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Is SCSU A Great Place To Work?
by Silence Dogood

Any analysis of the results from the Great Place to Work Survey demonstrates that SCSU is not a great place to work. The extremely low rankings for the administration by all groups are an indictment or perhaps even a vote of no confidence in the senior leadership. To his credit, President Earl Potter seems to be making an effort. In an email to all employees:

The College of Science and Engineering’s Listening Session was scheduled for Thursday, February 25th:

Then it was rescheduled:

Then it was rescheduled again:

Now the listening session is scheduled during final exams—in fact, the day before commencement. If you want to schedule a time when fewer people would be there, I’m not sure that would be possible. Certainly, there won’t be a lot of listening because there probably won’t be a lot of talking. Who knows, this may have been the plan all along.

On Monday, May 2, 2016, the following email was received:

For the third time, the ‘Listening Session’ has been postponed. In baseball, three strikes and you’re out! Clearly, ‘listening’ does not appear to be a priority for President Potter.

Every 4 years, the same people argue that we have to unite around the GOP presidential standard bearer. They’re doing it again this year. In the past, I’ve been guilty of uniting around the GOP standard bearer. I won’t be guilty of that this time.

Mitch Berg wrote this thoughtful piece explaining why he will support Trump. I’ve known Mitch to be a thoughtful, principled conservative with a strong libertarian streak in him for over a decade. That’s why this discussion deserves to be done in a respectful, point-counterpoint fashion.

I can relate to Mitch when he started with saying “I’m sick of holding my nose and voting for the lesser of two evils.” We’ve all heard that too often lately. We’ve been there, done that, especially in 2008. Mitch made a legitimate point when he self-replied “And I’m sick of people wishing things would get better on their own. They don’t. They won’t. They never will. Sack up. This is life. The best thing that happens is the conservative ‘movement’ will grow up and realize that it can’t win by speaking to the echo chamber any more than the Paulbots could.”

Honestly, I’m not into talking only to the echochamber. While I write posts for LFR, LFR isn’t the only tool I use to influence people. I write articles for Examiner. I frequently write LTEs and op-eds for the St. Cloud Times, the Duluth News Tribune and the Mesabi Daily News. Further, I don’t just pontificate on the latest political happenings. I write about important reports that highlight the things that happen when progressive/socialist policies are implemented.

Most importantly, I won’t vote for Trump because he’s a pathological liar who’s questioned John McCain’s patriotism, who’s accused Ted Cruz’s father of being part of the team that assassinated JFK and who’s bragged that a convicted rapist (Mike Tyson) had endorsed him. I won’t vote for someone that’s quite possibly the most immoral presidential candidate in my lifetime. And remember, I followed Nixon’s fall in Watergate and I watched Bill Clinton try explaining away a stained blue dress.

The difference between a leader and a bully is about the same as the difference between a bank robber and a police officer. They both carry guns but that’s where the similarities end. Trump’s bullying of the press is frightening for any First Amendment- and Constitution-loving person. Overlooking a person’s squishiness is one thing. Ignoring a tyrant’s actions are unforgivable. It’s the line I won’t cross. Period.

I’m not interested in being a loyal Republican if all I get from it is aggravation. If the GOP machine isn’t interested in my ideas, then it doesn’t get my vote or activism, either. As for the bad things that will happen if Hillary’s elected, I’ll simply say that that’s what needs to happen. An addict doesn’t turn their life around if they don’t hit rock bottom. A call to unity is a call to not let the GOP hit rock bottom.

Finally, Trump has bought into more conspiracy theories than Ron Paul. Remember that Dr. Paul once said during a debate that he didn’t want a wall built on the Tex-Mex border because he was afraid it would be used to keep people in the United States. Based on the things that Trump has said about Sen. Cruz’s father, Dr. Paul looks virtually sane compared with Trump.

What won’t change is that I’ll work hard to keep Republicans in control of the Minnesota House, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. I’ll work tirelessly to flip the Minnesota Senate, too.

