Kaler talks University’s sexual misconduct plan, largest freshman class in 40 years

UMN President Eric Kaler on 2021 class: 'They are the most academically qualified class ever, in terms of [ACT scores]'.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler fields questions from the MN Daily on Monday, July. 17, 2017.

Easton Green

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler fields questions from the MN Daily on Monday, July. 17, 2017.

Lauren Otto

The Minnesota Daily sat down with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler Monday to discuss the upcoming academic year and look back on the summer’s events so far, including the newest tuition hike.

What have been some of the highlights of your summer?

The highlight will be on Saturday … my son Sam is getting married … Then looking forward to vacation at the end of the month and just getting rested and recharged.

Where are you going on vacation?

My father’s family is from southern Maine, and I’ve never been there. And so we’re going to go to southern Maine and southeast Canada. There’s a place called Kalers Corner Road, and there’s a restaurant called Kaler’s Restaurant, and apparently there’s a graveyard where a whole lot of dead Kalers are buried, and so we’re going to go see that…

What challenges and benefits do you anticipate this fall as a result of the finalized tuition increase?

Well, the benefits are that we balance our budget and we’ll be able to provide some merit-based salary increases … Of course the challenge is that [it] requires us to ask families and our students to pay that increased tuition. And I’m disappointed that we were at that position after the Legislative session…

In May, confidential information about sexual harassment by a University employee was leaked. Are there any updates regarding the ongoing investigation of the leaked information?

There are no updates that I know of, no.

During the most recent Board of Regents meeting, you gave an update on the University Progress Card goals. What were the most significant insights from the progress update?

It’s significant that things like our four-year graduation rate are moving in the right direction … We are concerned about things that aren’t moving in the right direction, and certainly continued attention to the medical school rankings is warranted when we’re spending a lot of effort to turn that around … We were able to lower the median [student] debt … it’s about $1500 lower than it was six years ago, so many things are moving in the right direction.

How do you think the completion of Tate Lab’s renovation and other campus construction projects will impact campus this year?

Well, it’s all about providing facilities for our faculty to teach new research and our students to learn in 21st century facilities. That’s really important. And Tate Lab was badly out of date, and it really needed a redo… And I think that will help us attract first rate faculty and enable our students to have a better experience.

What do you think of the new name for the 3M Arena at Mariucci?

I think that represents the reality of college athletics right now. It’s a facility that has a lot of visibility, and the opportunity for us to partner with one of Minnesota’s iconic companies, 3M, is significant.

What are some things you’re hoping for with the Board of Regents this year?

… The big work in front of us this year at the legislature is a bonding bill, and so we will be developing a proposal for that that the board needs to review and approve.

Last year, Delta Upsilon was suspended due to issues with sexual assault. What was the thought process behind the decision to allow Delta Upsilon to be reinstated as a fraternity at the U?

They remain on probation as they work out their redevelopment plan, and that’s a process that’s monitored by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. And again, we are very mindful of what they’re doing, and they need to continue to develop a very robust plan to be sure that their members are educated and that their activities are really above reproach.

With sexual assault as a whole on campus and tying to that fraternity, what are some steps that the University needs to take?

We have a really comprehensive sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention and education plan. I’ve charged five committees to move forward in [the President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct] … This is, at the end of the day, a public health challenge and we believe we have the expertise to really move this forward …

What is your reaction to President Trump’s second travel ban, and how do you think this ban will affect University of Minnesota students?

We put in place an immigration response team as this whole issue arose. So they will continue to work to be sure that all the people that are affected by this get the information and the support that they need. But we are open and welcoming to all people from all around the world…

Looking to the year ahead, what seems most significant about the incoming freshman class? What are your biggest hopes for the class of 2021?

We’re excited about the entering freshman class. It’s larger than we had planned, we had a target of about 5,800 first-year students, and we may have as many as 6,200 … They are the most academically qualified class ever, in terms of [ACT scores] … we’ll look forward to congratulating them as they cross the stage four years from now.

Editor’s Note: This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.