Senators tour U’s requests

by Bryce Haugen

They’re powerful, but they’re real people.

On Thursday morning a few members of the state Senate took an elaborate tour of campus to check out University construction requests and examine completed projects. The Minnesota Daily joined them on their chartered Campus Circulator, getting a firsthand glimpse at what makes these people tick.

Legislators will consider these requests in March, when they take up the 2005 bonding bill, which funds construction projects statewide. Thursday’s visitors included members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee. That group’s House equivalent plans to come to campus sometime before the session starts.

8:11 a.m. Coffee with the president ” Jones Hall

With the early morning sun beaming into the room, President Bob Bruininks sipped coffee while calmly explaining the University bonding bill request to the assembled group of legislators.

“I’m looking forward to a really spirited conversation about the (University’s) priorities,” he said in a subdued voice, cup in hand.

Kathy O’Brien, vice president for University Services, also addressed the crowd.

“We are big, we are complex and we are old,” she said.

Bruininks touted the University’s renovation requests, which include revamping the exterior of Folwell Hall ” visible from the room.

Between occasional yawns, legislators slung questions at the president, ranging from stem cell research to the University’s proposed expansion in Rochester.

Unknowing of the powerful figures in the nearby room, German testing coordinator Erin Logan said she really loved the improvements, which have nearly tripled the offices’ space.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I think it’s great that they came to take a look at the “U.’ “

It was impossible to escape maroon and gold ” from the carpeting to the flower in the office atrium.

8:43 a.m. Steven Rosenstone gives a tour ” Nicholson Hall

The informal visit continued next door in Nicholson Hall ” where the masonry is also subtly maroon and gold ” which houses College of Liberal Arts classes.

In the downstairs room, Eddie Whitehouse, a classical and near eastern studies senior, said he was slightly skeptical of the group’s intentions.

“Maybe it’s a little self-congratulatory,” he said. “But maybe that’s why we exist.”

Upstairs, CLA Dean Steven Rosenstone led the group on a tour of the building, an important landmark in the University’s historic Knoll area.

9:25 a.m. Hanging with the fossils ” Bell Museum

Just a short distance from there, University officials explained their plans for the museum, which they hope to move to the University’s St. Paul campus as a part of the 2008 capital request.

After seeing the requests, Sen. Wes Skoglund, whose district runs adjacent to the south end of campus, said he liked the idea, but it would not be considered this time around.

“Maybe two years from now, but not now,” he said as he walked out the door into a courtyard filled with stone animals ” and onto the bus.

10:14 a.m. Talking business ” Carlson School of Management

As students passed by, oblivious to the reality that the Carlson School expansion ” which many see as inevitable ” is to some extent, in the hands of these seemingly ordinary figures gathered in the atrium.

Dana Hartle, a senior marketing student, said she believes the Carlson School expansion is right for the University.

“I think that for Carlson to be a credible business school, it needs to grow just like any business,” she said, studying in a chair next to the school’s signature stock ticker.

Jim Campbell, the school’s interim co-dean ” sporting maroon and gold dress clothes ” led legislators into a classroom to show them the school in action.

10:51 a.m. Looking to the future ” McGuire Translational Research Facility

Smoking a cigarette outside the building, legislative assistant Marge Romero gazed at the grain elevator occupying the proposed Gophers stadium site, Tower Hill visible in the distance, and offered her fairest assessment of the project’s chances.

Frank Cerra, senior vice president of the Academic Health Center, described the building as a potential place to put future health-science classrooms.

Campus Connector veteran Anne Iluebbey said her favorite part of whisking passengers throughout the University is “being around people.” And many interesting ones have passed through her doors.

But she’s never driven for such a high-profile crowd. Still, she didn’t let that thought consume her.

As Iluebbey turned onto Fourth Street Southeast, she said her passengers’ discussion about the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line, which could pass through the middle of campus, was especially intriguing.

Behind her, Capital Investment Committee chairman Keith Langseth joked with several colleagues about the years of Jesse Ventura’s governorship.

11:37 a.m. Wrapping up ” Science Classroom Building

Standing in front of the aging structure, Sen. David Senjem, who represents Rochester

and has worked at the Mayo Clinic for 41 years, said he’s excited for the University’s expanded presence in his home district.

“We’re in a global race, which, for society, is pretty good,” he said.

They group finished with lunch at Coffman Union.