Board retreat

by Heather Fors

Bob Bergland grew up in the isolated northern Minnesota town of Roseau. The Board of Regents member had never seen a black person or talked to a Jew before attending the University in 1946.
Once he arrived at the school, he said he was exposed to life’s diversity and embraced it. The University should continue to prepare students for a diverse world, he said Wednesday.
How faculty, staff and students can better embrace the school’s diversity was one of the topics regents and administrators brainstormed about at a one-day retreat at Medtronic, Inc. in Fridley, Minn.
“Most of the things that will help our staff of color and our faculty of color and our students of color are things that will help the University,” said President Mark Yudof.
They also tackled how to improve the physical environment and the quality of education for students, faculty and staff.
The officials’ ideas ranged from improving students’ education by adding more faculty to upgrading classrooms. Providing more housing for students and furthering a campus beautification initiative were also mentioned.
Making the campus feel more closely knit by providing more social events and limiting class enrollment were two suggestions Victor Bloomfield, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee, provided in an earlier interview.
A happier marriage between research and teaching should also be considered, Bloomfield said.
“We need to keep remembering that teaching, in the classroom sense, is only part of what we’re doing,” he said.
But the easiest priority to attain is to fix up classrooms, said Robert Bruininks, executive vice president and provost. He added the classroom renovations will probably begin within the next year.
The clean-ups and renovations cannot come soon enough for some board members.
“There are classrooms here that are absolute dumps,” said Regent Michael O’Keefe.
After kicking around a variety of changes for the University, administrators questioned the actual benefits any new measure would have directly on students.
“There are certain things you really can’t measure,” said Regent Jessica Phillips, referring to the relationship between building improvements and student grades or graduation rates.
While some agreed with Phillips, others were confident that results could be determined.
By looking at graduation rates or taking more student surveys and polls, Yudof and Bruininks said results could be seen and improvements made.