Kaler discusses proposed tuition hikes, campus climate at MSA forum

At the Tuesday student government forum, Kaler called the GOP tax bill the “great train wreck of the 21st century.”

University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler answers questions from members of MSA during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

Carter Blochwitz

University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler answers questions from members of MSA during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

by Max Chao

Around 150 students gathered at Fraser Hall to hear University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler discuss student issues Tuesday night.

At the Minnesota Student Association forum meeting, Kaler discussed student issues such as the federal tax proposal’s impact on graduate students and the proposed tuition hike for nonresident students.

“It was great to see such a variety of things spoken about that impact students,” said Trish Palermo, president of MSA.

Tuesday was Kaler’s first appearance at an MSA forum this school year.

“It’s important to remember how important you are as a voice for students and as a way to guide and provide input to this institution,” he said during his opening remarks.

Kaler addressed the various steps his administration has taken to address campus climate during the past months, including the creation of a campus climate director position, new training for faculty and students and progress on the University’s carbon footprint commitment. 

He also advocated for protecting free speech rights of students with different ideologies — but also condemned hate speech.

“Students from both sides of the political spectrum don’t feel safe, don’t feel welcome, and even our right of free expression is being challenged… [but] when it comes to Nazis, white supremacists, misogynists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, homo[phobes] and transphobes, we need to reject the venom in those messages,” he said.

When taking questions from students, Kaler was pressed on issues such as the University’s history of racism and anti-Semitism, faculty unionization and student safety during Super Bowl LII, among other topics.

“I thought that President Kaler did a good job of addressing students’ concerns, though I wish that he had talked about more things with detail,” said Zoe Kondes, a freshman intern for MSA.

He vehemently denounced the recent federal tax bill which would increase taxes on graduate students, calling it the “great train wreck of the 21st century.”

“I am beyond furious about the content of the House tax bill. … Why would you disinvest in the human capital that’s going to drive the next generation of excellence, and enable this country, pardon my French, to be great again? It’s stupid,” Kaler said.

He also addressed the administration’s decision to raise tuition for nonresidential, non-reciprocity students.

Kaler was accompanied by interim vice provost for student affairs Maggie Towle, who said that the University is working on launching a Gopher Chauffeur expansion pilot program during spring semester. 

A full video stream of Kaler’s visit is available on MSA’s Facebook page

At the next forum on Dec. 5, MSA will be hosting local legislators to discuss student-relevant policy.