University extorts students for state funds

>By Dan Nelson

As with any other agency facing a cut in state support, the various propaganda works and inner-University machinery have kicked into high gear in order to fight the governor and his proposal to face down and defeat the largest deficit this state has faced in modern times. The voices have been unanimous in favor of more money to be fed to the University, which is of course why this message so dearly needs to be sent to our elected officials.

Please do not listen to this University. It is like any other special interest group begging you for money. Actually, it is worse, since our beloved University extorts its students in order to pressure them to go and beg for more money. Here is how it works: Gov. Tim Pawlenty, facing a large deficit, recommended the University receive a $185 million cut, or 15 percent of its total allotment.

While the University loves to play this as unfair, it is entirely fair considering the state is facing a budget deficit that is approximately 15 percent of its total projected budget for 2003-04 as well. It is only right that the University pay its share and take a hit.

The governor attended the University and knows what higher tuition can bring on a student. What’s more, he has shown he does care about students, contrary to what some have said. He has dedicated a $60 million increase to the state grant program. He recommended a wage freeze be put into place to keep spending down at the University. More importantly, the governor recommended a 15 percent cap on tuition increases.

Here is where the budget problem gets interesting. Facing this large and devastating cut, University President Robert Bruininks decided to thumb his nose at Pawlenty, reject the tuition cap and claim it would be “tying the hands” of the institution. Included in his arrogant stance was the dubious claim the University is not accountable to the state because it predates it. We also find the University reluctant to institute a wage freeze and, since the governor cannot impose one, the prospects are dismal that one will be instituted.

The logical inference from this chain of events is that the University is planning to shoulder a large tuition increase on students. The University is, not the governor or the State Legislature. The University has made a choice. Its officials seem to think tuition increases of more than 15 percent are a fine and legitimate option.

A chorus of voices begs for money for the University while applauding Bruininks for his high tuition stance. One voice: the University. It goes unsaid that the University looks out for number one. Another voice is The Minnesota Daily editorial board. Perhaps this is because they just don’t like Pawlenty. The next is student government.

Wait, you ask, why don’t we hear our student government protest this refusal to limit tuition increases? Why are they not demanding Bruininks agree to the tuition cap and wage freeze? If anybody should demand a tuition cap, it would be student government. I can’t answer that question. Either the student government is more concerned with playing nice with the administration than it is with keeping our tuition low, or it is just a group of leftist political science students who like nothing better than to attack our governor and get press. Either way, it is a disgrace.

But on some level, I cannot blame them for their actions. Any demand for accountability will be ignored and dismissed by the University, just as Pawlenty’s recommendations were ignored or dismissed. So without any chance of convincing an obstinate administration, it seems the only recourse for students is to come and beg the Legislature and attack the governor.

Thus we come to the administration extorting students to get them to lobby on its behalf – the so-called “Lobby Day,” also known as “Student Action Day” by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group. While the University has long been used to bribing students with free pizza to do its work, the extortion racket is new. They tell students and student government, “If you don’t lobby the Legislature, tuition will skyrocket.” But we have seen that this is inaccurate. What the University is really saying is, “If you don’t lobby, we will refuse to be accountable and your tuition will skyrocket in order to cover our behinds.”

Dan Nelson is a University junior studying political science. He is chairman of the Campus Republicans student group