Recently, University President Robert Bruininks sent out an appeal to University alumni: Please petition the State Legislature for increased funds. In conjunction with his modest request of the Legislature – the lowest proposed funding in ten years – Bruininks is shaping a much different persona from his predecessor, Mark Yudof. Whereas Yudof engaged in highly charged and highly publicized battles with former Gov. Jesse Ventura, Bruininks is taking a more passive and non-confrontational approach. Although time will tell how the University will be served best, it seems the appropriate tack for these circumstances.
Certainly strong advocacy from a leader is desirable; sometimes it is the squeaky wheel which gets the grease. However, under the current economic conditions it might better serve the University for Bruininks to forge a relationship with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty than to fire a shot over the bow. Encouraging grassroots support without directly demanding an unachievable funding increase brings University awareness to the Legislature while still building for the future. There are times to be zealous and times to be reasonable. It is an encouraging sign of Bruininks’ tenure that he knows the difference.