State reps see U requests in person

The tour focused on funding for facilities but also touched on the proposed stadium.

by Aidan M. Anderson

University lobbyists spent Tuesday morning ferrying state politicians across campus in an effort to bolster support for this year’s bonding bill projects.

Twenty members of Minnesota’s House committees for Higher Education Finance and Capital Investment visited the University to see the faces and places of the projects for which state funding has been requested.

Despite the tour’s focus on academic facility expansion, questions about the proposed on-campus stadium quickly arose when Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, asked University President Bob Bruininks for his thoughts on strategy for funding.

“I have to tell you as I stand here today, we’re going to push hard to get a vote on this,” he said. “We really need you to act on this bill and give us an up or down decision.”

During a tour stop at a Cinema as Ideology class, Hausman asked a group of 15 students whether they approved of a $50-per-semester fee for the stadium. None responded in favor.

Later in the morning, however, representatives received a much different response from a class of 30 Carlson School of Management students, nearly all of whom showed support for the fees by raise of hand.

Ryan Frailich, a public relations and psychology senior who met with the representatives during their lunch stop, talked about the on-campus stadium proposal.

A strong sense of community would be enough to secure the student-financed portion of the stadium, but most students don’t understand how the fees for a stadium would work, he told representatives.

“(Student input) is something that they’re not going to hear when they’re sitting around with a bunch of other legislators, they’re going to hear it when they talk to students,” he said.

The tour group also heard from several other students, including Lindsay Novak, a junior in the Carlson School, and biomedical engineering senior Santhi Elayaperumal.

Renovated and up-to-date facilities show students the University really cares about learning environments, Elayaperumal said.

“It’s a good reflection of the University of Minnesota,” she said. “It’s just basically for a good environment to work and study in.”

The Carlson School can enroll a limited number of students because of a lack of space, Novak said.

“We’re turning away quality students and they’re going out of the state, and we want to keep them here,” she said.

The group of about 20 legislators began their morning with coffee, bagels and a greeting from Bruininks at the welcome center at Jones Hall, a building renovated with state money.

Seeing improvements made to campus buildings helps in making decisions on other projects, said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal.

“In terms of the future, it shows you what can be accomplished,” he said.

Representatives heard from Frank Cerra, senior vice president of the Academic Health Center, who updated officials on the University’s ability to recruit the nation’s top researchers. The group toured lab space at McGuire Translational Research Facility and Nils Hasselmo Hall. Lab space is at a premium and a mirror facility to the McGuire building is needed to retain a leading edge in recruitment and research, Cerra said.

While the University leads in terms of researcher recruitment, states like California and Wisconsin are spending big money to bolster their own research programs, Cerra said.

“We’re in a race right now … the engine that drives: that is the new knowledge engine of the biosciences inside this institution and Mayo Ö and to compete with people around us we need new facilities,” he said.

Representatives toured the research labs and spoke with students and professors working on projects, including stem-cell research.

The tour of the Science Classroom Building was cut short, but a quick stop at its entrance near the Washington Avenue footbridge gave the legislators an idea of the traffic the location sees.

The rotting wood sills, rusted entryways and crumbling window glaze illustrated the University’s case for replacing the building.