President Kaler's December 2013 Report to the Board of Regents
Thank you, Chair Beeson, members of the Board. Let me begin with the current and most pressing issue: campus safety. The University of Minnesota is a safe place. We are safe and open to all ideas, to all people, to all discoveries. That is the essence of who we are and what we do: we provide a secure environment for intellectual freedom and the safe exchange of opinions.
But all of that must occur in safe classroom buildings, secure campus walkways, safe residence halls, and in secure surrounding neighborhoods. Recently, unfortunately and unacceptably, we have been faced with criminals—thugs—who are threatening the safety and openness of this University, and the security of our neighborhoods. It’s even raising the question of how open we can be.
In my view, the safety of our Minneapolis campus is critical to the overall perception of the safety of this great metro area, which helps attract so many of our students. So this is not just our issue, but also one for our partners at City Hall and the Minneapolis Police Department. I want to assure you, Mr. Chair and Board members, that the U is taking extraordinary measures to ensure the safety of all of us who live, learn and work on campus.
It should not go unnoticed that we are the largest campus in the largest city in the largest county of this state. In fact, on any given weekday, our data shows that we have as many as 80,000 students, staff, faculty, visitors and patients on campus.
That makes us the state’s sixth largest city.
With Chief Hestness and Vice President Wheelock, I understand and share the deep concern of parents about the safety of their students.
I welcomed the concern of Senator Terri Bonoff, who chaired a committee hearing Tuesday looking into security on all of the college and university campuses in the metro area. Sadly, as it turns out, our students are not alone in being targets for criminals, but so are students on other college campuses.
As I’ve communicated to parents, to students and to everyone on campus, we have: met with elected officials, we are working with Minneapolis and Hennepin County law enforcement agencies, we have—over the past decade—upgraded campus security systems, and, in the past weeks, placed our own excellent campus police on extended overtime, expanded our very helpful Gopher Chauffeur program, and reached out to student organizations to work with us on crime prevention. We are doing very many things. And we will continue to do more, if need be.
In all that we do, we must remain a safe and secure University of Minnesota, and people must feel safe.
In other matters, there is much good news to communicate. Last week, our Civil Engineering Professor Emeritus Charles Fairhurst was in Paris to receive the Officer in the National Order of the Legion of Honor. By decree of the President of the French Republic, this is the highest decoration awarded in France.
The exceptional honor acknowledges Professor Fairhurst’s personal commitment to French-American relations, and, in particular, his extensive leadership in rock mechanics and nuclear waste within public-private partnerships in France.
I have asked that Professor Fairhurst’s name and this extraordinary international achievement be added to our Scholars Walk on campus. And I am asking now that Professor Fairhurst stand and be acknowledged for his exceptional career at our University!
Meanwhile, two faculty members have received the honor of being elected as Fellows by their peers to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Congratulations to Professor Eugene Borgida of our Twin Cities campus College of Liberal Arts and Professor Thomas Johnson of UMD’s Department of Geological Sciences.
I am also delighted about honors that two emerging scholars have won, and this is a good story. First, Caley Horan, who received her Ph.D. in history from the University last year, was the runner-up in the very competitive Best Dissertation Award in the nation, named by the Council of Graduate Schools. Advised by Regents Professor Elaine Tyler May and Professor Lary May, Horan’s dissertation was the second best of all dissertations written in the entire nation, and titled: “Actuarial Age: Insurance and the Emergence of Neoliberalism in the Postwar United States.” It must have been pretty good because she’s now a lecturer in history at Princeton.
But she came in second.
The next chapter—A history Ph.D. from Boston College named Austin Mason won the best dissertation contest with his titled: “Listening to the Early Medieval Dead: Religious Practices in Britain, 400—1000 C.E.”
But guess what? This semester Dr. Mason was hired by our history department, and he is now a member of the University faculty.
So, we were first and second! This is undeniable confirmation that we at the University of Minnesota are producing and attracting the nation’s finest new generation of scholars. And Austin Mason is with us today in the audience and I want to acknowledge that he’s now one of ours!!
That’s what excellence looks like, and the likes of Caley and Austin will continue to grow this University’s reputation and impact.
Academic Health Center
Turning to our Academic Health Center…since last we met in October, pending your approval today, we have appointed a new Dean of our Medical School and Vice President of our Academic Health Center, Dr. Brooks Jackson. That comes as we are finalizing this week our financing for our new Ambulatory Care Center and preparing for its icebreaking—I mean, groundbreaking!—next week. We continue to work on the details of our integrated structure and its branding with Fairview, who has just brought on its new CEO. Ever since I’ve been President of the University of Minnesota, returning the impact and reputation of our Academic Health Center to national prominence has been a priority of mine—and yours—and we are making great progress.
Also, since last we met, our NCAA champion Gophers women’s hockey team set its 62-game winning streak, a remarkable achievement. They lost one game, and now they’re back on another six-game streak, so, stay tuned. What a great group of student athletes, and what a terrific coach!
Our Gophers volleyball team has advanced to its fifth straight NCAA Sweet Sixteen, and we’ll be rooting hard for them tonight when they take on a really tough Stanford team.
And, of course, our Gophers football team will be facing Syracuse at the Texas Bowl on December 27, and I look forward to singing The Rouser with many of you in Houston. Off the field, 72 of our fall athletes from all sports were named to the Big Ten Academic All-Conference team. Of those 72, 35 are football players, and—except for Northwestern—they comprise the largest group of Academic All-Conference players of any football program in the conference.
Also, in looking at the important NCAA Academic Progress Rate, or APR, of the 53 teams from across the nation that were in bowl games last season and are returning to bowl games this season, the Gophers football team saw the largest improvement in APR. So, in every way, under Coach Kill and his staff, our program is making progress.
In Duluth, the news is just as good. Twenty Bulldog senior football players completed their careers with a four-year record of 58-8. More significantly, all 20 of them will be graduating this year.
Year in review, year ahead
All in all, it’s been a very good 2013, as we saw our partnership with the Governor and Legislature secure a tuition freeze for Minnesota-resident undergraduates and gain MnDRIVE research dollars. We’ve embarked on an important Strategic Planning process. We have committed to $90 million in reduction of administrative cuts.
Systemwide, UM Crookston continued to be ranked nationally for excellence and affordability of on-line degrees. Students from UM Morris led students from across our entire University to a national Student Sustainability Leadership Award for developing policy that was adopted by the Dayton Administration. UM Rochester graduated its first class, and saw enrollment grow nine-fold since its birth in 2009. Revealing its own entrepreneurial spirit, UMD established a first-in-the-nation major in Cultural Entrepreneurship, combining the traditional lessons of business schools with the creative thinking that is cultivated in the arts.
Just a great, great year for our entire system.
In looking ahead to 2014, I wish you and your families a healthy New Year. I also am planning on a happy and healthy legislative year for our University, as we make a responsible, but very important, capital request that you’ve approved. So, in closing, I’d like to debut for you the video we will be showing to the Legislators and our advocates to advance our request.
Mr. Chair, members of the Board, thank you again for your support, for a successful 2013, and for all you do and will do for our University in the coming year.