UMN President Eric Kaler meets with Minnesota Student Association leaders

University of Minnesota system president Eric Kaler addressed the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), November 20th. President Kaler addressed from members of the forum and from live tweeters, many questions ranging from tuition increases to the new tax reform plan being discussed by the federal government. 

In response to controversial speaker Lauren Southern coming to campus and the consequent riot, president Kaler assured that the University of Minnesota will defend the First Amendment rights of all students. Promoting the healthy exchange of ideas in a free market system is a core value that makes the U of M a top-tier research institution. Kaler also wanted to assure the right to protest for those who disagree with guest speakers on campus. However, Kaler was adamant about how the right to protest ends when individuals take it as a license to deprive the rights of others.

When asked if President Kaler would make the U of M a “sanctuary campus” Kaler responded that he would not. Kaler pointed out to the members of MSA that as a public institution that receives taxpayer funding, the U of M must follow the law. However, Kaler pointed out that UMN does not keep a list of students who may have questionable immigration statuses and would respond to federal authorities when only provided with a warrant following the principles of due process. 

A member of the forum brought to Kaler’s attention that a lot of personal information of students is readily available for anyone to access. It is quite easy to find out the phone numbers, addresses, and emails of the entire university community through the MyUMN system. The member suggested to Kaler that UMN should change its privacy policies to protect the personal information of students. Several members of the University of Minnesota, including former College Republican president Madison Faupel, have had their personal information distributed by domestic terrorist organizations like Antifa. Kaler, who stated that the safety of students is one of his top priorities, was very attentive to this issue and took note of it. 

The new tax plan proposed by Congress had provisions that will be detrimental to the American education system and to the future of the economy, according to Kaler. Graduate students would have had to count their tuition wavers as taxable income under the new plan. Students would essentially be taxed on income that they do not even receive. In an economy that is becoming more competitive by the day, an added tax on education will limit how many Americans will become industry leaders, thus preventing America from becoming great again. The new taxes would also lead to an elitist element to education. Graduate students tend to not make much money, if any at all. Those being able to afford graduate school would have had to come from the upper echelons of society. Kaler voiced his concern about the inaccessibility of higher education for people coming from lower socioeconomic classes if the new tax plan becomes law. Fortunately, this provision of the tax reform was struck down quickly. 

The U of M Board of Regents and President Kaler have brought up raising the tuition of out-of-state students. These are students who do not pay in state or reciprocity prices for tuition. Kaler believes that because the out of state price of the U of M is near the bottom of the Big Ten, and far from the bottom in quality, the price should reflect its competitiveness. Despite the increase of out-of-state tuition, the in-state tuition cost would not decrease. This has created doubts on the effectiveness or the motivation for the tuition increase. 

The meeting between Kaler and the MSA forum provided the student government an ample opportunity to voice concerns and for Kaler to respond to questions that may affect the body of students who elect their representatives.