Kaler talks budget, efficiency in speech

University President Eric Kaler gave his first State of the University address Thursday.

Dina Elrashidy

 

2013 budget preview

On Thursday, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler previewed Thursday the budget he will recommend to the Board of Regents in May.

In that budget, he recommends a 2.5 percent pay increase to all University employees, which follows three years of salary freezes or modest increases. The announcement, which came during his first State of the University address, was met with scattered applause.

But Kaler emphasized that not everything is looking up for the University.

 “The fantasy that the University could somehow advance its mission and hold the line on tuition as state support dwindles is just that, a fantasy,” Kaler said.

Operational Excellence

Kaler stressed the importance of increasing efficiency throughout the University.

Since September, Kaler has held meetings with the Operational Excellence Committee, which includes Provost Karen Hanson, school deans and other top administrators.

The committee’s goal is to look at the operations of the University and decide on improvements that could be made, which may result in less bureaucracy and more efficiency at the University.

“We have to do this because we need to eliminate ESP in our organization. ESP stands for Extremely Stupid Procedures,” Kaler said.

He asked senior leaders to look over their policies and suggest changes that would streamline or improve their procedures.

The University has 265 academic centers and institutes with budgets of more than $200 million annually.

Kaler has asked deans to look at the value, scope and importance of those centers and institutes.

“We may find that some, and maybe even most, remain valuable and relevant, but I’m willing to bet others are not,” he said.

Entrepreneurial leave

Another of Kaler’s proposed initiatives would allow University tenured and tenure-track faculty to take an “entrepreneurial leave.”

In that time, faculty could work full-time with businesses, start-ups and non-government organizations to develop ideas or products while keeping full benefits without salary.

“Basically, if you have a commercial, artistic or creative idea you’d like to explore, we will hold your place here,” he said.