The Minnesota Daily sat down with University president Eric Kaler earlier this week to talk about tuition, increases in enrollment and security on campus, among other topics.
The University of Minnesota Foundation recently purchased parcels of land [on the East Bank], to create a “gateway” from the Twin Cities campus to the broader community. What is your vision for this expansion?
We really have an opportunity here to create a gateway into the campus... That would... create a great ambiance when you come into the campus... I think the ability to create that space will be terrific. We don’t have immediate plans to do it, but that gateway will be an important part of the University for a long time.
The College of Liberal Arts is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and is starting a new initiative to improve the college’s appearance and the perceptions of a liberal arts degree. Why do you think this is necessary?
You should come to college to be educated... Unfortunately, people sometimes focus too much on the job-ready or the career-ready business and don’t consider the power of liberal arts preparing them for a full and rich life. So, I think we need to tell that story better, with liberal arts at the core of the University... and I’m eager to see how [the College of Liberal Arts] sharpens their approach and tells their story.
Conservative groups on campus are suing the University of Minnesota, alleging discrimination and a violation of First Amendment obligation after Ben Shapiro’s February visit to campus. What is the University’s response to the lawsuit?
We did host Ben Shapiro on campus, but I’m not going to make any comments about ongoing legal situations.
Last week, two separate incidents, both resulting in death, occurred in the University campus area. Does the University have any plans to change security because of these instances?
Unfortunately those deaths did happen in parts of the University... And it’s very unfortunate when events like this happen and it’s a reminder to all us to be safe, be aware of our environment and whenever possible travel as a group…. If not, we have resources like the Gopher Chauffeur that can help people move around safely.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided last month to uphold the Trump Administration’s travel ban, limiting travel for people from seven countries. Has the University considered assisting students affected by the executive order?
We do have ways to assist students for those activities. We have a set of resources on [the University's Immigration Response website]... and I encourage families affected by that to go to that site and find out how we can be helpful to them.
This fall, nonresident non-reciprocity tuition at the University will be increasing 15 percent to be more in line with nonresident tuition of other Big 10 schools. Are there other areas that the University wants to raise to Big 10 standards?
In many cases... the Big 10 needs to rise to our standards. We look at where we stand in many metrics of the Big 10. We’re an above average institution, and we should be very proud of that. The [non-resident, non-reciprocity] conversation is one that the legislators have had that some Regents feel strongly about. The move is to put the University of Minnesota in the middle of the Big 10 in that space, but we don’t intend to be in the middle of the Big 10 in the academic product that we deliver.
The University has seen an increase in enrollment and has further plans to continue to increase it. Does the University have any plans on how to increase mental health resources for students to accommodate this increase in enrollment?
We certainly will scale all of our student support efforts to grow with the enrollment and we’ve made strides forward in mental health. I don’t think there’s been a... waiting list at Boynton for a couple years now and we have increased staffing there pretty considerably.
The University has enlisted a task force to try to keep more Minnesota students in the University system for college and increase enrollment by 2024. If the University wants to enroll more Minnesota students, why was resident tuition increased?
...If you look over the time I’ve been President... resident tuition has increased at a rate that hasn’t been seen lower in 58 years. So it’s pretty clear that we make keeping tuition increases low a very high priority... We work hard to control tuition costs but we also recognize that despite our efforts to cut administrative expenditures... The institution does need revenue... The state of Minnesota appropriation [this year was] less than [last] year... So unfortunately we have to ask students and their families to pay a little bit more of the cost.
I know the state fair is coming up next month, but what has been your favorite part of the summer so far?
It’s always fun to see my granddaughter Ophelia and watch her play and interact with her grandmother. It’s a very special thing to see.