A president’s address

Final draft: To be read at convocation by University President Robert H. Bruininks.
July 21, 2009

Hello everybody and welcome to your new home at the University of Minnesota, where we are all Driven to Discover! Looks like we have about 5,400 of you freshmen this year, about 200 more than last, securing our position as the second or third biggest campus in America or whatever. What an exciting place!
Now before we get much further into the pomp and pageantry of the day, I know that many of you are worried about the cost of college. You are worried about a multi-billion dollar shortfall in state budget, you are worried about the debt of our graduating students (which is highest in the Big Ten), you are worried about how that must balance with the apparent explosion of construction around campus and you are worried at what that all means for the quality of education you came here to receive.
But really, you have no reason to fear.
Let me tell you why, my children. When you have the mind of a shrewd businessman such as myself, you know that a decisive hand and a sharp axe are needed in the path ahead. As a newly minted Executive of the Year, I’d like to apply some of that executive capital and make some responses to the budget cuts.
We’re going to be doing the old chop and raise drill as a result; that is, chopping programs and staff and raising tuition, a task becoming more and more common across the country.
But don’t worry; you all should be able to absorb the deficit without too much problem.
What? It is under 10 percent.
Some call me foolhardy for pushing this University to become a top public research institution, often at the expense of non-research producing departments. But let me say to those doubting losers that we are on track to do so, and that’s despite the budget.
We don’t have it bad at all. Consider this, you guys: The University of California system is losing more than $800 million , more than five times greater than our $150 million loss. And I say let’s take advantage of this! In business you need men with loyalty, and Mark G. Yudof is one of them.
Throwing himself and his university on the grenade to save the California state budget is courageous, and as UC’s quality of service is blown to bits, our ranking on the public research institution is surely set to jump up at least two or three ranks!
We are going to be making sure that what money we do have left will be spent wisely and with the best interests of the educational standards of this University in mind.
There are many myths spread around this University that are especially directed at you. But have no fear, freshmen. There is no such thing as a gophelope, the Superblock smell is not vomit, none of you will be sacrificed to the Tin Man and finally our ability to provide the same quality offering of higher education will not be affected by the budget deficit.
Without further ado, I want you all to take out those little envelopes you were given and open them, as per my instructions. (Pause for collective gasp.) Inside, you will find a five dollar bill voucher that you may use anyway you would like. The vice-provost of student perceptions and the vice-provost of budget and finance both agreed with the vice-provost of sage advice that this was the best way to not only illustrate the University’s budgetary strength, but to stimulate the local economy.
Now let’s all head over to the TCF Bank Stadium where those crisp new vouchers will work on the food and merchandise.

Thomas Q. Johnson welcomes comments at tjohnson@mndaily.com.

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