Response to Kaler on the SDS referendum

Christopher Getowicz, Students for a Democratic Society

 

In his response to a referendum passed by students in the All-Campus Elections Committee, President Eric Kaler both mischaracterized the referendum and publicly rejected students’ efforts to constructively and democratically reform the University of Minnesota.

First, Kaler falsely suggested the referendum was about a tuition freeze. While “No Tuition Hikes” has been a Students for a Democratic Society campaign dating back long before his arrival at the University, that is not what the referendum states. The referendum advocates for the introduction of a new democratic process at the University that would allow tuition-paying students to have a say in both the cost of education and the level of increased debt being bestowed upon them.

This new mechanism is directly related to the second point of the referendum, which is to demand complete budget transparency through a public disclosure of the budget before it is sent to the legislator. The timing of this disclosure was chosen explicitly so that students would have a chance to understand how the administration proposes spending their tuition dollars before the budget is submitted to the Legislature. Kaler is wrong in his assumption that transparency means a “public” budget presented before the Board of Regents. “Public” budget disclosure means presenting the budget to students for them to share in the process of review and critique before decisions are made final.

Finally, an informed student can quickly learn the facts about University financial mismanagement from reading former Gov. Arne Carlson’s critique of University spending or attending any current legislative hearing. Kaler is wrong in his assessment that the media has somehow been unfair in its criticism of the University. Carlson and the Legislature have both been strong voices in a public outcry about the administration’s financial mismanagement of the University.

This referendum is an important part of the criticism of the administration’s financial mismanagement of our University. This referendum is in line with cuts demanded by the Legislature. If Kaler believes that these demands are unrealistic to ask at a public university, then perhaps he and his administration do not serve the educational mission of this institution. If it is unrealistic to ask the administration to share in the burdens bestowed upon students, staff and faculty here, then perhaps they should return to the private sector.

The only point SDS can agree with Kaler on at this time is that students should find out who their elected representatives are on campus and at the state Capitol and write to them. Tell the Minnesota Student Association, the state Legislature, Gov. Mark Dayton and the media that Kaler and his administration are denying the tuition-paying students of our University the democratic reforms and budget transparency we voted for.