Kaler talks fees, Dan Markingson case

by Christopher Aadland

One day after University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler gave his fourth State of the University address, he sat down with the Minnesota Daily for AprilâÄôs edition of KickinâÄô It with Kaler. Kaler discussed a recent report that cited ethical concerns in the UniversityâÄôs human research programs, the qualities heâÄôd like to see in the schoolâÄôs new police chief and the upcoming Rolling Stones concert at TCF Bank Stadium. Q: The Aurora Center announced that it is hiring a male engagement coordinator. Do you support this move as a way to engage more men in sexual assault discussions on campus? A: This is a smart move for them. Men are also victims of sexual assault. âĦ IâÄôm also very hopeful that [the coordinator] will be able to be out in the community and help with education and really build this sort of peer-to-peer conversation thatâÄôs going on in places, and just help men realize their responsibilities and obligations to behave appropriately. Q:The University of Minnesota Police Department will soon have a new police chief. What are some qualities that youâÄôd like to see in a new chief? A:Clearly integrity, professionalism, experience but [also] compassion. At the end of the day, the University police deal very frequently with students, and the idea of being able to make that interaction as positive for the student as it can be is important. I see [UMPD] at work, and they are very responsible and very supportive and helpful as they enter a situation where thereâÄôs a conflict or overconsumption of alcohol âÄî bad situations. So the force right now is at a very good place and should welcome a new leader that has those passions. Q: Some student leaders are concerned with how the student services fees are distributed each year, and some are considering reforming the process to increase student groupsâÄô accountability and ensure that essential programs receive funding. Do you think this process needs to be changed? I think it needs to be looked at âĦ clearly the number of student organizations is growing. The appetite for resources is growing. But this is a part of the cost of attendance at the University of Minnesota, and I work hard to control our tuition and housing costs, and so IâÄôd like this group to work hard to control the student service fees as well. âĦ ThatâÄôs a reason that I sent back the earlier recommendations and requested that they cap [the increase to student services fees to] 3 percent, which I think is what theyâÄôre going to do. Q:It was recently reported that the campus publication the Minnesota Republic was warned that the Student Service[s] Fees Committee may pay close attention to the paperâÄôs content in the future when allocating funds after it said an image printed on the back of a 2011 issue of the publication was insensitive to Arabs. Some said this could have a chilling effect on free speech at the University, and the committee has since admitted it made a mistake. Do you agree? A: They made a mistake. âĦ You canâÄôt, I think, threaten any publication with a funding cut if you donâÄôt agree with what theyâÄôre publishing. ThatâÄôs not how our system works. Q: You gave your fourth State of the University address Thursday. What made this address different from other addresses? I think we’ve reached the stage of my administration where weâÄôve been working hard on new directions and new ideas, so it was a chance to really report on the things that we’ve done, instead of the things that weâÄôre planning to do. So for example, last year, I talked a lot about what the strategic plan was going to be, and now I can talk about what it is and how weâÄôre going to implement it. I could talk about the fact that weâÄôre looking at campus climate around diversity and equity, and now this year, I could report on progress that we’ve made. Q:Last month, the legislative auditor released a report on the case of Dan Markingson, a man who committed suicide while enrolled in a psychiatric drug study at the University. The report found numerous conflicts of interest and insular and defensive reactions from the school leaders and officials from the time when ethical concerns resulting from the case were raised. At MarchâÄôs Board of Regents meeting you said you donâÄôt agree with all of the legislative auditorâÄôs conclusions. What are those conclusions that you donâÄôt agree with? A:I think his representation that we had issued misleading statements, I think, was a little too far. âĦ Individuals have made statements that werenâÄôt completely precise and that could have been interpreted by some as being misleading, but thatâÄôs a long way from an institution intentionally issuing misleading statements. I disagreed with that. I think the financial conflict of interest raised is something thatâÄôs worth a debate and I think will come up as we move our processes forward. But the finances of that clinical trial were run like all other clinical trials at that period of time, and I donâÄôt feel like there was an important conflict of interest. Q:Another external report managed by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs released last month noted a culture of fear and intimidation within the Department of Psychiatry. Have you noticed this? A:I havenâÄôt experienced it personally, but itâÄôs a very concerning allegation, and weâÄôll be taking action very soon to help understand and repair that situation. Q:What do you mean by âÄúaction?âÄù A:[Medical School Dean] Dr. Brooks Jackson has, I believe, already met with the psychiatric faculty on this issue, and we have people in human relations who understand how to break down those walls that lead to those kind of cultures and put in a more proactive and supportive culture. So weâÄôre going to work on that. Q:Are you planning on attending Spring Jam this year? A:I will not be at Spring Jam. âĦ I am going to go to the Rolling Stones concert, however.