As for my presidential vote, I’m wholeheartedly opposed to Hillary and Trump. It’s that simple. They can both go to hell.

Most people don’t know what Joe Davis does or what he believes. Let’s start filling in the multitude of blanks about Davis by telling people that he’s the chief propagandist Executive Director of ABM. The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, aka ABM, is the chief propaganda unit of the DFL. The morning after Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party, Davis issued a statement, saying “Republican legislators have been avoiding saying whether or not they’ll support Donald Trump if he’s the GOP nominee for president. Now, the path towards the nomination is clear for him, and Minnesotans deserve to know whether or not their elected officials will support Trump. Minnesota Republicans have showcased their shared priorities with Trump by focusing on things like defunding Planned Parenthood and cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. These extreme priorities have become the hallmark of today’s Republican party, both at the national level and in our state, but Minnesotans just aren’t that extreme.”

In Joe Davis’s Minnesota, every Republican wants to cut taxes for “millionaires and billionaires” and evil “big corporations.” It’s important to highlight the fact that Joe Davis’s Minnesota, at least the one he talks about in public, doesn’t exist. Joe Davis’s Minnesota is just as imaginary as Joe Soucheray’s mythical empire of Gumption County and Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. The key difference, though, between Gumption County, Lake Wobegon and Joe Davis’s Minnesota is that Davis won’t admit that his wild statements about Minnesota Republicans are a myth.

Forgive me. I said that Joe Davis’s Minnesota was a myth. That isn’t true. Joe Davis’s Minnesota is an intentional fabrication. Saying that Minnesota Republicans prefer “cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy” is verifiably false. It isn’t even close to the truth. This isn’t accidental, either. Whether you’re listening to Gov. Dayton, Rep. Thissen or Joe Davis, they’re repeating the line that Republicans love “cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy.”

I wrote this article last May. Back then, Gov. Dayton criticized Republicans, saying “They are saving that money for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and property tax relief for large corporations.” When I contacted Rep. Greg Davids about his tax plan, he replied “My bill does not do that. Eighty percent goes to individuals. Tax relief is for the middle class…. My tax bill is tax relief for the poor and middle class.”

It’s time to run Davis and his dishonest quislings out of Minnesota.

The Policy of Mean!
by Silence Dogood

In March of 2015, Director of Human Resources Holly J. Schoenherr sent an email to all faculty and staff:

Essentially, the email announced that staff would no longer be able to work alternative summer schedules (i.e., adjust their schedules during the summer to work four ten-hour days instead of the regular five eight-hour days). As stated in the email, the purpose was to “give managers the ability to ensure essential staffing levels to meet the critical needs of students and others we serve.” However, there are very few classes held on Fridays in the summer so it seems that there were going to be a lot of office staff sitting around in offices in nearly empty buildings. So just what are these critical needs and who are the students and others needing to be served? This made no sense!

If you are not familiar with Minnesota’s weather, because of the severity of the winters, the summer is both short and precious. As a result, allowing staff to work a four-day week and have long weekends simply is an acknowledgement that few people actually look forward to having a day off in January when it is -20°F outside.

Here’s how one employee put it:

The point of contention is that the decision was made by the President’s Council without any discussion with the people it directly impacted. A main criticism of the administration illuminated by the Great Place to Work Survey was that employees were not involved in decision making. As a result, this pronouncement by the President’s Council certainly went a long way to help re-establish the good will of the staff towards the administration that the Great Place to Work Survey noted was sorely lacking—NOT!

It is only fair to note that this summer the administration is once again allowing staff to work alternative summer schedules, when approved by their supervisor. Perhaps the administration learned a valuable lesson.

On April 21, 2016, President Potter sent a lengthy email to all employees stating that everyone would have to complete online training:

Later in the lengthy email it stated:

Based on item #7, everyone was given six workdays to complete the training. It only takes just over an hour to complete the training and that would normally not be too difficult except that this is the last week of classes (i.e., the week before finals). For many, this is an extremely busy time with grading, test preparation and reading of papers given top priority. Adding one more deadline and one more task for some might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back!

