Robert Wilson’s commentary “What did they do to my U?” (May 17) painted an inaccurate picture of leadership and oversight of the University of Minnesota, questioning our commitment to creating and maintaining a nationally prominent Medical School and health care organization.

As chair of the Board of Regents, I can attest that the board and university leaders not only are engaged, but have made it a priority to strengthen the academic health sciences at the U — including improving the rank of the Medical School and the University of Minnesota Medical Center. This is not a new commitment; many gains have already been made.

In early 2013, we recognized significant changes were needed in our clinical operations. With our partner, Fairview, we reached a new agreement to form UM Health, an entity that has been operating for close to two years now, providing better service to our patients, and improved quality, experience and safety while reducing costs. Our relationship with Fairview today is built on shared goals — to achieve high rankings in clinical care, educate and train Minnesota’s health care workforce, and conduct clinical research that improves patient care and outcomes — while maintaining strong financial performance, a necessary component to support medical education at the university.

The Medical School has embarked on a new strategic plan, completely revamping the curriculum to prepare students for a new team-based health care delivery approach and bringing renewed emphasis to scholarship among faculty. The state’s investment of $30 million will help the U hire 50 top researchers and attract new research funding that is critical to move us into the top 20 medical schools in the next five to eight years.

Under the strong leadership of university President Eric Kaler and Medical School Dean Brooks Jackson, the Medical School is on the rise.

Richard Beeson, St. Paul

The writer is chair of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

ARRESTS AND BIAS

We need more information on patterns at Eagan outlet mall

Because the majority of those cited or charged with shoplifting at Eagan’s new outlet mall have been people of color, the Star Tribune reports concerns (“Shoplifting arrests raise question of bias,” May 17). What is glaringly absent is any information that would provide perspective.

If the charges are being found to be baseless, we should all be concerned. If there is probable cause, then the public should be concerned that these allegations are being made. Shoplifting costs all of us. If someone shoplifts, they should be prosecuted, regardless of color.

Kathy Meinhardt, Bloomington

• • •

Who is doing the arresting? Is it black police officers or white officers arresting blacks? My guess is that it is the white policemen arresting blacks more often than the black policeman arresting black shoplifters. I didn’t see that addressed in the story.

Genna Anderson, St. Paul

• • •

The article mentioned shoplifting rings that go from store to store carrying foil-lined shopping bags to thwart theft detectors. It is often impossible to catch such people in the actual act of stealing merchandise.

Minnesota has a statute on the books that makes the mere possession of burglary tools under certain circumstances a crime with a punishment of up to three years in prison. Let’s amend our laws to make the possession of a foil-lined shopping bag or any other shoplifting aid in a retail establishment evidence of intent to shoplift. Three years sounds fine to me, and I doubt we would nab a lot of schoolgirls swiping a lipstick on their lunch break.

Edward Stegman, Hastings

 

GENDER GAP IN WAGES

In Minnesota, the law protects the sharing of pay information

The May 17 commentary “The gender gap in pay: Both real and overstated” included as a strategy the need to abandon wage secrecy. While pay in the public sector is public information, private-sector companies often prohibit wage disclosure. The commentary noted that Congress voted down a White House-backed bill to make pay transparency the law of the land, but it did not note that Minnesota law prohibits employees from being disciplined for “sharing the numbers on their paychecks.” Minnesota’s law was passed by the Legislature in the 2014 session as part of the more general Women’s Economic Security Act. Women in Minnesota can now share information with their co-workers to check whether they are being paid a fair wage.

Nina Rothchild, Mahtomedi

The writer is a former commissioner of employee relations for the state of Minnesota.

• • •

The American Association of University Women, in “The Simple Truth” (available online), has thoroughly examined this problem with experts across disciplines. They compared women on the basis of their completed educational level, the prestige of their degree, their grade-point average and their choice of majors — whether they decided to enroll in traditionally feminine-favored majors of teaching, social work or the humanities and social sciences vs. the traditionally male-selected majors of business, engineering, computer science, mathematics and sciences. The thorough study found that even though the male-dominated and favored fields pay better, when women selected them they still received less pay than men. With all of these factors taken into account, women from their first hiring are paid less than their male counterparts. Thus the discrepancy grows even as women advance in their careers.

This is not simply an issue about fairness to women, although that is important. Rather, 34 percent of all women wage earners are the chief breadwinners in their families, either because they are widowed, divorced or never married, or because their husbands can no longer remain fully in the workforce. This difference in their wages because of their sex affects their families and plays an important role in the feminization of poverty. That, in turn, affects the entire community, and the children of these families may well carry into adulthood additional problems that might have been alleviated if their mothers had received equal pay for equal work.

Shirley Leckie Reed, St. Paul

 

MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOLS

Budget shifts try to raise the bottom by lowering the top

I found the May 17 headline “Mpls. schools try budget based on equity” article interesting. While I’m all for spending more money where it’s needed in an effort to raise low scores in poorly performing schools and close the achievement gap, I must point out the obvious: That’s the opposite of “equity,” or being equitable.

I would also point out that narrowing that gap comes with trade-offs. It can’t and won’t occur without increased funding or continued cuts to high-achieving schools. In turn, those cuts to high-achieving schools will eventually turn them into marginal schools. The job of the school board is to find a balanced solution. In the meantime, I’d like to retain high-achieving high schools as options for children.

I’ll continue to support education referendums and disproportionate funding to needy schools to a point. But when Minneapolis already spends much less per pupil at Minneapolis Southwest High School than it does at the other high schools (something the article and district should’ve pointed out), further cuts to top schools and “more equitable” redistribution of funds might not be the answer unless the question is “how do we drive top students away and achieve seven marginal high schools.”

Raising the bottom scores is an admirable goal. Lowering the top is not. For the school board to question the motives of parents opposed to more cuts without full disclosure of the facts was just irresponsible. I had high hopes when Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson left.

Nick Dolphin, Minneapolis