Bruininks talks UMore

by Elizabeth Cook

UUniversity President Robert Bruininks sat down with the Minnesota Daily recently to discuss ideas for UMore Park, the 12-square mile proposed piece of University land in Rosemount. He also discussed a proposal to extend the jurisdiction of the student conduct code to punish off-campus crimes.

Can you describe the intended final results for UMore Park?

Our goals are to accomplish several things. One is we want to protect some of this land because it is environmentally sensitive.

And that led us to transfer nearly 3,000 areas to the Department of Natural Resources as part of the stadium legislation. And that commitment, nearly 3,000 acres, will be combined with about 2,000 acres owned by the Department of Natural Resources and Dakota County to create a nearly 5,000-acre park and nature preserve in the southern metropolitan area.

One of the things we need to do is protect green space, protect open space, protect environmentally sensitive land and to make those very important resources available to the general public.

In the remaining acres, we believe that we need to protect some green space, but also develop a planful approach to the creation of a community Ö that advances concepts that we think are critically important to the educational development of our population: the promotion of human health and the conservation of energy and the protection of our environment.

We believe (UMore Park) can, over time, create an increase in University financial resources and the University’s endowment. Our goal there would be to use those resources over roughly a 25-year period to really advance the academic mission.

That would mean protecting the historic buildings, preserving the historic buildings, like Northrop Auditorium, Pillsbury Hall and the historic treasures and assets of the University of Minnesota throughout the state.

It would mean raising resources for student scholarships and fellowships, raising resources that would also allow us to endow professorships and chairs to promote support for our research and education of the faculty who work at the University of Minnesota.

Those are three purposes to which this money would be dedicated Ö those are typically areas that are not fully supported by the state or fully supported by the federal government.

In the next 10 years, most of the focus is going to be on the cleaning up of the land, because there is some unknown level of pollution that is on the land. (Planning also requires) clearing the land of cement infrastructures, which interferes with public use, and continuing to conduct research – agricultural and other kinds of research at the research station there.

So the next 10 years, this is all about planning and development. There will be little or no financial benefit coming out of this activity as far as I can see in the next five to 10 years.

What are going to be some of the key points of interest at UMore?

This is all very speculative. We are now trying to envision what this community would look like 25 years from now.

It would be a community, at least in my judgment, with very planful open spaces that encourage people to walk and to exercise and to engage in healthy lifestyles Ö (and) that would contain facilities to support lifelong learning and education.

It would be a community that was constructed using the very best, most sustainable building practices and constructed in a way to minimize the use of energy and to maximize the use of renewable forms of energy for electricity, for heating, for all the things that are necessary to really run a community effectively.

We would develop a community with a private sector and with government entities in that region that would embrace the latest, best practices, how people should live, how buildings and other structures should be developed.

What were the other plans for UMore Park that didn’t work out and why?

UMore Park, today, is one of the research stations of the University of Minnesota, and so one of the future parts of that vision is to retain some aspect of the research work that is now going on at UMore Park, mainly in the areas of food production and preservation of the environment.

It makes less sense to treat it as a traditional agricultural station today in light of the fact that it’s right in the center of this expanding metropolitan development where you’re going to see just a phenomenal growth Ö the metropolitan area and population in the next 20 to 30 years.

Why does the University feel it’s important to extend its jurisdiction off campus with the proposed changes to the student conduct code?

Our students need to be treated like adults and we expect them to assume the responsibilities of adulthood when they join the University community.

And so this is not an attempt on the part of the University administration or its Board of Regents to substantially expand the reach of the University’s oversight with respect to student conduct.

One of the things that is very important to recognize is that there are circumstances where the conduct of some members of the University community may not be in keeping with the expectations we have for people to behave in responsible ways; for example, (if) the University wins the NCAA Hockey Tournament (and) students start to celebrate.

I must quickly add that most of the damage and most of the arrests that were made with that very unfortunate incident were not students of the University of Minnesota, but were people who came in from the outside.

Having said that, the celebration of a victory in hockey is no excuse to torch parking booths or cars or to cause other forms of destruction.

Similarly, we’re in a metropolitan area, and we have neighborhoods that are very close to the University of Minnesota campus and there may be some instances where the behavior of people who are a part of the University community is threatening to other members of the University community, or is just plain inappropriate.

So, I think one of the things I would say to your readers is that this is not a sustainable intrusion on the private lives of our students and we don’t intend it to be.

But we do feel that we have a responsibly as a member of this community to protect the members of our community who come here.

Do you think this will deter crime in any way?

I don’t think it will have much impact on crime that we have seen in our immediate neighborhoods. I think that requires some other strategies … (such as) improving the coordination of the work of our police force with Minneapolis Ö increasing the number of police officers here at the University Ö trying to improve lighting Ö (and improving) housing in and around the University campus.

There’s some concern with students that this jurisdiction could be used for things like underage drinking. Is this true, and how and when does the University really plan on extending its reach?

No, I don’t think that’s contemplated, although I do think that’s more of an issue for the civil authorities, police and others to worry about.

But that was not the intent of this change in the student conduct code. I will say though that I do think it’s a responsibility of students to be respectful to their neighbors when they live in any community.

They do not have the right to throw beer cans on their neighbor’s lawns and create a huge amount of distraction and noise on the weekends that prevents their neighbors from enjoying a reasonable lifestyle.

These are great neighborhoods and I think we have an obligation to try and strengthen them and be good neighbors in the process.

Part of the proposed changes to the conduct code involves the University’s ability to hold or revoke a student’s degree. When would this be used?

Very, very rarely and only under the most egregious circumstances following very extensive due process and hearings.

A student would have to violate more than the student conduct code, I suspect, to lose his or her degree at the University of Minnesota.