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Board of Regents February meeting highlights


The Board of Regents held its monthly meeting on Feb. 11-12

By Adam Overland

Regents Seal


February 16, 2010

The Board of Regents held its monthly meeting on Feb. 11-12.

On Feb. 11, the Facilities Committee reviewed a number of high-profile projects, including proposed renovations to Akerman Hall, the Mechanical Engineering Building, Griggs Hall on the Duluth campus, Folwell Hall; construction of the Physics and Nanotechnology building; an addition to the University Recreation Center on the Twin Cities campus; and purchase of properties on the Rochester campus. Two of the Twin Cities projects--the Folwell Hall renovations and construction of a new Physics and nanotechnology building--make up a significant portion of the U's 2010 capital request.

A third Twin Cities project, the University Recreation Center expansion, is now in the design phase and scheduled to be completed in Spring 2013. Vice provost of student affairs Gerald Rinehart addressed the board committee, saying that the U's recreation center opened in 1993 to immediate success and fanfare--and simultaneous complaints of overcrowding. Since then, factors such as a significant increase in near- and on-campus housing have further exacerbated the issue. "In the communities, there's been a tremendous shift in the number of students wanting to live near campus, which is a good thing for us all," said Rinehart. He said that in 1993, about 75 percent of U students considered themselves commuters--"that's almost completely reversed today, and that's significant because usage rates (of the recreation center) are directly tied to proximity."

Rinehart said that currently, 75 percent of those students who live within a mile of campus use the recreational facilities. Rinehart said that recreational facilities are an essential piece of campus life, as research indicates participation in recreational sports results in higher GPAs, higher retention and graduation rates, a greater level of social interaction, and a greater sense of affiliation with the U. Rinehart said the current facility is about 50 percent of the size that it should be, and that the expansion will be a big step toward accommodating increased student use.

Campus energy savings
A presentation by associate vice president of facilities management Mike Berthelsen and associate director of energy management Jim Green focused on highlighting some of the progress in the U's significant efforts toward energy reduction and efficiencies over the past year. Berthelsen and Green complimented the Eco Team and the "It all adds up" campaign in helping raise campus awareness and moving the U toward its goal of a five percent reduction in energy consumption. The 21-month project seeks to save $2.25 million per year. At the end of January (17 months into the project), the effort has achieved savings of $1.96 million.

Report of the President
Provost Tom Sullivan presented the report of the president on behalf of President Bruininks, who is recovering from his recent surgery. The report focused on scope of the University, saying that while the financial situation wouldn't affect the U's mission, it would force the U to reconsider priorities. The president's steering committee and committees within each college are looking at scope priorities and trade-offs, said Sullivan. Deans will make recommendations to the president.

Sullivan stated that increasing efficiency and reducing costs at the U remains a priority. Savings will continue to come from other areas, said Sullivan, including growing real estate revenue, decommissioning obsolete buildings, increasing intellectual property revenue, and gaining better control of information technology costs. "We have a plan we're working on right now to increase efficiency in the IT area by 10 percent and to reduce costs by 20 percent over the next 18 months," Sullivan said. It also involves budget cuts, said Sullivan, including $34.5 million from central administration's budget in 2009-10.

Sullivan ended the presentation by saying that despite the declining number of high school graduates in the Upper Midwest, applications for the fall enrollment class are up 10 percent. Minnesota resident applications are up more than 6 percent, while nonresident applications are up more than 12 percent. Additionally, said Sullivan, the U's first year class includes 112 National Merit Scholars--that number puts the U among the top 20 universities for the first time, and second in the Big 10 in terms of the number of merit scholars. "This is ahead of Berkeley, Michigan, Duke, MIT, and Stanford," said Sullivan.

Technology Commercialization Report
Vice president for research Tim Mulcahy and executive director of the Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) Jay Schrankler, presented a report to the board on the U's successes and challenges with the commercialization of technology.

OTC commercialization is making changes, said Schrankler. Revenues have increased overall 8 percent overall, and have recently been outperforming the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500. Invention disclosures (those submitted by faculty to OTC) were up 12 percent. New patents filed were up 25 percent last year from the year before, and public perception of OTC is improving.

OTC is moving forward with a new emphasis on making sure spin-offs are successful and by creating start-up companies. Schrankler said one can either license inventions for ongoing payment or create start-up companies. "Those start-up companies take a little bit of the money, and they take longer to bake, but the reason we put money into them is because we believe that the overall value equation for the U will be higher--we just have to wait a little bit longer," said Schrankler. OTC is also emphasizing increasing faculty participation in start-ups, while at the same time instilling the importance of strong conflict management.

The presentation emphasized that Minnesota needs an "entrepreneurial ecosystem," with public policy on a continuum where the state and University play a role. Toward that end, Vice President Tim Mulcahy recently presented to the joint House Tax Committee and House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division regarding business tax incentives and credits.

In other news:
The Board approved a bargaining agreement with UMPD.

The Board approved the purchase of two properties in downtown Rochester for the expansion of that campus.

General counsel Mark Rotenberg and vice president Kathryn Brown reviewed for the board a new financial conflict of interest policy.

The board voted in favor of amending its policy on use of the University of Minnesota brand.

More information can be found in the Feb. 11-12 meeting docket, at Board of Regents.