Graduate school restructuring largely a surprise

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Many faculty and students at the University of Minnesota’s Graduate School found out the school would be restructuring around the same time the public did on Monday, although Senior Vice Provost Tom Sullivan said all deans who oversee graduate programs signed off on the plan.

Graduate School faculty and staff were aware that there may be cuts, but didn’t know it would be completely disbanded, though Sullivan said many of them were consulted about the change.

If graduate directors were contacted, neither Roger Miller, director of graduate studies for Liberal Arts, nor Jean Bauer, director of graduate studies for family social science, was among them.

While Bauer knew the Graduate School was likely to take a heavy hit with the upcoming budget cuts, she said she was shocked by the news yesterday.

“I don’t think anybody knew,” Bauer said. “People weren’t consulted ahead of time — or at least I wasn’t.”

Miller wasn’t surprised, but he didn’t know the specifics of the plan, she said.

Although a lot of people were consulted, no one really knew the details until they were released, which is common practice for any large administrative decision, Miller said.

It is unclear how this transition will affect Graduate School Dean Gail Dubrow , Bauer said.

“One of the people that I feel the worst for is Gail Dubrow, who was recruited to head up the Graduate School,” Bauer said. “What this means for her is very, very difficult to say.”

Dubrow did not comment and University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail that Provost Sullivan is speaking for the institution at this time.

Graduate and Professional Student Assembly President Kristi Kremers , who works closely with the administration, was even more surprised than faculty, describing the news as an “utter shock.”

“Nobody saw it coming,” she said. “To totally dissolve the entire Graduate School without consulting the community, it’s a really bad way to handle things, and I just expect more out of the University administration.”

Aside from the shock, faculty and students are unsure of what this could mean for graduate education.

“The truth is none of us know yet what this means,” Tim Kehoe, the director of Economic Graduate Studies, said in an e-mail.

Sullivan, however, maintains that the reconstruction will have positive implications for the University.

The reconstruction, he said, will help increase financial support for graduate students and collegiate units, but they will take on additional responsibilities. The reconstruction will also help with the state’s projected $151 million cut to the University’s budget , although it is not clear how much the University will save at this time, Sullivan said.

Sullivan is confident the transition of the Graduate School into a parallel of the Office of Undergraduate Education will run smoothly after an implementation committee is established later this week.

The committee — which will include business leaders, faculty and students — will make recommendations regarding how to go about the change.

Faculty and students, however, are not as confident in the fluidity of the change.

Kremers and Bauer are concerned about how the cuts will affect the ability to maintain the Graduate School’s functions, like fellowships and research.

However, Miller said he thinks the transition will run smoothly if the programs work together.

Sullivan advocates maintaining fellowship programs and a student advisory group, like GAPSA.

Kremers, however, is going to have to be won over.

“It really saddens me that our administration would do this almost as an afterthought, with little consideration of the implications we have for the future,” she said, “by removing the structure that has been in place for over a century.”

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