Yudof hopes media support his message

Rebecca Teale

As the Legislature prepares to dissect the University’s mammoth budget requests, University President Mark Yudof counts on the media to be one of his biggest allies.
For months Yudof has been touring the state and meeting with editorial boards to convince them to support the University’s request for more than $290 million.
On Friday, it was more of the same, but with a little twist. Yudof presented his legislative request to more than 200 media representatives at the annual Minnesota Newspaper Association convention.
“I’m never going to be at a bigger editorial board meeting than this one,” Yudof told those in attendance at the Bloomington Radisson. “So forgive me if I continue to take advantage of it.”
Although he did not get specific by detailing each expenditure in the request, Yudof presented general plans for the University’s future.
“There is a symbiotic relationship between the state of Minnesota and the University,” he said. “The University touches so many people and makes so many people’s lives richer.”
Donald Gillmor, a recently retired professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said the speech should prove effective in getting editorial boards to support the budget packages.
But both Gillmor and Bill Babcock, director of the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, said they wished Yudof had said more about the school’s new media initiative and his plans for the journalism school.
A proposed merger of the journalism school with the Department of Speech-Communications was rejected Jan. 26 by College of Liberal Arts Dean Steve Rosenstone. The proposal was the recommendation of a task force in December for combatting the school’s declining status.
The fate of the two departments now rests with Yudof and the Board of Regents.
“I think he made a very effective appeal to the newspaper publishers of the state,” Babcock said. “But did he talk about the journalism school?”
When the audience was invited to question Yudof at the end of the speech, Babcock asked Yudof if his new media initiative would include filling in the one-third empty faculty positions in the journalism school.
“In the last 10 years,” Babcock said, “when faculty have left, they have not been replaced.”
Yudof told Babcock he was not aware of how the hiring in the school would be handled.
But Kathy Hansen, associate professor of journalism and the director of the Minnesota Journalism Center, said that given his audience, it was appropriate that Yudof included only a general discussion on the media initiative.
“There will be other opportunities for him to discuss the plans for the journalism school,” Hansen said. “But he really did need to talk about agriculture and biology.”
And because more than 85 percent of the newspaper representatives at the convention were from greater Minnesota, much of Yudof’s speech concerned agricultural initiatives.
Gaylyn Wigen said he was impressed that Yudof had taken an interest in revamping the school of agriculture.
“Hutchinson is an agricultural town, our community wants to read positive news about agriculture,” Wigen said. “This gives us something to report that our readers will want to read.”
Yudof also discussed strengthening the molecular and cellular biological sciences. He referred to the University’s research in genetic manipulation and gene therapy as areas on which he would like the school to focus.
“You know, fooling around with DNA,” Yudof joked. “That’s the technical definition.”
If the Legislature fulfills the University’s budget requests, Yudof said the majority of the money would go to the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. But he insisted that all the campuses would benefit.
“We are one people, we are one state,” he said. “And there’s only one research university in this state, and that’s the University of Minnesota.”