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Yudof: University successful despite challenges
By Marisa Helms
Minnesota Public Radio
October 19, 2001
Click for audio RealAudio

University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof says the school is doing "better than ever." In his annual "State of the University" address Thursday, Yudof told a group of about 100 people including students, staff, faculty, and regents about the school's successes and future challenges.


Hear the entire speech in RealAudio. (Listen >>)
President Mark Yudof reminded the audience of the challenges facing the university in recent years. In particular, he cited the funding battle last legislative session which ended with the university getting half of what it asked for. That prompted an increase in tuition and annual fees for students.

Yudof says the national trend is toward less state funding and he predicts the struggle with the Legislature will repeat itself. Still, Yudof says he's optimistic.

"We're enjoying a good deal of momentum at the university. Nearly all meaningful indicators of the university's performance are up," he said. "We have a long way to go in some areas, particularly in faculty salaries and graduation rates, and we are only recently out of the trough in some other areas, but our long-term trajectory is onward and upward."

Yudof says applications for admission are up 60 percent since 1995, and he says the school is getting higher quality students. Research grants and private giving are also up.

During a question-and-answer period after his speech, a chemistry faculty member asked about federal policy changes as a result of the September 11 attacks that will make it harder for foreign students to obtain student visas. Yudof says he wrote to the Minnesota congressional delegation opposing any moratorium on visas.

"The idea that we should close the doors of our university, in complete violation of our history and traditions, on a broad-scale, sweeping basis, without any specific evidence on any one student doing anything, I think, is just the wrong way to go and that's what I told our representatives," Yudof said.

Yudof says he favors measures such as checking in with consulates, and making sure foreign students who apply for visas actually enroll.

Henryk Stolarski is a Polish national who teaches civil engineering at the U. He says he agrees with Yudof's stance.

"What is unfortunate is that most of those students who come here are very honest people and they will have to suffer for awhile, and there is no way out. We have to be a little bit more understanding and reasonable about it. The fear cannot overcome us too much, because most of our graduate students are really foreign students and if that supply of students is cut off, we're in deep trouble," he said.

One issue Yudof brought up but did not expand upon was the tuition hikes instituted this academic year. Judy Berning is a sophomore management student and member of the student senate. She says Yudof's speech was geared too much toward faculty and not enough toward the students. She says she's frustrated by the constant debate over tuition hikes. But Berning blames the hikes on Governor Jesse Ventura.

"His one philosophy, if I'm correct, is, 'If you're smart enough to go to college, you're smart enough to fund it yourself.' I have a huge problem with that, and I think it will be a big issue with the election, and as a student, I'd rather get student support and bring it to him and be like, no this isn't the way it is," Berning said.

Yudof's speech also stressed how the students, staff and faculty can do much to promote a new image of the University of Minnesota. Yudof says the the public has an outdated view of the school as being too inclusive, not academically stringent enough, and as a commuter school. Yudof says those perceptions are no longer accurate. On top of climbing enrollment of quality students and increased research grant money, Yudof says the number of undergraduates living on campus has also increased.

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