Administrative platitudes at consultation

Students, staff and faculty at the University of Minnesota were left with plenty of questions but few answers after Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced an 8.2 percent reduction in state higher education funding. But mixed messages from the UniversityâÄôs administration brought little comfort to students who have witnessed compounding tuition rates and fewer class offerings with a hiring pause that has left former teaching positions without replacement as faculty retire. President Bob Bruininks recently appeased tuition-payers by saying that âÄúwe have no intention of putting these reductions on the back of students.âÄù But at FridayâÄôs first in a series of University budget consultations, Provost Tom Sullivan assured the audience âÄî primarily University employees âÄî that âÄúwe will do everything to make sure we wonâÄôt cut faculty and staff.âÄù Does that mean that administration will not do everything to make sure tuition doesnâÄôt increase? With so much on the chopping block that would be a logical conclusion. Said the Provost, however: âÄúwe are just beginning to model with any specificity what that budget model may look like.âÄù While the administration wants everything on the table at this point, the broader University community wants the true collaboration in decision-making that comes with direct and frank communication. Wrought with meaningless institutional double-speak, this first administrative consultation was a disappointing waste of time. Instead of exhorting some vague âÄúinvestment in human capital,âÄù Provost Sullivan should have answered questions about the appropriateness of burgeoning University vice presidencies with honesty, not dexterity. Administrative public relations will not get the University budget effectively in the black. Students worried about a tuition spike and faculty trying to reconcile the UniversityâÄôs âÄúvery significant commitmentâÄù to the humanities with its simultaneous shrinking of the curriculum care little of âÄúinvestment in human capital,âÄù they car about what that means specifically to administration. This truly compromising financial situation means administration will not be able to please everyone âÄî so why pretend? If staff and faculty job maintenance is not priority number one, do not say âÄúwe will do everything to make sure we wonâÄôt cut faculty and staff.âÄù Such a dialogue marks the true beginning of the indispensable âÄúcollaborative process over the next few months.âÄù While we applaud the University for attempting to be transparent, we urge it to be frank.