Student leaders seek to unify University campuses

Students and University officials said they would like all five campuses to work together more.

Student leaders seek to unify University campuses

Blair Emerson

In their final report of the year, student representatives to the Board of Regents highlighted the need for the University of Minnesota to operate more efficiently as a multi-campus system last week.

University administrators often focus too much on the Twin Cities campus, said the student representatives, who would like to see more cross-campus learning opportunities and student events.

“I feel like other campuses can sometimes feel dominated by the Twin Cities campus,” said student representatives chair Meghan Mason.

Some student representatives said their campuses don’t receive as much attention as the Twin Cities campus, which holds more than 75 percent of the system-wide student population.

President Eric Kaler typically visits each of the system campuses at least once per year.

But Joey Daniewicz, vice chair of student representatives to the board, said the Morris campus — which Kaler didn’t visit last year — has had little contact with central administration.

“It’s hard to get around to all of the campuses all of the time,” Kaler said. “There are a lot of demands on my time, and I plan to visit Morris next year.”

Student representatives also said they want administrators to expand the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program to other system campuses so students across the University can conduct more research.

The program is well-funded and utilized, Mason said, but it could be used more as a mechanism for cross-campus partnership.

University campuses could unite more through activities like Support the U Day, in which students talk with legislators and advocate for University funding at the State Capitol, student representatives said.

The struggle to bring all schools together within a multi-campus system isn’t unique to the University.

Sam Tauchen, former president of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ student senate, said many of the system’s more than two dozen campuses receive less attention than the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the central campus.

But in the past couple of years, he said, students at the campuses have tried to reconcile their differences and come together as a whole.

“We really do come together as students, especially on the shared governance side … to discuss issues that affect all 26 schools,” he said.

Resolving campus tensions

While student representatives are considering new ways to collaborate across campuses, University officials are finding ways to strengthen the system as a whole.

In order to do this, the University must leverage the strengths of each individual campus, said University of Minnesota-Rochester Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle.

University leaders are also no longer referring to campuses outside of the Twin Cities as coordinate campuses, he said, which used to be common practice.

“A coordinate [campus] implied that we were extensions of the Twin Cities campus,” Lehmkuhle said, “and that’s not what was happening, nor is it in the best interest of a system.”

Morris Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson said it’s also important to acknowledge that smaller campuses like Morris have distinct identities and needs.

“Being a part of a system creates some need for awareness that we’re not just like the [Twin Cities campus],” she said.

Officials recognize that cross-campus tensions exist among campuses, especially when it comes to admissions, said Crookston Chancellor Fred Wood.

“Admissions does have a competitive side to it,” he said.

Wood said administrators are working on creating an admissions webpage that includes all five campuses to help prospective students apply to the University.

Kaler said initiatives like the new admissions page will help create a more integrated University system.

“We’re making great strides,” he said.