Bill Gleason

Bill Gleason is an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. He's also a fellow at the U's Supercomputer Institute. Read more about Gleason.

Posts about Continuing education

On the Cost of Administration at the University of Minnesota

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: March 8, 2011 - 11:19 AM

Mr. Michael McNabb again provides here an interesting and very topical guest post. He has previously contributed the series: University Inc., and University Inc., Part Two. These have received national attention by those interested in the financial situation at the University of Minnesota.  Matters in this area are in disrepair and need the attention of all Minnesota citizens.


At the Higher Education Committee hearing on February 22, 2011, President Bruininks told the state representatives that the annual salary of the new president is within market range for the position.  
This is the same justification used to pay tens of millions of dollars in annual bonuses to Wall Street executives. As if the market were a God to whom homage must be paid. The "Masters of the Universe" who are the chief executive officers of those Wall Street firms have an unwavering confidence that the market always makes the correct determination in economic matters.  This unwavering confidence combined with greed to bring our national economy to the brink of chaos.
So what compensation is necessary to attract good people to positions of leadership in public service today? Let us compare the annual salaries of senior administrators at the University to those of the leaders in state government.


University of Minnesota   State of Minnesota  
President $610,000 Governor $124,459
President UofM Foundation $427,887    
Athletic Director $418,032    
VP Health Sciences $481,500 Health Commissioner
Assoc VP health sciences $407,774    
Provost $342,310 Lieutenant governor $80,892
General Counsel $293,810 Attorney General $118,238
Senior VP budget $359,564 Commissioner Budget $114,721
VP budget $240,000 Commissioner revenue $112,126
Senior VP academic admt $282,560 Commissioner admt $112,126
VP equity & diversity $251,280 Commissioner human rts $112,126
Dean Law School $386,500    
Dean Business School $478,560    
Dean Public Health $349,548    
Dean IT $283,000    
The State of Minnesota attracts numerous qualified persons for its positions of leadership. Is there any reason to believe that those positions are less demanding than comparable positions at the University of Minnesota or require less intelligence or less skill? Is there any reason to believe that the University could not also attract qualified persons who are dedicated to public service to its positions of leadership at salaries comparable to state pay?
The source of the annual salaries listed above is the Pioneer Press web site for Minnesota Public Salaries at
There is more information of interest on the web site. If you enter the title of the position at the U of M, the site displays the annual salaries for all the persons with that title.
The 9 provosts have annual salaries in the range of $124,479 to $342,310.
The 18 chancellors have annual salaries in the range of $68,278 to $256,530. (Only five chancellors have an annual salary less than $98,000.)
The 40 vice presidents have annual salaries in the range of $117,580 to $481,500.
The 112 deans have annual salaries in the range of $84,000 to $606,000. (Only six deans have an annual salary less than $100,000.)
From fiscal year 2007 to fiscal year 2011 the state appropriations for the University declined from $709 million to $591 million. See p. 3 of the March 10, 2010 report Financing the Future at
Yet the costs of administration did not decline. Just the opposite. The amount for "institutional support" (also known as costs of administration) exploded at the University from $196.6 million for fiscal year 2008 to $234.3 million for fiscal year 2010. The 2010 institutional support included $173 million for compensation and benefits and $61.4 million for supplies and services. See Section 3 of University Inc. Part II at
The University is a non-profit public institution whose leaders are supposed to be dedicated to public service and not to the enhancement of their own private wealth. This year the state legislators can impress this point upon senior administrators by making the grant of state appropriations subject to the condition that the budget of the University must include a reduction in the total compensation of administrators to the 2008 level at a minimum.
It is the public service of a non-profit organization that qualifies it for tax-exempt status. See section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code. The IRS is currently reviewing the compliance of non-profit colleges and universities with the statutory requirements. The compensation paid to senior administrators is part of this review. See Figure 65 on p. 58 of the Interim Report on Non-Profit Colleges and Universities Compliance Project at
To the best of my recollection, no great scientific discoveries, no insightful social science tracts, and no novels have been produced in Morrill Hall. No classes are taught in Morrill Hall. No patients are made well in Morrill Hall. . . . Without authority invested where the real work of this University is done, the light of excellence will only grow dimmer.
Michael W. McNabb
University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974

