The facts: Strategic positioning

The process will speak for itself in the years ahead when the U is a top three public research institution.

Reading The Minnesota Daily’s editorial and news coverage of the University of Minnesota’s strategic positioning process, I am reminded of a quote from President Harry Truman: “You can never get all the facts from just one newspaper, and unless you have all the facts, you cannot make proper judgments about what is going on.”

What is going on – and what has been going on – to transform the University into one of the top three public research institutions in the world is a broad, consultative process that involves students, faculty, staff and members of the greater community. Before President Bob Bruininks’ recommendations were presented to the Board of Regents, the president and his entire team conducted an exhaustive level of consultation and discussion within the University community.

* There were five large public town hall meetings and forums.

* The plan was presented to and discussed with the Faculty Consultative Committee, Minnesota Student Association, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the Alumni Association, the University Senate and many other internal groups and organizations.

* The senior administrative team held hundreds of meetings to explain the process, goals and plan. I made 57 public presentations on strategic positioning and President Bruininks also did a large number of meetings, both private and public, to discuss the plan, including listening directly to the faculty, students and staff of General College.

* Drafts of the plans were posted on a Web site and are easily accessible to everyone for review and comment.

* Regular all-campus e-mails were sent out updating people on the process and what was under way. A concerted effort was made to solicit feedback and input by e-mail and through a Web site.

* The strategic positioning Web site became a repository for major documents and other information.

That is why the president’s recommendations were endorsed overwhelmingly by the University Senate, Faculty Consultative Committee, deans, regents and McKnight Professors, the University of Minnesota Foundation and Alumni Association and their boards, former regents, the governor, key legislators and major newspapers, to name a few.

The open and public process continued even after the president submitted his plan. The regents discussed the plan at meetings over the course of several months with at least four open, public presentations and a public hearing at which more than 40 individuals and groups testified. When the Board of Regents passed the strategic positioning plan in an 11 to 1 vote, it happened in a widely covered public meeting.

As we move ahead in implementing the changes, the open and consultative process continues. Nearly 400 individuals representing a vast array of perspectives have been named to 34 task forces charged with implementing the strategic positioning plan. Interest in contributing time and expertise to this work was broad and deep. The membership and charge to each task force has been posted on the strategic positioning Web site for some time. In the next few weeks and months, these task forces will be seeking public input as they put together their recommendations. Once their work is complete, their reports will be available in a 30-day comment period for students, faculty and others.

The task force meetings are closed to the press and general public for a simple reason: There is a lot of work to be done in a very short time and members need to be free to speak their minds and explore a multitude of options. Regular progress reports will be provided and developments will be posted on the Transforming the U Web site. For those who suggest this is a “closed” process, I challenge them to find a comparable university anywhere that is undertaking this kind of transformative change in such a broad-based, collaborative and consultative manner. The Daily editorial board and those who opposed the changes approved by the Board of Regents are free to challenge those decisions. That is all part of the robust debate and exchange of ideas that are cornerstones of university culture. But many more are helping the University move ahead with the plan to become even better at serving our students, faculty and stakeholders. The results of that process will speak for themselves in the years ahead.

E. Thomas Sullivan is senior vice president and provost of the University. Please send comments to [email protected]