U of M gets more money it doesn’t need, while Minneapolis schools are struggling


Once again, the University of Minnesota benefits from funding-source rocket scientists having lost what little mind they ever had in the first place. It was announced Oct. 19 – and quite gleefully – by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux that the tribe had given the U of M/Twin Cities Campus $12.5 million. Ten million to build the forthcoming TCF Stadium, with the other $2.5 earmarked for a cosmetic shell-game approximation of helping Native students enter the school. Now, UnitedHealth Group Inc. has announced that it will give the University of Minnesota a cool $3 million. This supposedly in the interest of donating $100 million over the next ten years to Minnesota groups involved in education, health and social well-being.

Incredible. After a year of trying to bounce back from a stock-option scandal, UnitedHealth Group Inc. can’t think of any better way to clean up their name than with this highly suspect gesture, handing over a fortune to the already wealthy U of M while ignoring such dire straits as plague, for instance, the Minneapolis Public Schools system – where that kind of money is desperately needed. Clearly, UHG execs are less interested in education than they are in puffing out their chests with the prestige of being able to say they made a charitable donation to the University of Minnesota.

They ignore that building after building has closed in MPS districts, specifically those serving young students of color, yet to the U, where the General College was ruthlessly dismantled, eliminating access for Native American students (are you listening, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux sell-outs?), UnitedHealth Group throws good money after bad faith. The organization doesn’t give a damn about education – not in any sense that serves the broader community, instead of just the elite.

And compare the U’s windfall with the comparative pittance doled out to Portico Healthnet. Portico Healthnet, which helps the uninsured to obtain medical coverage, will receive – get this – $500,000. In the wake of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s infamous 2003 butchering of health clinics, a move that wiped out coverage for poor people across the state, and considering the rectifying we need to see happen – folk are still suffering – $500,000 is not even peanuts; it’s peanut shells.

“The people of UnitedHealth are passionate about helping people live healthier lives. This is close to our hearts as well as our home,” said Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley at a news conference.

Horse manure. Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth is America’s largest health insurer, with net earnings of $4 billion in 2006 alone, and this is the way Hemsley shows how concerned UHG is about people living healthy lives? This is how UHG shows concern for the unconscionable disparity in education that prevails to the point of absolute catastrophe? Whoever Hemsley thinks is fooled by what he’s shoveling; no one who knows his or her hot rock from their elbow is taken in by his smarmy bilge. Never mind stock-options, this is blatantly scandalous goings on, right here.

Adding insult to injury, the press conference took place in a back room at the embattled Community-University Health Care Center which has been fighting like hell to keep the U of M from cutting the center’s financial throat. CUHCC provides primary care, mental health and dental services to the impoverished and to low-income immigrant patients. Yet it wasn’t announced that so much as one thin dime will be allocated to help Community-University Health Care Center.

U of M President Robert Bruininks had the gall to skirt that issue with a song-and-dance of which Sammy Davis could’ve been proud. He claimed that UnitedHealth and school officials are laboring to “identify the most pressing issues we need to confront over the next ten years.”

But it’s too early to tell whether Community-University will benefit. At all. Then he said with a straight face that the U of M plans to expand health services in north Minneapolis. How? No word on that. When? No word on that. Right; the check is in the mail. As the filthy rich, conscienceless University of Minnesota yet again gobbles up – from irresponsible funders – money it doesn’t need that would make a crucial difference in the lives of those who must go without.