Report to Board of Regents: Athletics, Innovation, Mental Health and more

Friday, June 10, 2016

We all just saw and applauded the introduction of Mark Coyle as our new Director of Gopher Athletics. As I said on the day we hired him, Mark is a man of great integrity and experience, and his first 10 days on the job have demonstrated that. But let me answer a question that some might have asked about Mark in the past few weeks: Why — why? — would anyone take the job to lead Gopher athletics at this time, with all the challenges we face, all the decisions that must be made, and all the eyes that are on him?

Here’s why: because the Gophers Athletics Director position is a prime job in an excellent program at an extraordinary University, playing in the nation’s best conference. Mark knows, too, from his previous years here that, when it comes to NCAA rules, he takes over a department with a strong culture of compliance, and one that is — and this is not a boast, this is a fact — a model for the Big Ten and most of the country.

We have not had any major NCAA violations for 14 years. Our Athletics Department Compliance Office set the standard years ago when it began to report to our Office of General Counsel and not to the Athletics Director. Our compliance officers have a completely autonomous and unchallengeable authority to investigate and report any suspected NCAA rules violations. This structure, which we pioneered, is now recommended by the Big Ten Conference as a best practice for demonstrating institutional control. 

When it comes to academics, we’re doing well, too. Earlier this year, 14 of our teams were recognized by the NCAA with Academic Progress Rate (APR) Awards for placing among the top 10 percent of all programs nationally. Gopher Athletics finished fourth nationally – and number one among all FBS public institutions – in the percentage of teams within the department earning APR Awards. This is the second straight year Minnesota has led the nation’s public schools in this category. Our men and women split the awards equally, with seven men’s programs and seven women’s programs receiving these honors. Per capita athlete, we produced the most Academic All-Big Ten students in the conference. 

And, on our Crookston, Morris and Duluth campuses, those who compete as Golden Eagles, Cougars or Bulldogs are students first, too. 

At Crookston, which plays at the Division II level, athletes comprise 30 percent of the on-campus student population, and nearly a quarter of them earn all-conference All-Academic Honors. Individual teams as well as the Student Athletic Advisory Committee are active on campus and in the community with various volunteer and community service activities.  

At UMD, where there are both Division I and Division II teams, the civic engagement with the Duluth community is extraordinary. 

And this past year, athletes at University of Minnesota Morris won 67 All-Conference recognitions on the field and 74 Academic All-Conference mentions in the classroom.

Challenges? Yes, of course. But Gopher athletics — and Bulldog, Cougar and Golden Eagle athletics, too — bring our campus communities and our alumni and friends together for a common cause to root for other members of our community. We exist in 21st century American higher education, and competitive intercollegiate athletics is part of what we do. We do them pretty well.

We must do it even better. I’m confident that Mark Coyle is the right person to lead this effort, and I’m eager to cheer him — and all of our students — on to great success and excellence in all they do.  

Legislative session and other news

Let me turn to a few other important news items. First, the outcome of the Legislative session. Needless to say, it was very disappointing that a bonding bill was not advanced. To quote Governor Dayton, “When you shortchange the University of Minnesota, you shortchange the economic and social vitality of the future of Minnesota, all over the state.” I am hopeful that our elected representative will reach agreement and hold a special session to invest in many important projects across the state, including the operating budget of the University of Minnesota.

We just saw and I appreciate the energy and passion of our students. Among my top priorities is to keep tuition down. Over the past five years, during my tenure, tuition increases have averaged less than 1%. I'm also committed to addressing campus climate issues and making this a more diverse community. Addressing these issues is long term work and like our students, I also want change more quickly, but I assure you these are and will continue to be priority issues.

A few other items that demonstrate our commitments to the state’s culture of innovation, that reflect on our national and global reputation, and that underscore our concern for our students’ health …

First, earlier this week, we announced the 100th startup company launched by the Venture Center of our Office for Technology Commercialization. That’s one hundred companies over the past decade fueled by the ingenuity of our faculty. Seventy-five percent of those are based here in Minnesota, and 82 percent of them are active today, well above the national average for startups. The companies have raised about $219 million in investment capital. Further evidence, the University of Minnesota is key to our state’s innovation culture and entrepreneurial spirit, and this record of startups helps to prove it.

Secondly, as I mentioned yesterday at the start of your workshop on our Strategic Plan, I attended and spoke at two remarkable events that we sponsored. Tuesday night was the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, a truly global event, hosted by the Norwegian Consulate and co-sponsored with our friends at Augsburg College. Nobel Laureate Kailish Satyarthi was honored, and our international profile was elevated.
A night earlier, hundreds of national and community leaders gathered to honor five outstanding citizens who were honored with the Humphrey School’s Public Leadership Awards. A former United States Vice President and a former Secretary of State were in attendance, but the remarks by our Law School alumnus, Justice Alan Page, were particularly moving as he discussed his commitment to the education of young people who might not otherwise have opportunities. 

Among those who Justice Page praised was a young man he’s known and mentored for many years, who has achieved the vision of the Page Scholars Program, and, I think, has turned out pretty well — and that’s Regent Abdul Omari.

It was a special night and was evidence of the influence of our Humphrey School and our University, from our Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to the halls of Congress and beyond.

Mental health investments                                 

Finally, as you know, student mental health is top public health issue across our system. More than 30 percent of students across our system report a mental health diagnosis in their lifetime. Over the last several months, Provost Hanson and I heard from many students and parents across the University about their concerns regarding student mental health — concerns about waitlists, about culturally competent services, and about overall approaches to care.

You also heard those concerns firsthand at last month’s budget forum. Given this critical need, the Provost and I are committing an additional $200,000 in each of the next two years from my office and the Provost’s office funds to further support student mental health services. Specifically, this money will fund two positions in Boynton Health’s Mental Health Clinic and 2-and-a-half positions in Student Counseling Services. This funding is in addition to the $97,200 investment in mental health resources that is in the proposed budget you will consider later this morning. And we will continue mental health access across our system campus. That funding will also help increase Boynton’s staffing. In total, this means that the University will add 6.5 full time equivalent clinicians and counselors who will work directly with students seeking mental health services. With will also continue to assess mental health needs across our system campuses.

I want to thank you on the Board of Regents and the FCC for your attention to this issue, as well as the staff in both Boynton Health and Student Counseling Services for their ongoing services to our students.
I assure you, our approach to addressing mental health issues on all of our campuses does not end here. We also are working closely with faculty governance to identify other steps we can take to address this as the comprehensive public health issue that it is. With that, Mr. Chair, I conclude my report.