Welcome back to the U: A letter from the Minnesota Daily

Cleo Krejci

The Minnesota Daily has served as the University of Minnesota’s completely student-run newspaper since it was founded in 1900. Today we cover some of the very same topics the Daily covered in the early 1900s — the University’s extensive network of students, faculty, staff, alumni and more, all set together in a school the size of a city. To get you caught up, here is a brief recap of some of the biggest stories from the past spring and summer.

The University of Minnesota’s 168th year has been marked by firsts. Joan Gabel is set to take on her first school year as president of the University, the first woman to hold the position following 16 male predecessors. Four new members of the board of regents took seats in May, three of them women, now members of the University’s most powerful governing board. Between Gabel and the four new regents, many are eager to see what steps the University will take after former president Eric Kaler’s eight-year tenure.

Last spring, campus stood still during a regents meeting which ended a months-long debate over whether or not to rename Coffman Union after a faculty-led task force alleged racist and discriminatory practices by its namesake. In April, the board of regents voted against renaming the building, though decided to take further action to create “ongoing commemorations, educational activities, and/or permanent educational display[s]” about the student union. During that same meeting, longtime University professor and activist John Wright gave an impromptu speech before the board, backed by dozens of student, staff and faculty protesters in favor of renaming, detailing how the University’s history includes decades of painful discrimination which cannot be forgotten. 

Though the regents decided against the renaming, campus is still in limbo with how to move forward. Those who oppose renaming have argued that there is insufficient evidence to validate Coffman’s alleged actions, which the faculty task force described as racist, despite extensive research into his and other former faculty members’ time on campus in an exhibit called “A Campus Divided.” Those in favor of renaming argue that the building should not carry the name of what they see as a historical figure who took a leading role in racist, discriminatory actions against students. Many have expressed a commitment to continue the fight for renaming, saying the regents’ decision does not adequately contend with the University’s history.

Students this year are already feeling the effects of a 2 percent tuition increase for resident students, which took effect July 1 after significant debate between the Board of Regents and former president Eric Kaler. The latest tuition hike follows a 10 percent tuition hike for nonresident, nonreciprocity students in 2018.

It is difficult not to notice the shifts in landscape around the U. Pioneer hall’s two-year renovation is complete, welcoming students to its restored interior fit with 756 beds and 850 dining hall seats. Students in surrounding neighborhoods are experiencing changes, too. Sporty’s Pub and Grill, Varsity Bike & Transit, Kafe 421 and Football Pizza in Como are all closing, or have closed their doors. 

With the school year upon us, there are some last things you might want to commit to memory that do not fall within the rhythm of news coverage. Remember, you are at one of the biggest public universities in the country, surrounded by nearly 50,000 other students. For many of us, the U’s intricacies, size and history will surely seem daunting. But if century old newspaper can tell you anything, it is that the University is a space filled with endless stories to tell. With a bit of work, we can all do well to stay informed and move forward with the rest of 2019’s changes. In this edition, you can read some of our biggest stories of the summer to get caught up on what you might have missed.