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U of M Priorities: Big Gabel Bonus, Big CLA Cuts?

Plus NAACP sues MPD, local SCOTUS connections, and learning Somali songs in today's Flyover.

Brian Moen via Flickr|

In light of this news, we refuse to say Row the Boat.

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of what local media outlets and Twitter-ers are gabbing about.


Did you hear? Outgoing University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel—she of massive conflict of interest and staggering unpopularity infamy—is set to receive up to $260,000 in bonuses while skipping out the door, KSTP reported Monday. Also of note from Monday: The College of Liberal Arts is set to gut its ethnic and gender studies departments, according to the U of M chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. The group says this info came not from the university PR apparatus, but rather from concerned CLA council chairs. Among the rumored forthcoming slashes: 50% to American Indian Studies (the U's history with Native Americans is "genocidal," per a new report); 30% to Chicano and Latino Studies; 30% to German, Nordic, Slavic, & Dutch languages; 27.5% to African and African American Studies; 22% to Linguistics; and 10% to Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Yowch! 

“These budget cuts would not only considerably limit the content available to all students,” Midori Van Alstine of UMN SDS writes to the Minnesota Daily, “cutting courses and programs, but would also seriously endanger the jobs and livelihoods of faculty in these departments, if not threaten the existence of the departments as a whole.” Minneapolis City Council Member Robin Wonsley has vowed to attend a Friday protest to defend the programs; a “Stop the Cuts Now!” petition has amassed almost 900 signatures. U of M Regent Darrin Rosha told us Wednesday that he hasn’t received any info from university officials regarding the potential CLA downsizing.

NAACP is Suing MPD for Spying on Black People on Social Media

Last April, the Minnesota Dept. of Human Rights released a report analyzing a decade’s worth of Minneapolis Police Department data, including over 700 hours of bodycam footage and 480,000 pages of city and MPD documents. The findings were pretty horrendous, but perhaps one of the more eye-opening parts was confirmation that the MPD was using covert social media accounts to pose as Black people with the purpose of surveillance:

"MPD officers sent friend requests, commented on posts, sent private messages, and contributed to discussions. When doing so, officers posed as like-minded individuals and claimed, for example, that they met the targeted person at a prior demonstration or protest. In social media posts and messages, MPD officers used language to further racial stereotypes associated with Black people, especially Black women."

Even creepier: 

"In one case, an MPD officer used an MPD covert account to pose as a Black community member to send a message to a local branch of the NAACP criticizing the group. In another case, an MPD officer posed as a community member and RSVP’d to attend the birthday party of a prominent Black civil rights lawyer and activist."

This Wednesday, the Minneapolis NAACP filed a lawsuit against MPD over the alleged spying, citing constitutional rights violations and singling out subjects based on race. "These are accounts that are supposed to be used for official investigations. There were none," attorney Liliana Zaragoza tells the Star Tribune. (One has to wonder if they were also surveilling white people after all those Nazi biker gangs and Boogaloo Boys came to town during the unrest? Hmm.) You can read more about this case and the city’s dispute of the reports findings in this excellent explainer from the Strib's Andy Mannix.

SCOTUS to Hear MN Tax Issue Today

Can Hennepin County seize your property for unpaid taxes, sell it, and keep the profits? That’s the question that will soon be decided by that most trusted and beloved of government institutions, the U.S. Supreme Court. The plaintiff is 94-year-old Geraldine Tyler, who stopped paying property taxes on her Minneapolis condo when she moved into a retirement home. She eventually owed $15,000; the county seized the property and sold it at public auction for $40,000.

Tyler doesn’t question the county’s right to seize and sell the property, but she says she’s entitled to the $25,000 in excess of what she owed. Her lawyers argue that Minnesota and the 12 other states that allow the government to retain profits in this sort of situation are permitting an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation. "We call that home equity theft because it's essentially legalized government theft," lawyer Christina Martin of the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing Tyler, told MPR News. Attorneys for the county contend that homeowners have plenty of options to avoid forfeiture, including selling the property and securing the equity themselves. 

Somali Songs in Music Class

Do you know the song “Huwaya Huwa”? It's a popular Somali lullaby, and in one Burnsville music class, it's among the songs students learn to play and sing. MPR's Elizabeth Shockman takes us inside Becca Buck’s classroom at Gideon Pond Elementary, where the educator has been working with students to develop a music curriculum that reflects their backgrounds. Gideon Pond is almost 50% Somali-American, Buck tells Shockman, and yet the curriculum for young musicians was overwhelmingly white and European. Now, after asking students and their families to share songs that were meaningful to them and teaming up with fellow educator Qorsho Hassan—a Somali American who was Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year in 2020—she's able to teach some Somali music, along with language and culture.

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