University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

Dan Markingson's Mother Replies to University of Minnesota VP Mulcahy

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: March 3, 2011 - 8:19 AM


Weeping Angel 

Part of mausoleum of canon Guilain Lucas  (1628)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Dr. Mulcahy's original letter appeared in the Minnesota Daily.  I'd encourage interested readers to read it as well as my own comments at the end of the article. With the permission of Mary Weiss, I here reprint her letter. It should receive widespread attention in the community.  Steps should be taken, including an independent investigation, to assure that such incidents do not occur in the future.  To argue that what happened is not illegal is a far cry from the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm.

Mary Weiss writes in today's Daily:

I am Mary Weiss, mother of Dan Markingson, who died while in a University of Minnesota clinical drug study.
In a Feb. 24 letter to the editor published in the Minnesota Daily, “The Markingson case deserves better from the Daily,” R. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research at the University, states, among other things, that the University did not profit from the study in which Dan died.
So, this study was revenue neutral? Does the University not profit from their clinical drug research? Who would possibly believe this?
Mulcahy states non-University psychiatrists found no wrongdoing. Of course they found no wrongdoing: These psychiatrists were paid to find no wrongdoing by virtue of the fact that they were “expert witnesses” for the University. Other medial professionals have since disagreed with this

Dr. Harrison G. Pope, Jr., professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said about the study, “There is virtually no evidence that this vulnerable, severely psychotic and mentally incompetent patient was capable of understanding the study to which he was consenting.”
Or take the statement of James I. Hudson, also a professor of psychiatry at Harvard, who summed up his professional opinion of the doctor who conducted the study, saying, “Dr. [Stephen] Olson’s errors, omissions, improper acts and failures were to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, a substantial contributing factor and a proximate cause of Mr. Markingson’s death.”
Dr. Keith A. Horton, licensed psychiatrist in the state of Minnesota, said in his expert testimony, “It is my opinion that this case represents a violation of biomedical standards upon which there is a widespread consensus for informed consent and human subjects’ protection.”
Mulcahy states also in his article, “The University is steadfast in its commitment to the protection of all research subjects.”
If this had been the case, “Dan’s Law” — which was passed unanimously in both the Minnesota House and Senate in 2009 — would have been entirely unnecessary.
This law now prevents anyone on a stay of civil commitment from entering a psychiatric clinical drug study and also prohibits any doctor from putting his or her own patients into his or her own clinical drug study.
Also, Mulcahy states that “proper care was provided” to Dan. I don’t think many people would consider it “proper care” when on April 9, 2004, Easter Sunday — less than a month before he died — Dan was psychotic, and I, his distraught mother, left voice messages for Olson and also Jeanne Kenney, the study’s coordinator.
I said, “Do we have to wait for him to kill himself or someone else before anyone does anything?” thinking for sure someone would call me  back in the morning and re-hospitalize Dan.
Unbelievably, no one responded — though Kenney did write my message verbatim in her study file. Evidently, the outcome of the study was more important than making a patient well or keeping him alive.
Also, Mulcahy states that no laws were violated by the University. In fact, the University was given immunity by a Hennepin County judge who cited the Minnesota law which states “[Minnesota] and its employees are not liable for … a loss caused by the performance or failure to perform a discretionary duty.”
Horton also said, “It is my opinion that no university or medical center should tolerate or condone the improper, coercive, unethical practices documented in the case of Dan Markingson. Correction measures should be instituted to prevent future injuries to vulnerable patients.”
But no correction measures have been taken. And the University still tolerates and condones improper, coercive, unethical practices.
What is it going to take for them to change? I really don’t know. Hopefully not the death of another parent’s precious child.

No laws have been broken? And the angels wept. 

Response: Why Would an Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy?

