Volunteers urge alumni to contact legislators in support of University funding

Anna Weggel

University President Bob Bruininks called random alumni Tuesday night, trying to get them to contact their legislators in support of the institution’s capital request.

Bruininks’ calls were the first of hundreds made by volunteers from the University’s Legislative Network, a group of approximately 10,000 alumni, students, faculty, staff and community supporters.

The network has met once per week since mid-February for “calling nights” at the McNamara Alumni Center.

Its goal is to encourage alumni, faculty and staff members to contact their legislators to gain support for the University’s $155.5 million capital bonding request.

After a short speech thanking volunteers for their work and encouraging them to remind constituents how important the University is to Minnesota, Bruininks sat down to make a few calls.

Bruininks picked three numbers from a call sheet and got two answering machines before reaching a man who graduated from the University years ago.

“I’m not calling because you’re behind on tuition or anything else,” Bruininks jokingly said.

He continued to encourage the man to contact his local legislator in support of the University’s capital request.

Bruininks said the man planned to call a legislator after realizing the president was not looking for a direct donation to the University.

“When you make that first million, I’ll call and see if we can get some of that direct funding,” Bruininks told the alumnus.

First-year Institute of Technology student Patrick McLoughlin, who attended the event, said he believes the University is in the midst of a fiscal crisis.

“State universities all around are having this problem,” he said. “I think the University of Minnesota could be the exception.”

Mike Dean, Legislative Network grassroots coordinator, said the network will continue the calling nights throughout the rest of the year.

“We are trying to really convince the Legislature that the University is important,” Dean said.

The Legislative Network will host calling nights once per week during March and April.

“If we don’t get a good result then we’ll have a traffic jam in the out years,” Bruininks said. “This is one we’re going to have to fight all the way to the end.”