We should all take a step back from the fanfare of the University of Minnesota hiring P.J. Fleck as its new football coach and realize what is truly wrong with this situation. Coach Fleck will be paid the absurd amount of $18 million over the next five years (an average of $3.6 million a year) for coaching a sports team. He will not be saving lives, doing scientific research or expanding the intellectual knowledge of anyone. He will simply be trying to get his college team to a national championship. The money the university is spending on him could: fully fund the in-state tuition for roughly 1,300 students, pay the room and board for 1,900 students, pay for about 75 university surgeons (average U surgeon’s salary is $245,000 a year), or pay for about 57 university cardiologists (average U cardiologist’s salary is $317,000 year). Just think that if Fleck ever visits a university surgeon for some medical condition, he will be making about 15 times as much per year as that surgeon.
I’m sure this letter will generate the usual argument that sports programs bring in millions of media dollars to the school, which helps other academic programs. But if those arguments are true, why is it that the U repeatedly raises tuition, room and board costs, and student fees? Why is it that the U continually increases its foreign student acceptance rates because those students pay the “full freight” and the school needs the money? Why is it that salaries in the U’s sports departments have increased many times more than the cost of inflation (athletic director Mark Coyle is making $850,000 a year)? And where is our Board of Regents on this issue? Radio silence.
We need to remember that the U of M is our university — a land-grant school that started with the “Morrill Act” under President Abraham Lincoln, who said that such schools would “promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.” The university’s mission is to educate Minnesotans, not pay exorbitant salaries to private-jet-flying coaches. Think of all the Humphries, Mondales, Freemans, and all the laborers and farmers who received a solid education and a great start in life because of the University of Minnesota. The U needs to renew its commitment to the people who live, work, pay taxes and raise families in Minnesota every day. Until it does that, it will continue to be mired in the sleazy swamp of big college sports money.
Joe Tamburino, Minneapolis
• • •
In all my years as a leader of people, I don’t think I have ever seen someone as dismissive of his own leadership failings as University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler (“ ‘We’ve stood up for the victims of sexual violence’,” Jan. 7). His statement that “we made all the right decisions” is frightening unto itself, but coupled with the quote “If you don’t have thick skin and can’t weather a storm, then you can’t be an effective university president,” it leads me to believe that he really has no ownership in this latest scandal.
As a reminder, Mr. Kaler, it was your coaching staff that you say could have handled the boycott better. It was under your administration that the confidential report was leaked to a member of the press. If even one of the 10 suspensions is overturned, it was your administration that damaged that student’s reputation beyond repair.
If Kaler feels he had nothing to do with these decisions, then what exactly is he responsible for? I fear that he has confused “thick skin” with Teflon.
Jon Dautel, Lakeville
Why did Star Tribune choose to emphasize its abortion role?
The Jan. 8 article “Threat puts clinic care in doubt” characterized Planned Parenthood as the state’s largest abortion provider — a term that suggests that abortion is the only thing Planned Parenthood does. I find this disturbingly misleading.
Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of reproductive health services. These include birth control, general health care, cancer screening, sex education, and testing and treating sexually transmitted infections. Abortion is a very small proportion of all of its services. Cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood will also cut services to many women and men who can’t afford to get these services elsewhere.
The newspaper’s characterization blots out the broad health services that Planned Parenthood offers to many, many women and men. It’s a caricature — rather like describing the Star Tribune as the state’s largest publisher of comic strips.
Barbara S. Murdock, St. Paul
• • •
If Republicans want to take Planned Parenthood services away from poor people as the first act of their new government, I want to share with the public my experience with this organization. I was 26, married, with two young children. We had lost money farming, and my husband was in graduate school at the University of Minnesota to improve the future for our family. I tried to cobble together a living for our family as best I could. I was desperate for birth control, but had no way to pay for it. Someone told me that if I got to the Planned Parenthood clinic in downtown St. Paul, they would help me. As I waited, I was totally prepared to be treated with the demeaning manner people use with the poor that I had become accustomed to. To my surprise, the touch and voice of the nurse was kind and respectful as she examined me and explained my options. I burst into tears. I was deeply apologetic for being so emotional in her office. She told me in a quiet voice not to worry, “This happens here every day.”
Since I have become more financially stable, I have always included a contribution to Planned Parenthood in my budget. I will never forget what they did for me when I was so needy. And I intend to do everything in my power to prevent those with hearts as cold and hard as steel who want to take this away from those who need it from succeeding.
Betty Lotterman, St. Paul
Nonprofits are apparently next on the ‘unappreciated’ list
As a lifelong volunteer with a number of nonprofits, as a former council member and then mayor of Golden Valley, subsequently serving as a staff member of a nonprofit, I witnessed many long-lasting worthwhile results from nonprofit organizations in our community. I was dismayed to read that one of our Minnesota legislators has asked nonprofits to prove their worth (“GOP control worries nonprofits,” Jan. 7). I hope other legislators of both parties will come forward to acknowledge what contributions nonprofits have made to the lives of many Minnesotans.
Is this legislative majority leader asking the downtown churches to document their cooperation in ending homelessness? Is she asking members of organizations such as Women in Service to Education to document their contributions to improving the performance of students in our schools? Is she asking Catholic Charities and Jewish Community and Family Services to document their worth? These and many other nonprofits have better ways to spend their resources. Those of us who work with them in paid or volunteer capacity know the immense value they provide to our communities.
In addition to hearing from legislators who appreciate the contributions of nonprofits and of those associated with them, I would hope to hear from others who have observed the importance of these organizations and those who support them. Let us hope that our Legislature shows appreciation as well.
Rosemary Thorsen, Minneapolis