‘Town hall’ meeting at U addresses economic woes

The University of Minnesota held an open discussion Thursday to talk about its future in light of recent economic times. The discussionâÄôs hot topic was Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs proposal of a $151 million cut to the University of MinnesotaâÄôs budget for the upcoming 2010-11 biennium. The event, moderated by University Provost Tom Sullivan and University Relations Vice-President Karen Himle, came at a time when the University will âÄúcross the lineâÄù where state support becomes substantially less than the tuition revenue coming from students, Sullivan said. âÄúThe state is essentially saying weâÄôre going to put this on the backs of our students,âÄù Sullivan said. âÄúThis has never happened before in the state of Minnesota.âÄù Sullivan outlined seven budget principles to guide University administrators in deciding what will get cut when the state Legislature finalizes the budget in either late May or early June. âÄúWeâÄôre taking [budget cuts] as of Tuesday very seriously and beginning to model what that might look like for our University,âÄù he said. Students and faculty were also encouraged to participate electronically on the University website if they couldnâÄôt make it to the discussion in person. At the forumâÄôs end, 89 people were signed on to the website, and about 100 people attended in person, Himle said. The meeting was held at Fraser Hall. Faculty and staff who were present represented a variety of viewpoints across different departments. Several of them took advantage of the opportunity to speak frankly to the provost about the UniversityâÄôs actions. Eva von Dassow, an associate professor of classical and near eastern studies, accused Sullivan of proposing cuts in the past only at the bottom of the pay scale. âÄúWeâÄôve been losing positions due to the hiring pause, with no guarantee that weâÄôll ever get them back,âÄù Dassow said. âÄúYou do not maintain the quality of the University by cutting its living flesh.âÄù Student Paul Strain, an MSA member , voiced concerns that the student body felt âÄúinsulated and unaware of how these cuts are actually going to affect them.âÄù Only a handful of students were in the room among a vast majority of faculty and staff. Ranking Student Representative to the Board of Regents Jordan Bronston said he wasnâÄôt surprised that there werenâÄôt a lot of students in attendance, but that he hoped a similar discussion could be held specifically for students in the near future.