The union representing clerical workers at the University of Minnesota is protesting a recent wave of layoffs.
Melanie Steinman, chief steward of AFSCME local 3800, used last week's public forum on the U's proposed operating budget to criticize not only the fact that 25 employees were cut from the U's Office of Information Technology -- but the "appalling manner in which these layoffs were carried out."
The employees "were given their layoff notices and told to leave on the spot," she said. "These employees were not thanked for their service. Instead, many were escorted out of the building as plain-clothed police observed."
She claimed that they were "shamed and treated like criminals."
The university has a different version of events. In a statement, passed along by spokesman Chuck Tombarge, officials said that "this unfortunate situation was handled with sensitivity, consistency among employees and compassion."
Employees "met with their manager and a representative from Human Resources, who sincerely thanked them for their service and assured them that the layoff was not a result of their performance," the statement said.
Both sides agree that 25 employees were dismissed from the department. The union says that 14 were in the clerical and technical workers' unions. The U says that the group included "a senior manager."
The union will protest the layoffs during a news conference Friday morning. The Board of Regents will vote on the 2014 operating budget during a meeting later that day.
In a press release about the protest, Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME local 3800 said: “It’s time to stop chopping from the bottom and start chopping from the top."
The group is calling for a "reevaluation" of the layoffs. The university has said that the layoffs were "in direct response to information technology industry changes."
The University of Minnesota Law School has nabbed a $9 million gift -- one of the biggest in its history, the school announced Thursday.
The millions come from the Robina Foundation, a regular contributor to the Law School.
Half the money will be used to create a new Center for New Americans, an immigration law center. The other half will bolster the Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, which the foundation established with an $8.8 million gift in 2011.
This is a boost to the Law School's fundraising campaign, called Generations. The school has raised $59 million toward its $70 million goal, according to its website.
"This generous gift will help sustain the Law School’s reputation as an international leader in legal education and build on our history of public service and outstanding scholarship," said David Wippman, dean of the U's Law School, in a statement.
The University of Minnesota has picked a longtime employee for its next general counsel: William Donohue, the U's deputy general counsel.
Donohue has been deputy general counsel since 1996 and has worked in the Office of the General Counsel since 1982, according to an e-mail Monday from U President Eric Kaler. He earned his law degree at the U, as well.
This pick will bolster the institutional memory of Kaler's leadership team, Kaler said in the e-mail to faculty and staff, noting that two thirds of his direct reports have been working for the university for less than two and a half years.
"Ensuring stability and bringing deep institutional knowledge to this senior leadership role for the near term will be extremely helpful as the new leadership team comes together," Kaler said.
Donohue will serve as the university's top legal officer from late May until June 2015, that note says. He replaces Mark Rotenberg, who is leaving for a similar post at Johns Hopkins University.
Three views on Mark Rotenberg, the University of Minnesota's general counsel. Rotenberg is leaving his longtime post for a similar gig at Johns Hopkins University.
From David Lillehaug:
Newly-named Minnesota Supreme Court justice David Lillehaug met Rotenberg in the 1990s, when Lillehaug was a U.S. attorney. More recently, Lillehaug has done legal work for the University of Minnesota. He said Rotenberg is "extremely dedicated to the university," has been a "wise and trusted adviser" to U leaders and serves as "a big chunk of the university's institutional memory."
"He's been the chief protector of the university's autonomy over the past several decades," Lillehaug said.
From Bill Gleason:
Bill Gleason, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, has been a regular critic of Rotenberg on his blog, often accusing him of using his post to protect university administrators' bad behavior. He said by e-mail Monday that he hopes Rotenberg's successor works "in a more transparent manner both with the press and the faculty at the university."
"The General Counsel should act in the best interest of the University of Minnesota as a whole," he said, "and not simply be the administration's pit bull."
From Kathleen Curry Santora:
Kathleen Curry Santora, executive director of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, called Rotenberg "an outstanding choice" for the Johns Hopkins position. "Mark is highly regarded and respected by his colleagues in the practice of higher education law."
