University of Minnesota: U of M recognizes shared successes with Tribal Nations and the need for continued partnership

In recent years, the University of Minnesota has invested more effort than ever before into acknowledging its challenging past and working to rebuild and strengthen relationships with Tribal Nations and Native people. Recognizing this, the University’s Board of Regents on Friday received a comprehensive update on this work from Karen Diver, the University’s first senior advisor to the president for Native American affairs. Diver highlighted recent accomplishments, plans for the year ahead and long-term aspirations.

For example, the University’s November 2021 launch of the Native American Promise Tuition Program has already created notable increases in student interest. The program offers substantial financial support at all five University campuses—in many cases free tuition—to first-year undergraduate students and Tribal college transfer students who are enrolled citizens in one of the state’s 11 federally recognized Tribal Nations. Diver cited a 16.7 percent increase in Native American student enrollment on the Twin Cities campus, as well as a 26 percent jump on the Morris campus, acknowledging Morris’ separate, full tuition waiver program that has long been in place.

Other key accomplishments of the past year include:

Doing more listening, with U of M President Joan Gabel regularly meeting with leaders of each of Minnesota’s 11 Tribal Nations and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council.
Dedicating more personnel and expertise to this work, with Diver and her position as examples.
Re-establishing American Indian Advisory Boards on each U of M campus.
Revitalizing Ojibwe and Dakota language programs in the University’s American Indian Studies program, the oldest such program in the nation.
Investing in research by Tribal communities to chronicle the University’s history with Native people and create an informed record of history from which mutually constructive paths forward can be developed. The results of this research, known as the TRUTH Project, will be presented this summer.
While celebrating these partnerships with Tribal communities, the University is also actively addressing the following requests from Minnesota’s Tribal Nations and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council:

Continued discussion with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa regarding the future stewardship and use of the Cloquet Forestry Center, located wholly within the Fond du Lac Reservation.
Ongoing review of historical records and other sources regarding medical research conducted in the Red Lake Nation during the 1960s. This review is included as part of the TRUTH Project.
Consultatively building out best practices for Tribal research, which is the charge of a University working group that has met during the past year and is scheduled to advance recommendations this summer.
The Board most recently heard matters related to Tribal communities in February, when it authorized the repatriation of objects from a collection of Mimbres-affiliated cultural artifacts. The action was a significant step toward honoring the University’s ethical, moral and legal obligations.

Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Approved
Also on Friday, the Board approved the University’s fiscal year 2022-23 operating budget, which the Board reviewed in May and was the subject of a public forum and online comment period.

The approved budget anticipates approximately $4.2 billion in revenue, almost entirely offset by approximately $4.1 billion in expenses. Once one-time financial inputs from the American Rescue Plan program are removed from the calculations, next year’s budget anticipates a 4.1 percent increase in expenses, more than double the 1.9 percent increase expected in revenue. The growth in expenses comes at a time of challenging global economic conditions, including inflationary and supply chain pressures.

Emphasizing investments guided by the systemwide strategic plan, MPact 2025, the budget provides for merit-based salary increases for University employees, with supervisors distributing an average of 3.85 percent in merit increases across their teams in a continued effort to attract and retain the talented faculty and staff necessary to meet the plan’s objectives. The budget calls for $28 million in internal reallocations, spending reductions and other operational changes to help offset expenses.

Also included is an increase to the University’s undergraduate tuition. At the Crookston, Duluth and Morris campuses, this change will be 1.75 percent. At the Rochester and Twin Cities campuses, it will be 3.5 percent. These changes are below the rate of inflation—a benchmark utilized when tuition increases are necessary but an increasingly challenging goal when state support and other revenues remain flat in the face of significant cost increases.

The Board also:

Approved Gabel’s recommended FY23 capital improvement budget.
Received an update on public safety.
Approved proposed changes to Board of Regents Policy: Student Conduct Code.
Discussed distributed learning strategies with faculty and leadership.
Received a systemwide update on undergraduate enrollment management.
Approved contract amendments for Gopher and Bulldog Athletics coaches.
Adopted its meeting schedule for the 2022-23 academic year.
Received an update on the President’s Initiative for Student Mental Health (PRISMH) which reported on the initiative’s first full academic year and future plans.