. Simmons does not anticipate the board will make a formal recommendation to the administration based on the letterâÄôs concerns. Although the letter was sent by the Regents professors on Thursday evening in hopes that the board would discuss it at their Friday meeting, it was not addressed. Wolter said in the e-mail that the University appreciates the Regents professorsâÄô âÄúengaging dialogue and commitment to strong graduate education.âÄù However, the establishment of an implementation team, which will be made up of faculty and students, is still underway, he said in the e-mail. The University originally wanted to establish the implementation team by Friday, but it has been pushed back to later this week. When the letter was first e-mailed to members of the Board of Regents Thursday night, only 14 professors had signed, but by Friday the number had risen to 18. Some of the professors who signed the letter believe decentralization might be a good policy, but most are unsure over the merit of the decision. McGue and Evans said they do not know enough about the reconstruction to comment, while Regents professor Sullivan said he believes the decision could hurt the quality of the UniversityâÄôs best programs by pushing for an equal distribution of funds, rather than based on merit. Several of the Regents professors who did not sign the letter denied to comment or did not return calls.