The Minnesota Daily sat down with University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel last week to talk about pressing campus topics like tuition, the University’s role in fighting climate change and the rise of crime near campus.
Can we expect a tuition hike next fall? Have you talked about it?
We’ve talked about what we’re going to do. It's too early to give a formal answer because we have no idea what the overall picture will be with the Legislature, although this is year two of the biennial budget, so we have a pretty clear picture. What we don’t have a clear picture of is our expenses fully, yet … I’d like to think that it would be low enough that you wouldn’t call it a ‘hike,’ if we have to raise it, [and] that it would be well below inflation. We’re not required to keep tuition increases below inflation, but that’s our internal working rubric … I have no reason to think we wouldn’t be able to do that this year.
How are you feeling about the budget? Were you happy with Gov. Walz’s capitol bonding proposal of $224.2 million for the University?
They’re about to go into session; it won’t be for general revenue, but it will be for our infrastructure … we would really love for those resources to come in because those projects have to happen, so in order to be safe and greener and all the things we aspire to be, to maximize learning and research on the campus. So if we don’t receive those resources, it hits in the general revenue side of things down the road. We’re always trying to not let that happen.
Yes — we were happy that he kicked off his listening tour on campus, and we were very happy to be able to participate in partnership with Minnesota State with the budget announcement. Our ideal would be to get everything we ask for — we ask for it for a reason — but given the competitive landscape [Walz] deals with … we were very grateful for the support.
The University recently conducted a survey of mental health on campus. What’s the big takeaway?
We sent out a survey to every [department with a budget] to ask them how much of their budget they were spending on counseling services and other types of services, like wellness and mental health. And we received all that data, and it shows us first … lots of people are deploying resources around counseling services.
We knew we had a gap over on the West Bank; we saw that before the study was even done. And as you may know we’ve started the process of expanding [to the West Bank], so we’ve identified space, and they’re fixing up the space so that the counselors can move over there I think sometime this semester. Probably in the latter part of this semester.
We know that there's obviously a very big commitment [to mental health on campus] — that’s very apparent from the study. We know that there are lots of different approaches beyond counseling services that different campuses and different units are taking … [We can see that] people care a lot and are devoting resources and time to it, but there’s probably some value in trying to harness some of that support into a few pieces that would lift up out of each of the individual projects to programs. So now, we’re trying to figure out where that would be and get some best practice insight into that …
We’ve gotten some letters to the editor about the University divesting from things like coal, and there have been some protests about that, too. Is the University considering any sort of formal action in fighting climate change, such as combating our environmental imprint?
Yes. The environment, broadly speaking, is expected to be a prominent part of the new strategic plan, which would include our own campus being greener, the whole system being greener, which we have been proving over time — that we need to be continually intentional about that, being conveners for people who are looking to either learn more for their own practice or around what the policy implications are and, being scholars, so that we study environmental impact. We have people in poles all the way to the day-to-day sustainable plastics. You name it, we have people working on it. And so all of that is part of our commitment to the positive contributors to a sustainable future, broadly speaking. How funds are invested, some of them aren’t managed by the University, they’re managed by the foundation, and how those funds are being managed is more of a question for the CFO and what their plans are.
What is the University's role in preventing crime near campus?
We all live here, in a manner of speaking. So there is clearly an uptick [in crime near campus]. I understand that this is often cyclical when it gets cold, and it is cold, so I would say that the projection has turned out to be the reality. We’ve done a few things on campus like changing the security protocols south of Washington [Avenue]. We’ve also committed to hiring more police officers and more security for surrounding areas, in addition to maintaining our strong partnership with the Minneapolis Police Department and St. Paul Police Department and thinking about how to be good neighbors.
There are also things that are tangential that I think are important to remember, like what we do as neighbors to try to make this a good place: the health care clinical work, education programs, after school programs, things like that that are intended to elevate the community at large. Because it’s not just about police, it’s about an entire sense of being a neighbor, and we have work to do there.
UMPD will have three more sworn officers, meaning they’re badged and armed. [From 55 to 58]. And then we’re going to be having more security officers who are not police officers for patrol and presence.
Do you have a dog?
Yes. I love my dog. My dog is still in South Carolina, because my youngest son is finishing high school down there, and it made more sense for the dog to stay with that piece of the family. But she is a six-and-a-half pound toy poodle that we carry around like a baby. She is the absolute adored princess in our family, and I love her and miss her. Her name is Anise, which is the French word for the seed that licorice comes from. She is French Canadian, and so she has a French name, but we call her Annie.
This interview has been edited for length, grammar and clarity.