Former U.S. Ambassador to several African nations Joseph Wilson will speak at a DFL fundraiser Friday. He spoke Tuesday with the Daily about his involvement in the Washington scandal that compromised the identity of his wife, Valerie Plame, as a clandestine CIA operative. Wilson said White House officials sought retaliation against him because of an opinions piece he penned for The New York Times in which he said President George W. Bush exaggerated claims about Iraq trying to obtain uranium from Niger.
Michael Vekich's term as a University Regent ended as quickly as it began Friday. Vekich told Gov. Tim Pawlenty he would not serve on the Board of Regents because of a conflict of interest. Vekich serves on the board of the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, a conflict of interest that could have cost the University grants resulting from the state's $6.1 billion settlement against tobacco companies in 1998, even if Vekich had resigned from the partnership's board.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Michael Vekich on Thursday to fill the vacant seat on the University's Board of Regents. Vekich will finish at-large Regent Richard "Pinky" McNamara's term, which lasts through February 2007. McNamara announced his resignation from the board a week ago, citing health reasons. University President Bob Bruininks said Vekich comes to the board with a broad range of experience. Vekich is a graduate of the Duluth campus with a degree in accounting and business administration.
It will be business as usual for much of the Board of Regents meeting Thursday, some regents said. Although the meeting might lack a headlining item, several important items will be acted on by the board, as well as policies relating to research secrecy and student mental health. Regents likely will approve a nearly $950,000 renovation of the Gibson-Nagurski Training and Equipment Room used by the Gophers football team. Regent David Metzen said the athletics department is funding the project primarily through private donations.
For University researchers, grabbing a slice of money from the research-funding pie is getting more difficult. As government grants and contracts have spread across an increasing number of applicants, University officials said they will have to work harder to get research dollars. University Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy said the amount of money the federal government has available for research is dwindling. Paying for the war in Iraq, hurricane relief efforts and preparing for a possible bird flu pandemic have all cut into Uncle Sam's budget.
Regent Richard "Pinky" McNamara announced his resignation Friday from the University's Board of Regents because of "health reasons." University News Service director Daniel Wolter said Gov. Tim Pawlenty will appoint someone to fill the remainder of McNamara's term, which lasts through 2007. Regent Clyde Allen said McNamara has been a valuable member of the board. "We will miss him," he said.
Emerging connections in India and Southeast Asia have University professors and officials talking about opening a center to improve relationships with India. The proposed India center would facilitate connections between Minnesota and India in both the academic and business worlds, said Kumar Belani, an anesthesiology professor who coordinated a delegation to India and Southeast Asia last month.
University officials are looking to make major strides in offering education opportunities at institutions in Asia. During their trip to China this month, several University officials, including University President Bob Bruininks, inaugurated several programs and worked to expand the University's presence overseas. Some of these programs are in the area of public health, an area looked upon with great interest in China and India, said John Finnegan, dean of the University's School of Public Health.
Two University regents and University President Bob Bruininks were among a group of Minnesotans that traveled to China last week as part of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's delegation to the country. The University administration's delegates all said they were impressed with the level of energy and motivation within the country. Bruininks, who was placed in charge of the education delegation, said China is investing a great deal of resources in education.
Increasing energy costs have led to penny pinching at the gas pump and the potential for a home-heating crisis in Minnesota this winter. Now the rising costs could affect tuition. The Board of Regents last week approved a $14.6 million supplemental request to the state to help combat the effects of increasing energy costs. University officials presented their troubles at a state Senate committee hearing Thursday about the larger plight of the state's energy conundrum.