Interim President University and Faculty Senate remarks

November 2, 2023

It’s an honor to be with you all again today. I appreciate the opportunity to engage with such a broad cross-section of faculty, staff, and students. 

Board of Regents update

I’ll start with an update from our October's Board of Regents meeting, where the Board approved the University’s 2024 capital request for state investment on urgent renovations and updates to our  facilities across the state.

With that approval, we will pursue a $500 million request for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR) funds during the 2024 legislative session. 

The proposal is built around institutional priorities, as well as strategic guidance outlined in the University’s systemwide strategic plan, MPact 2025. 

Priorities include:

  • Enhancing student-facing facilities and services, including libraries, student unions, academic support, student counseling facilities, recreation and wellness,
  • Investing in high-demand academic programs and mission-support facilities,
  • Right-sizing the overall amount of campus space,
  • Advancing innovation in health sciences, agriculture and biotechnology, and
  • Ensuring inclusive, accessible and welcoming campuses.

Facilities in poor or critical condition have become increasingly prevalent— encompassing more than one-fourth of the roughly 33 million square feet of facilities the U of M manages across five campuses and in additional locations around the state.

In addition to approving the recommended 2024 state capital request, the Board also approved the recommended six-year capital investment plan.

Regents also approved a FY 2025 supplemental budget request of $45 million in recurring operational funds to help address a portion of expected cost increases and to keep costs lower for students by minimizing tuition increases. 

The University continues to face the challenges it outlined to the Minnesota Legislature a year ago, when similar funding was provided by the legislature on a one-time basis. 

This request seeks the same amount for the second year of the biennium, and is critically necessary to maintain the depth and breadth of University programming and impact on behalf of all Minnesotans. 

An initial hearing on this request was held on Monday at the Capitol, chaired by Representative Gene Pelowski. Vice President Julie Tonneson and I were the principal presenters for the University, with help from UMPD Chief Matt Clark, faculty liaison Donna Spannaus-Martin and Twin Cities undergraduate student government president Shashank Murali. 

We also benefited from the presence of five members of the Board of Regents. The two-hour session included questions from legislators on a wide array of topics. 

Government Relations and upcoming dates

Although the Minnesota Legislative session is still a few months away, legislative work is already ramping up— under the leadership of Melisa Lopez Franzen, our new Executive Director of Government and Community Relations.

Melisa has a broad, bipartisan, and intentional plan that will fully engage the University with our constituents in the community, in Minnesota, and nationally. 

Tours for legislators and other state officials of the University’s 2024 Capital Request of projects on the Twin Cities and Morris campuses are scheduled for later this month. The 2024 Minnesota legislative session is scheduled to begin on Feb. 12.  

Campus Safety & community of care

I am pleased to report about our back-to-school safety efforts. From the new turnstiles at Pioneer Hall on the Twin Cities campus to increasing access control in our campus buildings, we have given students an array of safety resources and tools and have heard a great deal of positive feedback.

UMPD officers are also completing their work with Transit Police at the Twin Cities campus light rail stations and trains. Providing extra visibility on mass transit came at the request of the campus community, and this partnership has been helpful in promoting a safe fall semester.

Two weeks ago, I participated in a Campus Safety Walk, as well as a meeting with community members committed to campus safety. 

I remain thankful for Chief Clark’s leadership and for the tireless efforts of UMPD in keeping our students, faculty, staff, visitors and guests safe. 

In addition to campus safety, we understand that recent events internationally and here in the US may cause members of our community to feel unsafe, anxious or isolated. 

We are focused on providing a safe and supportive campus environment for everyone. I encourage any member of our community to seek out assistance they need during this time. 

Student mental health services remain available for individuals in need of trauma-informed care, and we remain committed to upholding the principles of support and empathy as we navigate through challenging times. Faculty and staff have resources available through the employee assistance program. 

And all members of our community, should they encounter any instances of bias or discrimination, should bring them to our attention through the Bias Response and Referral Network, and, if necessary, do not hesitate to contact our UMPD police. 

Turning to a few additional updates…

Fairview/task force discussions

The Governor’s task force met twice in early October, with further meetings scheduled over the coming months. As a reminder, a written summary of recommendations is due to the Governor in January of 2024.  

Conversations have also been occurring since early September with Fairview as we both assess the future of our partnership. 

We will continue to keep you updated as further progress is made in these discussions with Fairview and through the task force. 

UMD chancellor search update

Our search for the next Chancellor of the Duluth campus is moving forward. In September, I announced that we had launched the search with my thanks to 
Lori Carrell, chancellor of  the University of Minnesota-Rochester, and Lisa Erwin, UMD’s vice chancellor for student life and dean of students, who are serving as co-chairs of the search committee. 

