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The University of Minnesota - What's Your Vision?

The Legislature Needs to Ask the U to Be Accountable
State Senator Deanna Wiener, Chair, Senate Higher Education Budget Division

Deanna Wiener

Before Minnesota became a state there was a University of Minnesota. Now, 150 years later the University's future continues to be an important link to the well-being of Minnesota and its citizens. I've said many times that the U drives Minnesota's economy and that the Legislature needs to pay careful attention to maintain and improve that function. A list of all the ways graduates of the University of Minnesota have changed the world we live in - from innovative medical treatments and devices to life-saving crop developments, to launching political and community leaders is endless. So many individuals and governments have had unique connections with our great University throughout its existence.

My vision for the University is based on the certainty that it will always be Minnesota's premier asset. We look to the University to provide well-educated citizens ready to participate in our workforce and to be a leader in our understanding of civic responsibility. We also look to the University to bring ideas to the marketplace and call on us to participate in the challenges of a more diverse Minnesota.

I see my role, as chair of the Senate's Higher Education Budget Division, to set the stage for negotiating a new partnership with the University. The Governor has issued his value statement about the University with his budget proposal. The Higher Ed budget division, with advice from constituents, is now in the process of developing its value statements. We need to have a common understanding of the University's autonomy under its charter and the requirement of Minnesota taxpayers that value be received for our investment in University operations.

We need to give each other permission to succeed and to fail. Too often change does not or cannot occur because we are unwilling to say, publicly, "that was really a bad idea." We need to explode "myths" about the University, its faculty, students and programs. The legislature needs to ask the U to be accountable for its stewardship of state resources and the legislature can expect the U to ask the same of it.

I look forward to the challenges that this year's budget proposal is bringing us. There are no easy answers but many hard questions. I am not afraid to ask those questions in Budget Division hearings. I have asked the Governor for his questions and I am asking for yours. Together we can find the balance between accountability, risk and stability for the University as it moves into its 151st year.

What's your vision? Share your thoughts in the MPR Forum.

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