Hasselmoaddressesongoing issues

Jim Martyka

A steam plant, a $100 million lawsuit, admissions figures, tenure and the University’s budget request could constitute a week’s worth of seminars about University administration.
But University President Nils Hasselmo dealt with these issues Monday in his hour-long monthly media-briefing. All the matters discussed have been at the center of University controversy over the past year.
Steam plant
One of the University’s major issues over the past two years has been the debate about where to build a new steam plant. Hasselmo said this issue might be resolved soon.
He said that the University has already begun preparatory work for renovating the old coal-burning steam plant located by the Mississippi River. Actual construction might begin by summer.
Debate regarding the steam plant began in 1988, when environmental assessments suggested a need for a new steam plant. Recommendations were made to build the plant on the river, sparking controversy between lawmakers, environmentalists and University officials.
Regents then said they would choose an off-river site if funding was provided. However, none was furnished by the Legislature.
State Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, introduced bills to fund an off-river site. Pogemiller and Kahn represent the Twin Cities campus.
The University told the city of Minneapolis it had until Jan. 1 this year to provide an alternate site for the plant and funding to prepare the site for construction. The city did not fulfill the University’s requests.
Board of Regents chairman Tom Reagan sent a letter on Friday to Minneapolis mayor Sharon Sayles Belton, informing her that the University could no longer wait for the city or the Legislature, and that the University plans to go ahead with renovations.
However, officials in the mayor’s office replied that they are still working to pass bills in the Legislature that might still be able to stop the renovation process.
University budget request
Another issue that the University is facing is the competition for state funding from the Legislature. Hasselmo said that he felt positive about the University’s budget request.
The University requested $580 million from the state, a 17 percent increase from the $497 million it received last year. Its main competitor for the state’s funding is the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, which comprises 36 state colleges, technical schools and community colleges. MnSCU has requested $1.04 billion.
In the past few months, Hasselmo has made several pitches to the Higher Education Finance Divisions in both the House and the Senate. Students have also spoken to the committee about funding.
To make a decision on the amount of funding it will give to the University, the Legislature looks at such factors as how efficiently the University has handled funding in the past, as well as how it will handle future funding. Legislators will also look at the school’s financial need.
Hasselmo said that he has had several opportunities to explain those needs and that he felt hopeful that the school will get what it requested.
“I hope that this will be a year when the University gets the amount of state funding necessary to deal with nagging problems in compensation, especially faculty compensation,” he said.
Hasselmo and University President-elect Mark Yudof will make another appeal to the Senate today.
Tenure reform
Hasselmo also addressed the tenure issue, which plagued the University for most of the past year.
Since the drive toward faculty unionization, which was sparked by early revisions to the University’s tenure code made by the Board of Regents last September, recently failed, faculty members wonder what tenure code will be implemented.
“(The vote) is another chance for shared governance, in the more traditional model, to prove itself,” Hasselmo said.
Administrators, who were prohibited from discussing tenure during the drive because of a state order, have said the issue needs resolution.
Hasselmo said he is meeting with faculty leaders to discuss amendments to the tenure code that will be more favorable to the faculty.
The regents passed a less controversial tenure code for the University’s Law School in November and Morris campus in December. This code, dubbed Sullivan II, implemented several recommendations from the Faculty Senate. Hasselmo also expressed support for this proposal.
In a letter sent to faculty members after the union vote, Hasselmo stressed the importance of resolving the issue.
“While I believe that the tenure code that has been adopted for some segments of the University by the Board of Regents is a sound one … it is imperative that any remaining issue be resolved and a tenure code adopted for the entire University on the basis of those principles,” he wrote.
Hasselmo said discussions will continue until the issue is resolved. However, he also said the regents have no tenure discussions scheduled in the near future.
ALG lawsuit
Another issue concerning the University is the $100 million lawsuit that was filed against the University last December because of disputes about the ALG anti-rejection drug.
The main complaint is that the University profited from the sale of an unlicensed drug, ALG, which was developed by Dr. John Najarian while he was head of the University’s surgery department.
Despite rumors last week that both sides had reached a settlement, Hasselmo said no such agreement had yet taken place and that no specific amounts have been decided.
However, he said talks between the University and the U.S. Department of Justice are going smoothly.
“The reports I received are that they’re making progress,” he said.
Hasselmo said there is a strong possibility that a settlement will be reached sometime in the near future.
Hasselmo began his briefing by talking about the University’s success in increasing freshmen applications for 1997, especially with minorities.
According to recent figures from the admissions office, freshmen applications are up 6 percent from last year and 64 percent from 1992.
Included are the minority applications that increased 8 percent from last year and 77 percent from 1992.
But Hasselmo also stressed that it is important for the University to continue working to increase these rates and to keep working with students.
“Clearly, the University needs to work with K through 12 (schools) to open up the pipeline, because we cannot expect an increase or recruitment of students of color it they do not come through high school,” he said.