The full search committee held their first meeting earlier this week, and will hold listening sessions with the UMD community on Monday, November 6. I’m looking forward to participating in those listening sessions, too. 

The feedback we receive will advise the committee’s development of the position profile. We expect that candidate recruitment will get underway this winter, leading to finalist interviews and appointment of the next UMD Chancellor during the spring 2024 semester. 

Faculty misconduct task force

Nominations for the Faculty Professional Conduct Review and Implementation Group (which will review the earlier recommendations and look at possible implementation) are due by Monday, November 6. 

That group is being co-chaired by Ned Patterson (from the TC campus) and Lin Xiu (Duluth campus), and will look for involvement across the system, and include faculty, staff, and students. 

The group plans to start their work later this semester, and continue throughout spring semester. If you’d like to nominate someone, we can share the link to the form. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to either of the co-chairs for additional information.

Workforce Reinvestment Resolution

The group working toward a response to the Senate-endorsed Resolution on Workforce Reinvestment: Rebuilding a Better U for Employees continues to meet regularly, working toward the delivery of an official response to the Senate during the Spring 2024 semester. 

I’m thankful to Mary Rohman Kuhl, Senior Director of OHR Total Rewards, and Beth Lewis, Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, for their thoughtful leadership of this effort. 


I’ll conclude with a brief recap of some of the visits I’ve made and the events I’ve attended over the past month. 

The Stein Lecture presented by our Law School is always a notable event on the Twin Cities campus. This prestigious series has brought numerous Supreme Court justices to campus, ranging from Ruth Bader Ginsberg to Antonin Scalia. 

This year’s conversation featured Justice Amy Coney Barrett, and drew a packed house in Northrop. Her appearance did draw some protests, both outside the Hall and briefly inside as well, but I was personally proud of our community’s ability to respect this right to protest without depriving our law students and other guests of their opportunity to listen to the conversation between former Dean Stein and Justice Barrett.

At the Regents Emeriti dinner last month, we recognized the tenures of outgoing Regents David McMillan, Ken Powell, Darrin Rosha, and Steve Sviggum, who collectively served the University of Minnesota for over 40 years!

Being a University of Minnesota Regent is critically important to the U of M System and to the citizens of Minnesota. 

Last week I traveled to Washington for the AAU Fall meeting. It was my first AAU meeting, and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to interact with other college presidents and discuss our shared experiences. 

I also had the chance to connect with former President Joan Gabel, former President Eric Kaler, and former executive vice provost Robert Jones…lots of us with U of M ties! To have a group of peers like this is truly a special experience. 

Later in the week I was in Morris to participate in the inauguration of Janet Schrunk Ericksen as 7th chancellor of the Morris campus.

Chancellor Schrunk Ericksen has a deep connection to the Morris campus and the 
community. She’s a valued thought-partner to me, to her fellow chancellors, fellow faculty members, Morris campus leadership, governance groups, and students—just to name a few! 

The Morris campus is headed toward a bright future under the leadership of Chancellor Ericksen. 

Autumn Saturdays are often centered around college football, and that’s been a really fun part of this position.

It was exciting to be involved with Homecoming activities on the TC campus the last week of September. 

I participated in the student blood drive, spoke at UMAA’s alumni awards affair, was a part of the royalty coronation at Ski-U-Mania, and witnessed the Gopher football victory against Louisiana.

Homecoming, both here at the Twin Cities and our Greater Minnesota campuses, is a great reminder of what the University of Minnesota means to our many proud alumni. 

Just this past Friday, I had the opportunity to engage with students and their families at the Gopher-Get-Together during Parent and Family Weekend on the Twin Cities campus. Attendees enjoyed dessert and live jazz music as they explored the Weisman art gallery. It was fun to hear about their experiences and share their pride in being a part of the U of M community.

I also spent a day last month in Rochester—meeting with Chancellor Carrell and her leadership team, touring our unique and evolving UMR campus, and interacting with faculty, students, and community leaders. I even attended a highly-interactive Chemistry class.

We had the opportunity to have lunch in the new dining center, aptly named “The Perch,” on its first day of operations. It is located in the Student Life Center, which has been successfully converted into a residential hall from a former hotel. 

The students were thrilled to have this new resource. I remain excited about the future of UMR and our presence in Rochester in cooperation with civic partners. 

I also had my first meeting with Minnesota Tribal leaders earlier this week. We had good conversations about resources in the new modules of the Gopher Equity Project as well as on the new website for Native American Affairs, and how we are reviewing the TRUTH report. 

I’m looking forward to continuing the conversations at our next meeting.

Conclusion/questions to the president 

That concludes my report, so we can turn to questions to the president. 

There were no questions submitted in advance, and since we have time, I’ll be glad to take questions from senators at this time.