Pres. Bruininks, where are you?

As the strike drags on, a key figure representing the interests of students has been illogically absent.

The transit strike has been going on for five weeks, stranding students and complicating their lives. Rallies have been held on campus, at the Capitol and in numerous other locations. Religious organizations representing more than 3 million Minnesotans have voiced concerns for the effects of the strike on the poor. Yet, as the strike drags on, a key figure representing the interests of students has been illogically absent. University President Bob Bruininks, where are you?

Bruininks has failed to represent student interests by his silence. In the first week of the strike, Bruininks should have called for a settlement. This is not to say Bruininks should take a side on the strike; he shouldn’t. But he should use his position as University president to become part of the chorus to pressure both sides to come to an agreement quickly and minimize damage. Not only are the interests of the students a concern, but also those of many University employees.

Last week, a petition was presented to Bruininks calling for an end to the strike, yet he has taken no public action. His reasoning is that it is beyond his power – a poor excuse indeed. When a political failure directly affects student’s interests, Bruininks has a duty and obligation to frame the argument with students as the focus. In this case, a public statement that the bus strike is hindering students and should be settled quickly would suffice.

Bruininks’ nonresponse can only leave one wondering. Is he shy because of the confrontation with striking clerical workers in October? Is he afraid of a backlash from Gov. Tim Pawlenty? Is he silent because Met Council Chairman Peter Bell also happens to be a on the Board of Regents? If Bruininks can openly lobby for a campus stadium, surely he can do something as simple as issuing a neutral statement calling for a speedy end to the strike and its effects on students.

Bruininks has been straightforward in the past and has not avoided issues. Why not with the effects of the bus strike? It is time for Bruininks to end his self-imposed gag order and call for an end to the strike.