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Some years ago it was commonly said that the University of Minnesota has a certain degree of autonomy that other agencies of the state do not have, and one of the consequences was that it was less than completely bound by budgets passed by the legislature. Thus if the legislature passed an act saying the Department of Transportation was to use a certain number of dollars for the maintenance of roads and a certain amount for building ten new bridges, then that's the law, but if they say the University is to spend a certain amount of money to hire new professors and a certain amount to build a new physics building, the University is allowed to deviate from that, incurring political but not legal liabilities.

I seem to recall failing to find that in the constitution of the state. It says "All the rights, immunities, franchises and endowments heretofore granted or conferred upon the University of Minnesota are perpetuated unto the university". Does "heretofore" mean it's incorporating some provision of a territorial organic act?

Does anything in my first paragraph make any sense from some reasonable point of view?

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In modern English "All the stuff the university has as of right now are its forever and we can't take it back (without changing the Constitution)."

Their "rights, immunities, franchises and endowments" are whatever were granted under whatever law was in force prior to the enactment of the constitution - in 1858. As the university was established in 1851 and, at that time, Minnesota was part of the United States, these would have been granted under the law of the USA.

  • But what about "heretofore"? Does that mean before the constitution of the state existed? If so, does that refer to a territorial organic act, or what? – Michael Hardy Jul 2 '17 at 7:12
  • It means "now". – Dale M Jul 2 '17 at 20:13
  • I have before me The American Heritage College Dictionary, third edition, which says "heretofore" means "up to the present time; before this; previously." And that's what I've always thought it means. – Michael Hardy Jul 5 '17 at 5:36
  • @MichaelHardy you're right I'm wrong - doesn't change the answer – Dale M Jul 5 '17 at 7:20
  • @MichaelHardy actually it does and I have. – Dale M Jul 5 '17 at 7:29
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"Heretofore" is an archaism meaning "as of the moment of enacting this", so it means "from the time when this (clause of the) law is enacted". So from the moment the Constitution was ratified, that statement is true (until it is amended).

Minnesota may be unusual in granting that degree of autonomy to the university, though I don't know exactly what they can get away with. It is generally the case that state-supported and authorized schools do usually have more leeway than for example a licensing bureau, insurance commissioner or department of social services.

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