When the Rochester campus of the University of Minnesota was established in 1998, it was a worthwhile endeavor. Today, that campus — at least as it has evolved — is a failed experiment that deserves to be terminated.
The university’s presence in Rochester began as a cooperative relationship with the local community college and Winona State University. In 1998, it was designated as a branch of the university’s Twin Cities campus. And in 2006, it became a coordinate campus in the University of Minnesota system. In that year, there were 21 employees at the Rochester campus. By 2014, the number of employees had ballooned to 104. This number includes a chancellor, a vice chancellor, an associate vice chancellor and an assistant vice chancellor. The combined “chancellorian” salaries equal $624,000. I have no doubt that these are talented and hardworking individuals. I can even accept that there are plausible reasons why their lofty salaries are merited. But they represent an unaffordable administrative burden.
The recently released enrollment figures for Rochester reveal that the entire student body this fall is 416 students. The ratio of non-faculty staff members to students at Rochester (1 to 5) is nearly twice as high as the national average for public colleges. The university did not plan on creating this bureaucratic monster. The vision for this campus was one with a student population about double its present size. This goal has shown itself to be unobtainable. The highest that enrollment has ever reached was 495 in 2013, and it has been trending downward.
Nationwide, the huge increases in the cost of higher education are among the most dire challenges facing universities. An inordinate expansion of administrative and support staff has been identified as the major driver of these increases. And a Wall Street Journal article in 2012 identified the University of Minnesota as the leader in the growth of this bureaucratic burden. We now see that within the university system, the Rochester campus is the “heart of darkness.”
At this point, the Rochester experiment can be characterized as the height of bureaucratic self-interest, or the nadir of rational management. In either case, it stands as a test case for the competence of the administration of the university as a whole. Successful enterprises encourage risk-taking. Viable organizations acknowledge failures.
Robert Katz, Minneapolis
We must find the sweet spot in terms of staff accountability
Kudos for talk of reform at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, where good medical care is our moral responsibility and flagrant waste is just not acceptable (“Walz seeks easier way for VA to fire bad staffers,” Nov 5). It is a tough problem, because all humans are susceptible to the temptations of a little corruption here and there. I do not want people fired lightly, only with documented cause, but we certainly have that here with Kimberly Graves (“VA official accused in transfer scheme,” Sept. 29). Most VA staff are ordinary people who do ordinary work. We don’t require excellence every minute of every day from every employee. That’s what rules are for. We do require excellence in the administration and oversight. Don’t go after the union. It has an important role, and life is not better without unions.
Marian Turner, Minneapolis
Sparks development — just not the kind we really need
With more hotels approved for building in the stadium area (“New stadium attracts another hotel,” Nov. 4), I hope that city planners and the City Council can take pride in the increased tax revenue. However, building hotels does nothing to make the area more livable for area residents. Congested traffic, lack of parking for these expansions and more visitors in this area do not make this area attractive to residents who own and rent. Please look carefully at making this area equally appealing for those of us who live there!
Ron Linde, Minneapolis
U ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
Reusse is wrong; Beth Goetz is the right person for the role
We found Patrick Reusse’s Nov. 5 column about Beth Goetz and her role as interim athletic director at the University of Minnesota to be mean-spirited and boorish (“Scratch these two off U’s AD search list,” referring to Goetz and former football coach Jerry Kill). His comments about Goetz’s readiness and effectiveness to lead were without data or merit. (Apparently, he would have given her more kudos had she been raised within our Minnesota borders. Outsiders are terrible people.) In her brief tenure, she has steadied the program and directed it in the right direction — despite the turbulence surrounding the program. Beth Goetz brings integrity, honesty, trust and a passion for student athletes. She cares about educating them, supporting their dreams and preparing them as leaders upon graduation. Does she bring experience as a multimillion-dollar fundraiser? No — but that job is never done alone. Can she build winning programs? Yes, she can, along with her team of coaches and staff. As U graduates, professional women and boosters for the University of Minnesota Athletics Department, we support her for the position of AD.
Donna DiMenna, St. Paul
This letter was also signed by Rosann Cahill, Mary O’Brien, Diane Scoville, Shawn Tierney and Linda Arford.
Who are you going to trust: Ben Carson or … reporters? Ha!
The Star Tribune is always good for a laugh (“Carson suggests pyramids were used to store grain,” Nov. 6). Two Associated Press reporters write that “despite his scientific training as a neurosurgeon,” Carson “rejects evolutionary biology.” My response: Despite the reporters (presumably) having journalism degrees, they believe in evolutionary biology. Gee — who is coming at their belief with a stronger scientific background?
Chris Schonning, Andover
Josh if you will (and you will), but mind your etiquette
I was born in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and moved to Minnesota in the early 1960s. I am well used to being poked fun at for my birthright (“All cartooning aside, we should respect our neighboring state,” Readers Write, Nov. 6). I always encourage the ribbing about Iowa with one request:
“Please don’t do it with your mouth full of food.”
Bob Brereton, St. Paul