Interview: President Bob Bruininks

The editorial board asks University President Bob Bruininks about the light rail dispute, alcohol at TCF, budget cuts and more.

Question 1: You have said that “we will not achieve our aspirational goals without a strong and continuing partnership with the state of Minnesota.“ Last year, CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter declared a “dramatic and permanent reset of the University’s sources of revenue,“ referring to the state’s cumulative drop in University funding. On April 6, Provost Tom Sullivan wrote in an email, “as I’ve said before, our mission is clear, our goal unchanged.” If the legislature does not sign on to the higher education renaissance, what will happen to the strategic positioning agenda?
Bob’s Answer #1

1.1:If the state doesn’t decide to turn around it’s trend [of decreased funding] what happens to the strategic positioning agenda?
Bob’s Answer #1.1

 

1.2: Is it realistic to say that you’d have to give up on parts of the agenda, and if so, which ones would you look to first?
Bob’s Answer #1.2

 

Question 2: You’ve suggested in the State of the University address that building a coherent unity of purpose within the University will help us to secure that 20 percent of funding that we currently get from the state. But at the last Faculty Senate meeting you dismissed those who wanted to debate a sliding scale pay cut plan by saying that yours was, “the only plan at this point on the table being discussed the we are going to consider.” How does sort of attitude foster that unity of purpose you discuss in your address?
Bob’s Answer #2

 

Question 3: In your State of the University address you said that “changes that do not have broad support from those affected do not stick“ How will you win student’s support for your budget balancing proposals and does shared governance play a role in that?
Bob’s Answer #3

 

Question 4: You were quoted a month or two ago in the Daily as saying that tuition, with the state’s $36 million cut to the University, could go up 15 percent. Is that true?
Bob’s Answer #4

 

Question 5: What is your administration looking to offer student government as far as shared governance is concerned?
Bob’s Answer #5

 

5.1: Students at the University of Wisconsin achieved shared governance through state legislation. You said earlier in a response that Wisconsin’s shared governance model was a good one. What don’t you like about going the legislative route?
Bob’s Answer #5.1

 

Question 6: According to the last budget report, $26 million from the general University fund went into the athletics program. Those are dollars coming from tuition that go into the general University fund that then gets allocated to athletics. For students who aren’t really interested in the athletics programs at the University, how are these costs justified when we are facing such serious budget shortfalls and when athletics provides a lot of its own revenues?
Bob’s Answer #6

 

Question 7: Why is alcohol not allowed in the TCF Bank stadium? Follow-ups: With this budget situation is [allowing alcohol] something you would consider? Why were ticket sales discounted? Do you think there’s a fairness issue for selling [alcohol] to suite ticket holders as opposed to general ticket holders?
Bob’s Answer #7

 

Question 8: TXT-U was used for the first time two nights ago after a student was stabbed in Dinkytown. Do you think crimes in off-campus areas such as Dinkytown or on the West Bank should be alerted to students just as crimes on campus are?
Bob’s Answer #8

 

Question 9: In your State of the University Address, you write about the University’s partnership with the communities and citizens of Minnesota. The light rail, we feel, is one such a partnership. We support the University’s concerns in this, but at the same time compromise is inevitable. Would you be willing to back down or make further sacrifices than perhaps you were originally willing to make?
Bob’s Answer #9

 

Question 10: What would be the cost of actually moving the research facilities [that would be affected by the light rail]?
Bob’s Answer #10

 

Question 11: In your State of the University Address you write that we must rationalize funding across all academic programs. Are you willing to do the same for administrative operations?
Bob’s Answer #11

 

11.1: A year-and-a-half ago you said, “We have more administration than we need and we don’t necessarily need all the administration on all the levels.” Do you have a plan to streamline the process?
Bob’s Answer #11.1

 

11.2: Is that consolidation model something you think you can apply to other departments and administrators?
Bob’s Answer #11.2

 

11.3: Especially in the last year, cuts have been made and cost reductions have moved forward. But looking back since the time you assumed the presidency, overall expenditures have gone up 34 percent while academic support has gone up 44 percent and institutional support has gone up 54 percent. How do you justify those increases?
Bob’s Answer #11.3

 

Question 12: You say one of the problems with comparing “institutional support” and “academic support” is that function codes don’t reveal the detail of expenditures included under these categories. Along those lines, students want to know where exactly their tuition dollars are going. What could you do to make this breakdown more available and clear?
Bob’s Answer #12

 

Question 13: Like so many other universities in the country, the University of Minnesota is moving toward a high-tuition, high-aid model. We’re increasingly relying on private donations and so-forth. Is this sustainable, and do we have a right to call ourselves a “public university” now that the University gets more money tuition than the state?
Bob’s Answer #13

 

Question 14: For many students, the University is financially accessible when they arrive, but ends up being unaffordable as economic circumstances change. Do you believe that tuition caps for a student in a four-year period are realistic given the current state of the cycle we are in?
Bob’s Answer #14