A congenial Capitol meets

Coralie Carlson

For the second year in a row, University President Mark Yudof is shaping up to be the darling of the state Legislature.
In a meeting remarkable for its lack of contention, Yudof asked state legislators on Monday to bolster funding for undergraduate programs, launching the legislative season for University officials.
In a 20-minute slide-show presentation, Yudof peddled the $1.2 billion University budget request — including proposals to hire 100 new professors, offer seminar classes to all freshman and bulk up custodial services — as an investment that would benefit the entire state, not just students.
“The University provides the infrastructure for the economy for Minnesota,” he said.
Every two years, the state Legislature gives the University a major appropriation — the University’s largest revenue source. The University receives a base amount every two years, but this year University officials asked for an additional $198 million for new programs. Most of the new money would be rolled into the base appropriation for the next biennium.
On Wednesday, Frank Cerra, senior vice president of the Academic Health Center, introduces the request for that center. Committee members must then decide how much of the request to fund and they pass a spending bill. Next, the bill wins approval on the House floor and the companion bill passes on the Senate floor. Finally, Gov. Jesse Ventura needs to sign it into law.
As the 12-member committee paged through their copies of the budget, Yudof sped through his presentation uninterrupted, even though he expected questions.
Known for his many initiatives, Yudof lost track of them all by the end of his show due to his deft pace.
“I think I have one more initiative, don’t I? I’m out of initiatives,” Yudof said to an amused committee.
But the committee didn’t stay quiet for long. They quizzed Yudof and a handful of other top administrators on the different provisions, ranging from custodial work to attending classes online.
The freshman seminars won accolades among many legislators who expressed concern about class size at the University.
Rep. Betty Folliard, DFL-Hopkins, said she knows what it’s like to take big classes. She remembered taking a class with about 1,600 students in the late 1960s when she attended Harvard, a course called Human Sexuality.
Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said he heard positive feedback from students who took the seminars. Pelowski teaches high school, and a former student of his enrolled in the seminar Yudof taught fall quarter.
Steven Rosenstone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, remarked that the legislators’ questions were more friendly and supportive than in past years.
“Sometimes a particular issue comes up that is a problem,” Rosenstone said. “That didn’t happen here.”