As a result of numerous complaints, the deadline was extended until Sunday, May 8th, which helps a bit. However, this still begs the question as to why this was not announced back in January at the beginning of the semester? Could it have anything to do with the arrival on campus of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on April 20, 2016 to investigate the handling of a sexual assault complaint?

However, if you read #7, it clearly states that the administration is using the ‘stick’ rather than the ‘carrot’ approach for compliance.

It sounds like they really want everyone to complete the training.

However, it doesn’t end there. In #8, it continues that

Clearly, the tone of this communication, as well as others (the most recent of which is changes in the parking program), makes it clear that employees are tolerated rather than valued. It is hard to imagine this insensitive approach will make employees at SCSU feel better about their place of employment. I guess we could find out how well the administration is doing by completing another Great Place to Work Survey (which President Potter has promised for this fall). According to the first survey, there wasn’t much room to go lower. However, I’m willing to bet that the new results will make President Potter think of the first survey as the ‘good old days.’ I keep thinking that morale on campus can’t get any worse but it seems that the administration keeps trying harder and succeeding at finding new ways to drive it lower.

Frequently, the administration says that all of the discord on campus is just a few ‘disgruntled’ faculty. If you analyze the results from the Great Place to Work Survey, it is clear that the vast majority of faculty/staff/administrators demonstrated that there is a morale problem at SCSU—not just a select few. Given what has transpired at SCSU since the release of the survey results, I see no reason to be optimistic that the morale has improved despite President Potter’s “listening sessions.” Listening is important. However, actions speak louder than words.

You Can Only Defer Maintenance For Only So Long!
by Silence Dogood

A year ago, as a result of declining enrollments, the SCSU parking ramp ran a deficit of $50,000. The simple solution to the shortfall was to defer some maintenance. Unfortunately, deferring maintenance is only a short-term solution. At some point, things need to be fixed and replaced. However, maintenance funds are an easy target when you are strapped for cash. Given SCSU’s repeated deficits, maintenance funds have become a stopgap to solve the financial hemorrhaging. The results around campus are obvious.

As a result of declining revenues, cuts have been made to cleaning services and spiders seem to have taken over some of the windows:

While deferring window cleaning may save some money, at some point it starts to look pretty disgusting! The image shows an example where it has gotten to looking disgusting!

Small maintenance projects on some of the buildings on campus are also being overlooked. Unfortunately, some look really bad! The South side of the ‘Administrative Services’ building (i.e., the home of the administration) is shown in the following image:

While it should not hard be too for a college student to figure out the name of the building—think Wheel of Fortune; it really is embarrassing. However, at least historically, it seems that building signage has never been a priority. After the renovation and addition to the Electrical and Computing Center (ECC), the Mathematics department moved out of the “Math and Science Center” into its new offices. It only took just over twenty years to finally rename the building to indicate that the math department was no longer housed in the “Math and Science Center.” That’s why I’m not holding my breath on the timeline for fixing the “INI TRA IVE SERVICE” building. Perhaps this is how it should be listed on campus maps to make it easier to find and avoid confusion.

Somewhere on campus, there must be a huge stash of trashcans since it seems that many, if not most, have been removed from the hallways and staircases on campus. As a result, students seem to feel free to leave their trash just about anywhere whenever there isn’t an available trashcan. The following image shows the resting place for a student ‘s not quite finished beverage:

Unfortunately, the maintenance staff has suffered significant cuts since 2011 so that it may take several days before a partially consumed beverage like this one finds its way into a trash container. Even where there are trash containers, it seems that they don’t get emptied on as regular a schedule as needed because often times they are overflowing. The following is an image of a trash container from 8:30 am so it has probably been full for a while:

In the end, the issue comes down to setting priorities. Given the repeated budget deficits, there clearly aren’t enough resources to do everything that needs to be done. As a result, the administration is often faced with a decision between two bad choices. That’s why they’re paid the big bucks. However, while such decisions are not always easy, the bigger and perhaps more important thing to understand is how SCSU got into this situation in the first place.

