Regents hear proposals at rural retreat

Kristin Gustafson

LITTLE FALLS — Some of the University’s most powerful people joked about being characters in a mystery novel brought together in an historic house in the middle of the country.
And then the lights went out.
Despite not being able to see one another clearly, the University regents, University President Mark Yudof and other administrators sat on antique chairs and period lamps that flickered when lightening struck nearby, but kept discussing their priorities for the year ahead.
Yudof presented his work plan to the regents as mannequins, dressed in historic attire, watched the group from corners of the Linden Hill retreat center’s music room in Little Falls, Minn. His plan follows up what the University has already started during his last two years as president, he said.
“The most important priority is to follow through on the things I have already promised,” Yudof said.
This included continuing with University construction plans and hiring staff members for his new media and digital initiatives.
Reducing the scale of the University — especially for undergraduates — would lead to a “stronger sense of community,” he said. This would include a push for improved services, housing and Internet access.
Recently back from a Middle East visit, Yudof also insisted the University get more involved international efforts, especially travel abroad.
“The payoffs are enormous,” he said. “I don’t care where they go. Just go!”
Yudof said he is “very taken” with expanding minor degrees to make University graduates more marketable.
Yudof plans to continue with “very aggressive” strategies for Title IX.
“I’m a strong Title IX advocate,” he said. A new soccer field, hockey arena and coaches’ offices are part of a gender equity plan that raises the participation of female athletes to 48 percent “puts us in a good place,” said Yudof.
Other areas Yudof included were improvements in the Academic Health Center, overall funding and an organizational review and developing a design for a top-notch research campus at Rosemount, Minn.
Maureen Reed, Board of Regents vice chair, said she was glad to hear Yudof’s plans build upon the past two years.
Patricia Spence, board chair, described Yudof’s year-ahead plan as a “work in progress” and “moving in the right direction.”
Issues receiving the most attention Thursday were the quality of K-12 education, intercollegiate athletics, Internet learning and technology, academic health care and economic development. Regents also discussed several tools to improve communication.
The group gingerly approached the issue of academic fraud, but was hesitant to draw conclusions until the October release of the allegations report.
Regents will meet again Friday at the retreat center and follow up with formal meetings on Sept. 9 and 10.