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: February 17, 2011 - 10:34 AM


Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons



I wrote a piece which appeared both here and on the Brainstorm blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education that apparently caught the attention of someone in the university administration.  For background, please see: Why Would An Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy?


Drs. Frank Cerra and Aaron Friedman sent a response that I posted on the Chronicle site as well as below.  Please note that it does not even mention my original post topic  which was homeopathy.  I've put in some brief comments on some of the more egregious statments. 


Response: Why Would an Academic Health Center Support Homeopathy?

Guest Post:
Dr. Frank Cerra, former Vice President, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean
Dr. Aaron Friedman, Vice President, University of Minesota Academic Health Center and Medical School Dean
In a February 4, 2011 blog post-turned-editorial, University of Minnesota associate professor Bill Gleason openly questions why a University with an evidence-based medical school would dedicate resources to a Center for Spirituality & Healing (CSH).

The post was about homeopathy, gentlemen...

We thought that was an excellent question, so are pleased to have an opportunity to respond.
The Center for Spirituality & Healing was established in 1995 during a period of time when medicine and the health professions in general were coming to terms with the idea that what we don’t know about improving human health is far greater than what we do know within the confines of our traditional, Western-based practice. The original concept was to develop a program that provided faculty, students, and the community with an entry point to what’s now called integrative medicine, or integrative health care.
Since its inception in 1995, the Center for Spirituality & Healing has helped push health care forward.  Students have been and continue to be one of the major drivers for the growth of CSH by crossing disciplines to expand their field of study and adding integrative medicine insight to their scope of study. The Center’s growing number of faculty educates health professionals on new models of care and positions consumers at the center of their health care. Most importantly, the Center helps patients more effectively navigate the health care system, a benefit to any health provider.


Including helpful suggestions on the AHC website about homeopathy and advice about how to select a practioner + employment by the CSH of homeopathy practitioners?


The field of health care is undergoing profound change.  Today, patients more frequently combine a complementary treatment approach to traditional therapies. They’re also taking a more active role in the health care decisions that impact them and to do so, are seeking care from providers who are able to safely and effectively integrate these two types of therapies. Such a shift is an asset – not a threat – as we look to treat the entire patient.
The operating principle of the CSH is to have an evidence-based approach to complementary approaches to health, and also to promote comparative, evidence-based research between complementary and traditional therapies—knowledge that providers need to best serve the patients coming to them for integrative care. So in charging the University with wasting its resources in supporting the CSH, Gleason couldn’t be further from the truth.


Absolutely false, gentlemen. The post was about the CSH wasting its resources on homeopathy.  A fact that all the circumlocution in the world cannot obscure.


In actuality, only a small percentage of the Center’s funding comes from University resources. The rest, it earns through tuition revenue, philanthropic gifts, and extensive research funding.  Integrative medicine is an internationally recognized area of study, including by the National Institutes of Health, and our CSH has been very successful in competing for NIH funding.


And what does the NIH say about homeopathy, gentlemen. From my first post:  In a 2010 report, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, said that the key concepts of homeopathy "are not consistent with the established laws of science."


For all of these reasons, the CSH is a great investment with incredible returns. In fact, for every University dollar invested in the CSH, it leverages such funding to generate ten more dollars. If all University Centers, Institutes, and faculty functioned as efficiently or as productively as the CSH, our University would be on very solid footing indeed.

 Wow, the (dubious) claim that since we can "make money" on CSH, this somehow justifies the practice of homeopathy.  I thought universities were supposed to be pursuing truth.  If astrology could bring in the bucks, that would be OK?  Alchemy?  Faith Healing?

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality & Healing was founded on the assumption that Western medicine may not have all the answers.  In 2011, what we don’t know about improving human health still exceeds that which we do know.  Perhaps this will always be the case.




But either way, it would be the height of arrogance to think that one line of thinking could possibly supply every brush stroke needed to complete the overall scene.


And who said this?  You are tap dancing around the "H" word, gentlemen.


