Investment in buildings

Conflicted would be a good word to describe the decisions announced by University of Minnesota officials last week. A âÄúhiring pauseâÄù went into effect Tuesday, followed by a salary freeze announced Friday. And despite these changes, the University is undergoing its largest increase in building and construction in two decades. In the next 10 years, the University will have spent at least $1 billion on facilities and renovation for projects including TCF Bank Stadium, the Bell Museum, the new biomedical complex, Northrop auditorium and others. And the list keeps growing. As recently as last week, between the announcements of the hiring pause and the salary freeze, the University also asked a Board of Regents committee to consider a project that would cost nearly $4.5 million to purchase and build a site for the UniversityâÄôs Facilities Management Landcare department. Other colleges and universities, such as Boston University, Cornell and Brown, have put selective hiring freezes into place. In addition, many colleges have announced they would suspend capital projects that hadnâÄôt broken ground. According to the New York Times, MIT has halted construction on the expansion for its Media Lab and Dartmouth postponed construction on two residence halls and two academic buildings. Just a month ago, University president Bob Bruininks, whose own $700,000 salary is affected by the freeze, told the editorial board âÄúrecession is the time to invest in human capital.âÄù And yet, as demonstrated in just a weekâÄôs time, the University is willing to put its employees on hold while they continue to build. But Bruininks and the Regents should take caution: If costs keep rising as they have been and salaries for non-âÄúsenior executivesâÄù stay as they have been, in 10 years, when the building boom is finished, there might not be enough students or faculty left to fill the halls of the shiny new buildings.