U director shows poor leadership

A University Facilities Management director was the subject of a recent KMSP investigation.

A KMSP investigation of Facilities Management Departmental Director Beth Louden was released last month. Louden offers a poor example of how University of Minnesota supervisors should act, especially with money, given recent criticism against the University.

Amid a laundry list of financial and personal issues, the investigation targeted Louden’s spending. Her office’s food budget for routine meetings came to $12,299 over two years. The investigation compared the University’s facilities management department to the University of Wisconsin’s, which didn’t spend any money on food.

Louden also planned to send herself and nine staffers to Las Vegas for a conference, which would cost nearly $1,400 per person. The average size of groups attending the conference was only five, and none of the Big Ten universities KMSP checked with sent a single person.

In an interview with KMSP, University Services Vice President Pam Wheelock said the University has relied on tuition increases to pay for its programmatic needs.

Wheelock told KMSP that Facilities Management has had to cut custodians and that those remaining are cleaning buildings less often.

Louden’s budget could have a small but tangible impact on tuition, and Louden’s spending seems irresponsible amid rising tuition and layoffs.

The University has been criticized for excessive spending for the last year — from a 2012 Wall Street Journal report on administrative bloat to the Minnesota Legislature’s call for examinations of the University budget.

If the University is to make a lasting impact on tuition and administrative efficiency, then its leaders cannot lead by Louden’s example. The University should make sure that students don’t have to pay for their leaders’ poor decisions.