Ice cold treats help offer warm thanks to key state lawmakers

by Coralie Carlson

Drawn by ice cream, a marching band and $206.8 million, lawmakers flooded campus Wednesday to celebrate the University’s legislative spoils.
University officials thanked Gov. Arne Carlson and state lawmakers at a ceremony on Northrop Plaza for the multi-million dollar financial package awarded to the school this legislative session for campus renovations.
More than 250 students, faculty and administrators gathered for free ice cream treats and the half-hour presentation.
“Today, as we celebrate a financial victory, the truth is it’s a challenge,” said Carlson, urging school officials to make good on their promises to adhere to strict construction schedules.
Frank Cerra, senior vice president for the Academic Health Center, said construction of the new cellular and molecular biology building is right on time. It is scheduled to be completed by 2001.
The time line is reiterated in a sign erected on Washington Avenue in front of the center’s future home. Other big construction projects such as Walter Library’s digital overhaul and Ford and Murphy hall renovations also are marked by colorful explanatory signs.
Knowing that University President Mark Yudof wants to keep tabs on the construction projects, the University Senate presented him with a bench to sit on as he supervises.
Yudof and Carlson playfully fought for room on the bench, but Yudof said he doesn’t take the Legislature’s endowment lightly.
“These are people who have a lot of trust in us,” Yudof said. “It is up to us to deserve that trust.”
The University Senate also passed a resolution last week praising Carlson and key legislators for their trust and support in the bonding bill.
“It’s good for the University to savor its victories,” said Speaker of the House Phil Carruthers, DFL-Brooklyn Center. “There haven’t been enough victories for the University in the last 10 years.”
Under Carlson’s administration, the school officials had to tighten the University’s belt as they faced slim budgets and vetoed appropriations.
Both college administrators and sympathetic lawmakers said they hoped the past two successful legislative sessions signal a turning tide for the University at the state capitol. In 1997, the school brought in $1.076 billion for the two-year budget cycle.
But University officials contemplated their current achievement at Wednesday’s gala. As Regents Chairman William Hogan put it, “We have indeed accomplished a modern day miracle.”