Bruininks: More police to patrol campus

The University president discussed safety concerns and campus initiatives.

Yelena Kibasova

Last year the University experienced a lot of crime. What is the University doing to ensure student safety?
The safety of our students is a very important priority for the University.

We are adding police officers to increase at least the amount of protection for our own university community, meeting with the Minneapolis police officials and Minneapolis city government officials to determine what we can do to increase the safety of the neighborhoods that surround the University of Minnesota, and, I think, entering into some very serious discussion with community leaders about these issues.

What exactly do you mean?
How the long-range planning of the neighborhood around the University will be developed in a way that will really promote public safety and promote the quality of life that we expect our students to enjoy when they come here to study at the University of Minnesota.

Many metropolitan universities face these challenges and I think the level of safety around the Twin Cities campus is among the highest in the country. But it still is a serious issue when you notice that the statistics regarding robberies Ö are going up.

That happened last year. We took very special notice and we put a number of actions into place.

I plan to meet with other members of the administration (and) with our students and student leaders over the next several months, because I think they may have some ideas about what we could do to better promote safety. It may have to do with transportation issues, lighting issues; things that we can do to better protect students and student safety after-hours and weekends.

What do you hope to accomplish during the new school year?
We have a very ambitious agenda for this year. We are still very much in the process of strategic planning and positioning. We truly are committed to transforming the quality of service, support and the quality of work that we do at the University of Minnesota.

We want to make this year another year of improvement (and) renewal at the University of Minnesota, so continuing down that path of instituting some of the new ideas that are growing out of this process (such as) development of the writing initiative (and) the honors initiative for students.

The development of new interdisciplinary programs to promote cooperative and integrative work across different fields of study at the University of Minnesota at the educational and research levels is a very important priority.

We will organize some new institutes. A new institute on bio-fuel is under development (and) a new institute on the environment that will create some very exciting degree possibilities.

Secondly, this is the year when we approach the state of Minnesota for a renewal of their commitment to the budget and resources of the University of Minnesota.

We’re going to ask for an ambitious budget increase to meet the ongoing needs of the University of Minnesota, to help make up for some of the serious budget reduction we had approximately four years ago and to make the kind of investments in the University’s education, research and public service programs that we think are necessary to improve our situation and to improve the quality of what we do.

Thirdly, we hope to put a modest request in front of the state to do some remodeling of existing buildings.

The legislative agenda is big. It’s very, very important to the University of Minnesota and it’ll be one of the most consequential legislative sessions in the last, probably, six to eight years, so we have very high expectations of doing well.

What kind of budget increase are you asking for?
We are not quite ready to go live on that yet. It will be larger than the requests we made last time and as a part of that we want to lower the tuition increases for our students. We want those tuition increases to be closer to the normal cost of living.

The request will go to the Board of Regents for its review in October. It will be acted on in November and then submitted to the state in mid-November.

What kind of progress will the stadium be making during the next year?
We’re actually going to break ground for the new stadium at the end of September. We have already finished the environmental statement Ö hired an architect (and) we’ve hired a construction management firm.

We’re starting the process to prepare the site and to move a road to improve the traffic flow around the campus.

Next year and the year following will be very heavily (involved) in construction of the stadium.

This is a year too where we’re continuing to finish the private fundraising. When we left the legislature, we had an obligation to raise another roughly $50 million and we’re working on that.

Will rerouting roads cause any problems?
It may create a bottleneck or two here and there but a lot of this has been started during the summer when the traffic is really down. So I don’t think it will be highly disruptive. I drive through there all the time and it hasn’t affected me very much.

The other thing that students will be very interested in is an active conversation about the future of the light-rail.

The next extension of light- rail is going to have to come through the campus or near the campus and Ö since students and faculty and staff of the University of Minnesota are very substantial users of public transit, the issue of transportation to and from the campus will be a very, very important topic of discussion this year.

Since there are so many pedestrians on campus, are there any safety concerns with the light rail?
Well that is one of the issues that we have to think about. The third most congested area in the entire state for crossing streets is right here at the University of Minnesota.

We’re one of the leaders on the use of public transportation. No public transportation in my judgment can succeed without a carefully coordinated plan with the University of Minnesota.

While the University works to reach top research status, some students are concerned that education should be the top priority.

I agree with the students. We are a major research university but equally important we are one of the leading educational universities. I don’t see those as separate, I see those as being joined.

That’s what makes it unique to study at the University of Minnesota; the fact that we are working on our campuses, are developing ideas, and then bringing those ideas into the classroom.

We’re trying to expand opportunities for students to work directly with faculty through the undergraduate research opportunities program.

All of these efforts are bringing the research and educational missions of the University Ö much closer together.

I think it’s important for students to remind us that one of our first responsibilities is to pay attention to the educational mission of the University and to try to achieve the same level of excellence in our educational programs that we’re trying to strive to achieve in our efforts to discover knowledge and to make important applications that our society needs to improve its economy and quality of life.