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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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The Minnesota Daily

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Apathy abounds for U plans

Despite University efforts, many students are not getting the message about what the University’s “strategic positioning” realignment plan is about and why they should care.

“I have no idea what strategic positioning is,” said first-year biology student Tim Normandt. “I haven’t been paying much attention.”

The plan, which aims to position the University as one of the top three public research institutions in the world, is composed of 34 task forces with missions from college reorganization to improved student support.

The first 11 task forces, which published their initial recommendations in December, today will submit their final recommendations to the provost.

Robin Wright, student support task force co-chairwoman and associate dean of the College of Biological Sciences, said few students attended the public forums hosted by her task force, despite several ads in the Daily advertising them.

Wright said they also had received few student comments during the 45-day commentary period in which the public was invited to voice opinions on task force recommendations.

“If you start thinking about why people don’t participate, one possibility may be that we should have used different strategies to reach them,” Wright said. “But I don’t know what those should have been.”

Students cited lack of time and lack of information as the reasons they aren’t more involved in the realignment process.

In first-year horticultural sciences student Joe LeVoir’s case, however, he said that as a first-year student, there was just too much information to take in.

“The whole University is a huge place,” LeVoir said. “There’s lots of information you hear about but don’t look into.”

Linda Thrane, vice president of University relations, said that though her office has made as much information available as possible, many students might be turned off by the bureaucracy surrounding the process.

“Because there are 34 task forces, it’s in a very processy mode,” Thrane said. “But at the end of the day, what’s important for students to realize is it’s about creating a university that will let them go out in their lives and make a difference.”

Tom Sullivan, University executive vice president and provost said he has tried to keep students informed and included in the process by sending to the University community “scores and scores” of e-mail updates on realignment proceedings.

“There are 30 students appointed to the task forces and seven on the overall steering committees,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also said 23 percent of a total 270 comments received during the public commentary period were from students.

Culture task force member and biosystems and agricultural engineering senior Tom Zearley said students’ apathy may stem from the fact that they are here for only four or five years and won’t be around to see changes take place.

“The percentage of students interested is probably not that great,” Zearley said. “It’s the only group here for a specific amount of time, and that’s pretty short.”

Some students, such as biology first-year student Connie Woxland, said they saw no point in getting involved because they thought the task forces had already made up their mind and wouldn’t listen.

Not so, said Zearley.

“All these comments are listened to and carry a significant amount of weight,” Zearley said. “This is a big undertaking and we don’t want to get it wrong.”

Sullivan suggested students who want to get involved should participate in the next wave of public commentary, which will begin in March.

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