University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler sat down with the Minnesota Daily Thursday to discuss his proposed undergraduate tuition increase — the lowest in 12 years — the appointment of a new athletics director, Norwood Teague, and how he feels looking back on his first year at the U.
Your proposed increase to undergraduate tuition is the lowest in 12 years. How did you decide on such a low increase, and are other sectors of the University going to be compromised because of it?
The two things that are most important to me about the University of Minnesota are excellence and access. We have to have excellent academic programs. But the element of access and affordability is also important, so what we’ve done in this budget is taken very sharp pencils and found ways to provide funding for hiring of additional faculty; we found funding for a modest pay increase to reward people who have been working very hard for the University without an increase for the past three years. But we’ve been able to do that within an envelope of a modest tuition increase — which is still a tuition increase — but we are able to buffer that for our most needy students with additional scholarship dollars. And so that’s the model that I would like to see the University follow going forward.
Another upcoming change is the appointment of Norwood Teague as Athletics Director. When his appointment was announced, you mentioned his track record in fundraising and facilities development. What do you hope to see him contribute to the University?
Well, I think we need a master plan for facilities in athletics, carefully thought out in terms of the importance of the facility, the cost of the facility, [and] the viability of raising funds, and he’s good at that. That kind of master planning is going to be front and center of what he’s going to be doing early on. And then he’s proved to be effective at engaging the donor community – because, frankly, most of these facilities are going to be built with private funds, and that means we need to cultivate donors.
Looking back on your first year at the University, how do you feel it went?
I get that question a lot at this time of year. I think I had a pretty good year. My initial goals were to listen and learn, and I spent a lot of time doing that, enmeshing myself in the University, spending a lot of time with faculty and staff and students and external constituents. I developed a lot of relationships with friends of the University, donors, legislators. I’ve been getting to immerse myself in the community, and I think all of that’s gone pretty well.
Check out Wednesday’s print issue of the Minnesota Daily to find out what President Kaler thinks about upcoming renovations to Siebert Field , suspended fraternities hoping to return to campus and how he plans to restore trust in the University in the wake of President Bruininks’ controversial administrative leave packages.