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Kaler discusses consent policy, tuition

University president Eric Kaler sits in his office in Morrill Hall on Friday.
Image by Christopher Wakefield
University president Eric Kaler sits in his office in Morrill Hall on Friday.

The Minnesota Daily sat down with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler for the summer installment of KickinâÄô It with Kaler. He discussed the affirmative consent policy, administrative cuts and tuition increases.

The Board of Regents has been criticized by some legislators and the public for not being engaged enough in the past. But now, especially with the newest batch of regents, some feel like the board may start to be more critical of the administrationâÄôs priorities. How do you feel about regents possibly scrutinizing your ideas more than in the past?

I think that there is always a situation where regents are scrutinizing ideas and raising questions and probing. âĦ I think the difference now is that some of the newer regents have decided that itâÄôs better to do that in public than in a quiet conversation where we can get the facts and sort out what the issues are. âĦ

During the Board of Regents meeting earlier in July, regents requested a delay to the implementation of the affirmative consent policy, and you agreed to postpone the policyâÄôs implementation. Among the concerns are some confusion with the language of the policy and that the rights of the accused could be diminished. Do you agree with these statements?

I donâÄôt think the language is unclear at all. I think there is adequate protection of the accusersâÄô rights. ItâÄôs really not a very big step from our current policy, actually, if you look at them side-by-side. âĦ

Some have also said that the request to delay the policyâÄôs implementation may have been an overreach by the board. Do you feel like the board overstepped its role?

I think yes and no. I think these are administrative policies, but if a group of regents think that they do have a significant public impact, then the board does reserve the right to review those, and thatâÄôs what a group âÄî not a majority âÄî wanted to do. âĦ

I know also that there is a group that has worked on this policy for months. âĦ Do you know if the concerns that have been brought up were discussed at all?

âĦ IâÄôd be surprised if they werenâÄôt. ItâÄôs been, as you say, a many-month-long process with people who are experts in the field of and around this issue, so I would think that the issues of constitutionality and accused protections were thoroughly vetted by the group.

There has been some concern from faculty members, department chairs and deans that as the $90 million in administrative cost reallocations continue, the cuts could begin to impede faculty and departmental work, such as teaching and research. How do you suggest departments balance cuts with maintaining productivity in research and teaching?

Right now, thereâÄôs not a growth in support from the state in a dramatic way, and thereâÄôs not much appetite for raising tuition in significant ways, so as we think about doing new things, weâÄôre going to have to find out how to pay for that by modifying how we do what we do now or stopping to do some of the things that we do now. I hope these budget pressures encourage creative thoughts around how do we do those things.

Some student leaders have said that they would like childcare benefits through the UniversityâÄôs Student Parent HELP Center extended beyond undergraduates to also assist graduate and professional students. Do you support this idea?

âĦ I think itâÄôs important to recognize that the time that a person is in graduate school also coincides with the time of their life where it makes sense and is natural to start a family. So I am supportive of finding ways to help that group of students.

Matt Clark recently started his job as chief of the University of Minnesota Police Department. Why was he chosen over the other candidates?

âĦ He stood out really because of [his] terrific record in Minneapolis. Good supervisory experience. âĦ

In your opinion, what is Chief ClarkâÄôs biggest challenge moving forward as he settles into his role?

âĦ At the end of the day, you can trace a lot of our challenges in law enforcement and student life to alcohol use and abuse. I think being able to help move a culture where moderation in alcohol consumption is an important part of our life is a significant challenge.

So youâÄôre not only saying thatâÄôs a police issue, but that itâÄôs kind of an all-encompassing student issue?

It goes to the affirmative consent conversation. Most of these assaults, or alleged assaults, involve the use of alcohol âĦ to be able to get that culture moved is an important lift for all of us. Some regents and legislators have said that tuition for nonresidents needs to be raised faster and steeper with the extra money being passed down to in-state students, while others feel that this would drive out-of-state students away. What do you think the strategy should be? I think this is the classic case where we need to be moderate in all directions. I think over time it makes sense for the UniversityâÄôs out-of-state tuition to be in the mid-range of the Big Ten. âĦ But I do think itâÄôs a matter of how fast we can get there, and so weâÄôre looking at some models over the summer about what looks and feels right, what provides a structure so that families that can plan for any tuition increases. âĦ IâÄôm not interested in a tuition policy thatâÄôs punishing to out-of-state students. âĦ Are you anticipating tuition increases next year and then the following year âÄî is that forecasted now? ItâÄôs too early for us to know what weâÄôre going to need to do in FY 17 âÄî weâÄôre just beginning that conversation. âĦ

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