As the current chair of the P&A Senate and P&A Consultative Committee, I feel compelled to respond to MinnPost’s Sept. 13 Community Voices commentary, which included misstatements relating to P&A employees at the University of Minnesota. For context, the P&A Senate is the collective voice of approximately 6,500 Academic Professionals and Administrators (P&A) spread across five campuses of the University of Minnesota and Extension offices throughout the state, and serves to facilitate P&A staff participation in shared governance.
Currently, P&A make up about one-quarter of U of M employees and are represented in all 20 job families throughout the university system. The author, a fellow U of M employee, stated that we don’t teach or perform research. This is false. In reality, the P&A job titles with the largest overall numbers of employees are directly in the areas of teaching, research, and student development and support. For example:
● Over 1,200 P&A employees teach under job titles including Lecturer, Teaching Specialist, Extension Educator, among others.
● 1,000+ P&A employees have job titles of Researcher or similar.
● Additionally, over 1,100 P&A employees serve in the areas of direct student support (e.g., Career Counselor, Academic Advisor, Mental Health Care Provider).
The piece also alluded to challenges in describing the work that P&A employees do. I heartily disagree, though our duties are indeed diverse. What is clear is that you will find P&A employees deeply involved across the university’s mission — from teaching students both in the core curriculum and in specialized disciplines to conducting grant-funded research to reforming the criminal justice system or addressing the opioid crisis, and from preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species to building and managing the IT infrastructure the entire university relies upon, and reaching out to citizens in all 87 Minnesota counties. Simply put, P&A employees are woven throughout the university’s fabric and are critical to the success of this great institution.
The modern university, like any other large organization, is a complex enterprise. Teaching classes and screwing in lightbulbs, as directly mentioned, are necessary to our functioning. So is building and maintaining a website, providing robust student support and development, managing lab equipment, and making sure all employees have knowledge of and access to their employment benefits — all work done primarily by P&A staff. As a P&A employee, I am proud of the myriad ways in which my colleagues serve the University of Minnesota every day.
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