Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


This and that: 70-something new fees in U of M’s budget; women on MnSCU board make a point

The University of Minnesota’s budget proposes new fees ranging from $56 for choir robes to $1,790 for dental equipment usage.

School of Dentistry students will find it’s more expensive to attend dental school in the 2010-11 academic year depending on which classes they take. The University of Minnesota’s budget includes four new fees ranging from $187 to $1,790 for instrument usage and equipment each semester. A number of fees will increase from 7 percent to nearly 8 percent.

These are the types of details [page 58] that I found deep down in the 80-page proposed budget. The Board of Regents meets Tuesday to vote on President Robert Bruininks’ proposed operating budget.

To meet the university’s $152 million “challenge,” an interesting description for the budget hole and a reduced state appropriation, the budget recommends increasing tuition 4.4 percent. That will bring in $47.1 million in new revenue. It also suggests $104.9 million in “unit reductions/resource adjustments.”

And the budget calls for new fees, including $56 for choir dresses and $100 locker rental for non-music majors [page 57] in the College of Liberal Arts. A new fee in the Academic Health Center also caught my eye: $1,000 for a Reiki Healing field trip [page 46].

I counted 70-something new fees in my electronic search of the budget [pdf]. 

MnSCU Chancellor James McCormick technically won’t be getting a raise, but he is receiving a $40,000 “one-time performance incentive” for his “superior performance under difficult conditions,” according to a press release. He was eligible for up to $50,000.

Article continues after advertisement

McCormick’s salary is frozen at $360,000 for the second consecutive year, the press release notes. “This decision reflects the wage freeze in place for nearly all other system employees.”

Although the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees president thinks McCormick should return the bonus, no press release yet on whether McCormick agrees. Last year, he reportedly got a $32,500 bonus on top of his frozen salary.

“At a time of budget crisis, management should not get a bonus while employees have their wages frozen and are losing their jobs, and students are spending more to go to school,” MAPE President Chet Jorgenson told MPR. “So we are calling upon the chancellor to return his bonus.”

I haven’t seen much public outrage in cyberspace. One comment on an AP story in the St. Cloud Times: “big waste of public money. anyone who would take that bonus on top of an enormous paycheck already is someone to be concerned about.” FYI, McCormick is retiring next year.

Considering that MnSCU’s Board of Trustees is appointed by the governor, pay attention to the second sentence in this quote about McCormick’s performance from outgoing board Chairman David Olson: 

“Chancellor McCormick has done an outstanding job leading the 32 colleges and universities to improve efficiencies while maintaining the high quality of our programs and services. This is truly remarkable considering that we have had record enrollment increases while operating with about the same amount of state funding that we had in 2006.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty also appointed three trustees and reappointed three others to MnSCU’s board. New: Former Republican state legislator Phil Krinkie, now head of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota; student Alfredo Oliveira, and Michael Vekich, CEO of Vekich Associates. Reappointed: Duane Benson, Jacob Englund and Thomas Renier. More details here.

The board last week also elected Scott Thiss as chairman, Clarence Hightower as vice chairman and Benson as treasurer. But the Pioneer Press reports that all five women on the 15-member board abstained from voting, apparently as “a protest against the lack of women nominated.”

Outgoing chair Olson, whose outgoing vice chair is Ruth Grendahl, is quoted in the story: “I was shocked. I actually was shocked.” He says that if a woman had expressed interest, “I think they would have been elected.”

I don’t know all the details, but I would guess that the nomination process was the last straw for Grendahl, Cheryl Dickson, Christine Rice, Louise Sundin and Terri Thomas. No telling how many times they may have felt overlooked. Note also that not one of the governor’s new appointees is a woman. Here’s a photo of the 2009-2010 board. Anyone willing to hazard a guess about next year’s officer-nomination process? Will another abstention smackdown be needed?

Meanwhile, two women have been recommended as interim presidents in the system. Jessica Stumpf will lead Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids and Cambridge, and Shari Olson is to be interim president of Anoka Technical College. More details.

Last time I checked, nine women were presidents out of 32 in the MnSCU system, down from an all-time high of 12. Between the interim appointments and the shift of another woman president to central administration, it appears that 10 women now run MnSCU institutions.

Please send news tips and links to press releases to cselix[at]minnpost[dot]com.