In its short 15 year tenure, the CSH has established a model curriculum, hired faculty, and developed a graduate minor as well as a post-baccalaureate certificate program. And for 15 years, the Center for Spirituality & Healing has enriched health and well-being by providing high-quality interdisciplinary education, conducting rigorous research, and delivering innovative programs that advance integrative health and healing.
We look forward to discovering what the next 15 years holds for not just our Center, but the field of integrative medicine as a whole.
It’s critical to remember that our University is a state-wide resource and its mission is to serve the whole patient, the whole state, and the nation.

This is a pathetic response from the present and former deans of the University of Minnesota medical school.  Presumably they have taken chemistry courses at some point and are both aware of Avogadro's number.  There is no medicine in homeopathic medicine, gentlemen. 
This is a pitiful and evasive answer to my original question: Why would an Academic Health Center support homeopathy?

Happy Holidays and Two Big Tail Wags From Mink and Clifford

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: December 25, 2010 - 10:11 AM



Above you’ll see Clifford and Mink pictured on my new Kindle.  I’ve written earlier about my struggles with technology. One of the great strengths of the Kindle is its utility as an e-reader.  For plain text and simple black and white illustrations, it is great.  It can easily be used while walking on a treadmill.

Lest this appear to be an advertisement for Kindle, there are a few serious flaws.   As I feared, it is terrible for reading pdfs.  The keyboard is also useless unless you are a thumb-twiddling texter—and I have never even owned a cellphone.

But you can e-mail a Word document to Amazon where it will be converted to a Kindle readable document and then downloaded wirelessly to your reader.  Very slick.  I have yet to insert any figures, but the Clifford and Mink picture looks promising.

Now, of course, the Kindle makes it very easy for you to download books and pay Amazon money.  However, if you are clever it is possible to find a large amount of free material. So naturally I downloaded all of Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes. Now I’m set to while away the odd moment.

I also discovered that Greg Petsko’s Genome Biology essays for the last 10 years are available on Amazon for the princely sum of 98 cents.  A steal at twice the price.  Some of them are inside baseball, but many are readable with pleasure by the average intelligent layman.  I immediately noticed that some of the essays have been written by Clifford and Mink, who sometimes stand in for Greg when he has more pressing obligations like grant-writing or teaching undergraduates. Clifford and Mink are the resident experts on the dog genome.

(For the artsy types who would not ordinarily look at Genome Biology, I recommend one of  Greg’s strongest essays: A Faustian Bargain: An open letter to George M. Philip, President of the State University of New York at Albany.)

It is helpful to have friends to cover for you.  I have such a person in Dr. Pangloss, who lives at home in my locked basement.  Sometimes during the day he manages to get out and posts independently.  This has gotten me in a lot of trouble, for example he once got in a flame war with a reader about whether he was a psychiatrist.

Because I thought that C&M might want to  expand their repertoire, I wrote to them recently about the arsenic, DNA, and little green men business. To which they replied:

Dear Dr. Gleason,

We thank you for your very nice compliment …  Greg, who is typing this for us (our paws are too big for the keys)   … told us about the arsenic-eating bacteria and we are skeptical.

Why would anyone eat arsenic when there are pork chops around?

We did think your comments on it were nicely balanced, though.

Do not try to defend the groomer.  We hate the groomer.

Happy holidays and two big tail wags from

Mink and Clifford

An earlier version of this post  has appeared on the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Illustration by the author.


The iPad, the Kindle, or a Manual Typewriter

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: November 21, 2010 - 9:55 AM



Recently, I have been working with some senior undergrads at Minnesota on educational projects. These students obtain degrees in things like mathematics, chemistry, or political science and enter an M.S. program that fulfills the requirements for teaching in Minnesota.

Two years ago, when one of the students purchased a Netbook, I was very impressed. A Netbook is a less expensive version of a notebook that  has the horsepower for most of the things a college student needs to do with a computer, but Netbooks are already obsolete. I cynically believe  this is because there is not enough money to be made from them. And for some reason people seem willing to accept  technology degradation if an item is small and cute.

