Kaler talks ticket plan, budget surplus

He also discussed the University’s autonomy from the state, retaining Jerry Kill, and a lack of data on homeless students.

Blair Emerson

As fall semester draws to a close, the Minnesota Daily sat down with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler on Monday for the semester’s final installment of Kickin’ it with Kaler.

The school’s top administrator discussed retaining head football coach Jerry Kill, concerns from the Chicano and Latino Studies department and other University issues.

The University of Minnesota’s athletics department announced last week that it would be increasing scholarship seating fees for the next three years, starting with the 2015 season. What type of feedback have you gotten on the new plan, and why did you see it necessary to raise ticket prices?

Well, it’s necessary because we compete with Big Ten schools who have larger stadiums and more robust budgets. …

We haven’t raised ticket prices at TCF [Bank Stadium] … since 2009 when it opened. … We laid out a three-year plan to move us into a more competitive position vis-à-vis our peers. … It’s also a scholarship seating premium, so it’s tax-deductible. …

We’ve gotten feedback from a couple hundred people. About 2-to-1 are disappointed. They don’t want to pay more. But a third of the people … are supportive of making a larger investment in Gopher football.

In the upcoming Board of Regents election early next year, there are five seats up for grabs. Do you expect to see a lot of new faces?

Well, I expect I’ll see at least four new faces. I think Regent [Richard] Beeson is likely to be [re-]elected. But obviously with [Regent Patricia] Simmons, [Regent John] Frobenius and [Regent Clyde] Allen rotating off, and of course the unfortunate passing of Regent [David] Larson, we will have a third of the board new, and that’s a challenge for the board to manage. It’s a lot of turnover, from a sort of historical point of view.

A forecast released last week by the Minnesota Management and Budget office announced that the state will see a $1 billion surplus for the 2016-17 fiscal years without inflation. How do you expect this forecast will affect the University’s own biennial budget request?

Well, I suggested to send that right on over to us, but I think there will be quite a bit longer process involved there. …

We’ll continue to advocate as aggressively as we can for continued investment in the University of Minnesota.

With the help of the University’s senior leaders, the regents’ audit committee compiled an institutional risk profile for the year. Some regents identified autonomy at the top of the list. Do you believe autonomy from the state has been an issue for the board in recent years, and why do you think this was a top “risk” that regents have identified?

Well, I’m not sure it’s been an issue particularly recently, but it is one of the great strengths of the University: the ability for us to operate as the Board of Regents sees fit and to not be subject to political pressures from the Legislature.

Do you think University students have a meaningful voice in policy decision-making on campus?

I really think they do. I interact with the MSA and the graduate student organizations on a pretty regular basis. They elect student representatives to the Board of Regents, who are respected by the regents and listened to by the regents.

I’m eager to hear the student point of view. We respond as proactively and as positively as we can to resolutions that come from the student government.

Of the institutions I’ve been at, this is the one I think has the most connection between students and university administration.

Do you have any exciting plans for the break?

We certainly will be at the Citrus Bowl. We’ll probably go down a little bit before the game, probably on [Dec. 29]. Karen and I will celebrate 35 years of matrimony on [Dec. 30], and we’ll do that with some Gopher fans. And we may stop by and visit some of Karen’s family in Tennessee as well.

Jerry Kill was just named Big Ten coach of the year. After the University of Nebraska fired its football coach, some speculated that Nebraska could try to recruit him. Are you confident Kill will stay with the Gophers?

The Nebraska coaching spot is filled, as is the Kansas spot, [for] which his name was also mentioned. He has said to me and said publicly that he wants to stay in Minnesota as long as we’ll have him, and I hope that’s a long, long time.

What is your reaction to Chicano and Latino studies leaders when they say they need more investment from the University?

The department has a great legacy. They’ve been in operation for more than 40 years. But Dean [John] Coleman has talked about a variety of plans to help that program succeed … and I’m confident that he’ll have success moving
forward.

Would the University support an affirmative consent policy, like California’s “yes means yes” law, which would require both parties to consent to sex for it to be legal?

I think we need to have some more conversations about what that would look like here. We have a strong definition of consent in our student policies.

The University does not hold data on how many of its students are homeless or could be at risk of homelessness. Do you think this is an issue? Does the University have any plans to address this?

It’s hard data to collect. I think obviously [it’s] an issue. …

I do understand that the state of Minnesota has some plans to prevent and end homelessness, and I think aligning with those is probably the best way to move forward on this issue.