Survey data from her organization show that Rotenberg's 21-year tenure with the University of Minnesota is longer than average. The average tenure for the general counsel at doctorate-granting universities is 13.6 years, according to a 2010 survey.
The University of Minnesota is taking a deep look at how a merger between Fairview Health Services and Sanford Health would affect its long-term arrangement with Fairview.
In a note Thursday to faculty and staff, two U leaders said the university is analyzing the possible effects of such a change:
This process will include a financial and legal analysis, but must also seriously and critically evaluate the commitment of any new entity to our academic mission, including medical education, clinical research, and cutting-edge, quality patient care. Without that commitment, we will be unable to meet our obligations to the citizens of Minnesota. We will also assess philanthropic alignment and questions of brand and reputation.
Aaron Friedman, vice president of the U's Academic Health Center and dean of the Medical School, and Bobbi Daniels, CEO of University of Minnesota Physicians, also said they were "encouraged by Fairview leadership's statements that a combination with Sanford Health will not move forward if the university objects."
We reported this week that Fairview "is weighing a merger with South Dakota-based Sanford Health in negotiations that have triggered concerns on the part of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson."
The university is in the midst of its own negotiations with Fairview over a new affiliation agreement. The e-mail says U officials "are hopeful about coming to an agreement this spring."
Here's the full text:
This week's media coverage about talks of a potential merger between Fairview Health Services and Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health offers us an opportunity to update you on our current discussions and to share some of the key issues we are exploring.
As you know, the University of Minnesota and University of Minnesota Physicians have had an affiliation with Fairview that has envisioned an important and long-term partnership for research, education, and clinical care. This is a relationship that has deepened and evolved over time. For the past 18 months, we have been engaged in discussions with Fairview to strengthen this alignment. These negotiations are complex and ongoing, but we are hopeful about coming to an agreement this spring.
A merger of Fairview with another health care system would have a direct impact on the University and our affiliation agreement. The University intends to carefully evaluate any merger of Fairview with another health care system in the context of our academic, clinical, and research mission. Our priority in reviewing any specific concept or proposal will be to place the shared interests of the University and the citizens of the State of Minnesota as our top consideration. While most of UMP's activity with Fairview is at the University of Minnesota Medical Center and Amplatz Children's Hospital, the University and UMP also have significant clinical and educational programs in other parts of the Fairview system.
We are encouraged by Fairview leadership's statements that a combination with Sanford Health will not move forward if the University objects.
The U is engaged in a due diligence process to better understand the implications of a possible Sanford-Fairview merger and, generally, the continued evolution of the health care landscape. This process will include a financial and legal analysis, but must also seriously and critically evaluate the commitment of any new entity to our academic mission, including medical education, clinical research, and cutting-edge, quality patient care. Without that commitment, we will be unable to meet our obligations to the citizens of Minnesota. We will also assess philanthropic alignment and questions of brand and reputation.
Finally, we are cooperating fully with the Attorney General, the Governor, and other policymakers as they consider this critical issue, and we appreciate their concern and interest in the University.
We must ensure that in this changing health care landscape our partnership with Fairview continues a strong commitment to our mission and enables the University to attract thousands of world-class physicians, medical residents, and other health care providers for Minnesota, as well as conduct research that leads to breakthroughs and helps millions of people lead healthier lives.
It remains a central priority of ours and President Kaler that the health sciences enterprise across all mission areas is positioned to succeed. We will continue to keep you updated on these and other related issues.
Aaron Friedman, dean, University of Minnesota Medical School and vice president, Academic Health Center
Bobbi Daniels, vice dean, clinical affairs, University of Minnesota Medical School and CEO, University of Minnesota Physicians
The interim report, requested by state Senate leaders, breaks down staffing of four of the University of Minnesota's administrative offices. The consultants' review of the rest of the university continues.