There have been some encouraging recent developments, such as Smashwords and the new Amazon policy on pamphlets. Hopefully textbooks will soon start to become widely available through these mechanisms for distribution as e-books. Which leads to  the problem at hand, the Kindle or the iPad? These seem to be the current best candidates for the educational e-book reader.

The iPad is Apple’s latest toy.  Everyone raves about it, from docs to profs, but I’m not buying.  The iPad is expensive due to extraneous functionality  for the purpose of reading an e-book. Then the new Kindle arrived. As one commenter said of the viral Eva von Dassow video: “Be still my beating heart…”

Currently it is relatively cheap.  I’ll bet it goes to $99. Free Internet connectivity for download of  stuff from Amazon, as well as millions of public domain books, an ability to read pdf’s, and a way to get your own stuff, e.g., from Word, into Kindle-readable format. Wonderful specs for reading in full daylight and changing font size.

I almost bit, but discovered one fatal flaw. The device is based on a technology that will not do color—a deal breaker, because color is essential for educational material. Whether it is organic chemistry or  art-history text (field of The Boss), color is necessary. The iPad does color, but I’ve already explained why that is not an option.

But The Boss had already agreed to a Kindle/iPad. What to do? I have been very curious about the effect of using something other than a computer for writing. Many good writers work directly on a computer. But some of us learned doing it the old fashioned way. I have always had a hard time sitting in front of a computer screen and writing. What about a typewriter?

Don DeLillo still uses a typewriter as does Philip Roth. A whole subculture of typewriter aficionados has embraced the inked spool. One of the enablers of this retro movement is Cambridge Typewriters  in Arlington, Mass.  The Boss and I went over to check out the place.

Ah, Nirvana. I wanted an Olympia portable. They are very well made and heavy enough not to jump around. My preference was  classic green. Many very attractive machines were in stock: green, brown, maroon and an interesting two-tone. The Boss instantly seized on that one. I have never run across anything like it in my Internet searches. Maroon top and gray bottom with chrome return and trim. There is one small chip on the front, patina as The Boss would say. Deal done. This machine is now my first choice for original drafts.

We need e-book readers that can handle color and that are reasonably priced. Make it so, Amazon, Apple, or anyone else. I’ll be working away on material for your reader, doing first drafts on a typewriter.

Picture Credit: JA Neiswander

This post originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education

University of Minnesota Has Lowest Out of State Tuition for BigTen Publics

Posted by: Bill Gleason Updated: October 30, 2010 - 11:42 AM

In 2007 the University of Minnesota cut out of state tuition by about 30%.  This had the perhaps desirable effect of attracting more out of state and foreign students to the U because of comparatively bargain basement prices.  Although this tactic may have succeeded in raising numbers for the rankings such as GPA and ACT/SAT of incoming students, this situation needs to be re-examined.

Can we afford to pass on the additional revenue that would be generated by raising out of state tuition and fees at least to the averge of BigTen public universities?  Should we be taking out of state students at bargain basement prices while declining admission to qualified Minnesota applicant?

From USNews:


Institution    Out of State Tuition

Michigan 36,163

Illinois 27,782
Michigan State 27,832
Indiana 27,689
Penn State 27,114
Purdue 26,662

Wisconsin 24,300

Iowa 23,713
Ohio State 23,604

Minnesota 15,293

Big Ten Average = 26,015

So the University of Minnesota is $10,722 LESS than average.  The next lowest tuition in the BigTen - at Ohio State - is $8,300 higher.  Wisconsin charges $9,00 more and Iowa is very close to Ohio.

What, exactly, is going on here?  Why are we foregoing this income?

I believe it is because the administration hopes that with these bargain basement fees, it wil be able to draw students from out of state and out of the country who will have the kinds of high numbers that will allow the university to rise in the rankings.  This is NOT a justifcation for foregoing revenue OR squeezing out qualifed Minnesota applicants.

It is time for the Board of Regents to revisit this issue and ask some hard questions.  Why is it that our competitors can attract out of state students with significantly higher tuition prices?  Some of them, at least, are lower on the academic totem poll by whatever standards one cares to use.


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