Preventing sexual misconduct, DACA, and other news: President's Report to Board of Regents, September 2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

When the calendar turns to September, and when our new students begin moving in to their residence halls, when I have the delight of hearing and sing “The Rouser,” and the syllabi are handed out, there’s nothing like the excitement of a new academic year for me and, I know, for you as well. We’re here because of our students and, when they return in full force, the energy they bring to our University is unmistakable. For us, it’s a reminder that the business of keeping our University great is about ensuring the best possible experience for all 60,000-plus of our students in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and here on the Twin Cities campus.

With that in mind, let me review where we stand on some initiatives, update you on my reaction to some recent news, report to you on recent work, and share with you what’s on tap in the weeks to come.

President's Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct
First, under the leadership of School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan, we’re moving forward with my President’s Initiative to Prevent Sexual Misconduct. This is very important to me. Key issues were also echoed in the independent report issued last month to the Special Oversight Committee, we are responding to them, and even member of the public and the news media have recognized that response.

Over the summer, Dean Finnegan and a broad range of stakeholders — faculty, staff and students — have been working hard to develop a comprehensive plan to deliver to me by my deadline, which is October 2nd. There is no silver bullet here, as you know, but we’re building on an already good foundation, and we want to — we must do — even better. 

My initiative envisions a University that promotes a culture of health and wellness in relationships, that’s committed to due process, and that’s safe and free from sexual misconduct. That’s why I selected Dean Finnegan to lead this effort because, in the end, culture change will develop from a positive, public health framework. You should know that Alan Berkowitz, a national leader in guiding institutions towards solutions to sexual misconduct will be visiting the Twin Cities campus on September 19 and meeting with faculty, staff and student leaders.      

As you know, earlier this week, a decision was made in Washington to end in March the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. I joined a chorus of local and national higher education and business leaders in expressing disappointment in that decision, and I am, of course, especially concerned for the young people registered in the program who are our students.
Those in the DACA program are valued members of our community, and have called Minnesota home in many case for most of their lives.

Despite the federal government’s actions, the Minnesota Dream Act remains a state law that was adopted by the Board of Regents as the official policy for the University of Minnesota system. But I want to emphasize that this decision has deep business implications here in our state.

For the last year, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, for example, has been touring the state, educating local chambers on the facts of our state workforce. One of those facts is that we have an aging workforce. We have a critical need for educated workers, and equally important, our workforce is increasingly dependent on in-migration of new Minnesotans. Whether transplants from another state or transplants from another country, our state workforce is calling out for additional workers.

Higher education at every level helps to prepare that workforce, and we are partners with our business community in urging our Congressional delegation to work to extend DACA to protect students and their families, and to keep the promise of opportunity for young people who want to lift up themselves with a world-class college education and a good job. 
Other news
On a few other matters, I have begun meeting with Legislators to discuss our capital request for the 2018 legislative session, to emphasize to them the impact this great University has in all 87 counties, and to drive home our affordability. You may have seen recent stories about the cost of private colleges in Minnesota and others on the debt load of students. Let me remind you, that about 40 percent of all of our undergraduates across system-wide — and 43 percent here on the Twin Cities campus — graduate with no government-secured debt.

And because of our comprehensive financial aid program, almost every student from a family earning less than $50,000 a year can attend our University tuition free. I’m proud of that.

I recently visited Winona and Red Wing making our case, and that’s just the start of our outreach, led by Vice President Matt Kramer and State Government Relations Director JD Burton. I also had the pleasure of spending time with U.S. Congress member Betty McCollum, who toured with me our spectacular and almost finished new Bell Museum on the St. Paul campus. That will be open to the public next summer.
Most of you were in 3M Arena at Mariucci last week at the Convocation of our incoming Twin Cities class, the largest first-year class in 47 years. I think you’ll agree it was a fun and emotional event, and I trust today you're all wearing your T-shirts. Not only is our Twin Cities class the largest, but, without all the official data in, we believe our system’s entire first-year enrollment is the largest in 30 years. So, we are in demand and we’re filling seats across the system.

Of course, our system campuses this semester are also experiencing new leadership. Chancellor Michelle Behr of Morris and Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause of Crookston are in charge for their first full semesters. And Lori Carrell is our new Interim Chancellor in Rochester, and I’m very pleased to welcome these new members of our Leadership Team. I’m looking forward to visiting Morris on September 29 when Chancellor Behr is official inaugurated, and you are all invited.

Meanwhile, I want to congratulate our Vice President for Equity and Diversity, Katrice Albert, who is leaving the University of Minnesota to become executive vice president of inclusion and human resources for the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the NCAA.  Dr. Albert joined the University in 2013, and has been a key partner in addressing the challenging and important work around equity and diversity. I am grateful for her service and contributions, and it will be great to have a Gopher in such a role with the NCAA.   
Finally, Board staff will now distribute my Work Plan and goals for the coming year. From finalizing our System-Wide Strategic Plan to achieving the longstanding vision for integrated academic medicine, to diligently supporting our philanthropic efforts, my Work Plan is focused and ambitious. I look forward to working closely this academic year with you to benefit our students and to promote the excellence and reputation of our great University.