A 1905 quote attributed to George Santayana in its original form:

Unless SCSU can understand how it ended up with a 24.5% enrollment decline and repeated multimillion-dollar deficits, it’s hard to believe that the path forward will put the university onto a course to return to its’ flagship status in MnSCU (or Minnesota State if the rebranding goes forward). However, that may not be President Potter’s plan for SCSU—as the acceptance rate creeps up over 90% it might just be to become the largest junior college in Minnesota. If that’s the plan, it appears that it’s succeeding.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!
by Silence Dogood

The day after a news report came out saying that the MnSCU Board of Trustees approved changing its name, University Communications published a ‘clarifying’ email:

The email clearly states:

Additionally, this is included:

Here’s the appropriate reaction to those quotes:

OK, so maybe it’s not too much of a protest. However, it clearly states that a final decision hasn’t been made and that a final decision will not come before the June Board of Trustee’s Meeting. I guess they didn’t tell the MnSCU’s (excuse me Minnesota State’s) IT services folks! If you search for MnSCU, the following webpage appears:

Look at the header for the page! It looks to me like MnSCU has now become “Minnesota State.” Looking at the webpage for the Board of Trustees you find:

Clearly, it looks like a similar header indicating MnSCU has now become ‘Minnesota State.’ It doesn’t take a lot of effort but it is not difficult to still find the ‘regular’ MnSCU header on its’ webpages.

Clearly, the web folks haven’t updated all of Minnesota State’s webpages yet! Still, it contradicts their “No final decision have been made” and “is anticipated for June” statements. Compare that to Jack Nicholson’s famous line in the 1992 movie A Few Good Men:

I think most of us can handle the truth. In fact, we typically demand the truth. Having the Chancellor (he is ultimately responsible for all of the PR that comes out of his office) lie is simply unacceptable. ‘Rebranding’ is all the rage in organizations and when someone questions the wisdom of spending money on rebranding when at least 19 of 31 of the colleges and universities in ‘Minnesota State’ have submitted financial recovery plans is almost beyond belief.

Next it will be said that MnSCU has always been “Minnesota State” and the latest effort is simply refinements and polishing the brand. It remains that $600,000 pays for a lot of polishing! In the political world that’s called spin. In less refined circles, it’s called BS so maybe MS (more of the same) is really what this rebranding as Minnesota State (MS) is all about!

But in the American cattle business, where branding got its start, a new brand does not fundamentally change the bull. The simple truth is that if Dr. Rosenstone can’t tell the truth about the rebranding fiasco, then it is time for Dr. Rosenstone to go. Waiting until 2017 for him to retire is too long for Minnesota State to start a process of recovery.

This post is proof that progressives aren’t interested in having an honest conversation about policy. First, Sen. Stumpf saying that “we have a responsibility in the state of Minnesota to take care of property, the things that the public owns, to make our economy keep moving along” is intellectually dishonest.

It isn’t that Republicans don’t think that government shouldn’t maintain essential infrastructure. It’s that Republicans think that projects, like bridges, are multi-generational and shouldn’t be paid for with tax increases that are paid for by this generation. Republicans think bonding makes sense because multiple generations pay for a multi-generational piece of infrastructure.

Ms. Bierschbach wasn’t being honest when she said that “But that’s not how House Republicans see things. Many of them consider borrowing for infrastructure just more government spending, akin to credit card debt.” That’s false. The best way to illustrate the absurdity of that statement is by applying certain principles from home life. It’s one thing for a couple with a good credit rating and money in the bank to take out a mortgage to buy a home. It’s quite another to make frequent use of a high-interest credit card to pay for day-to-day things.

State bonding for things like museums, civic centers and hockey arenas isn’t wise. State bonding for things like highways and other critical infrastructure should be prioritized. It’s that simple.

Further, it doesn’t make sense to raise taxes to pay for building multi-generational pieces of infrastructure. Similarly, taking on long-term debt to pay for things like civic centers, museums, etc. is foolish, too.

Finally, it’s time to rethink the criteria we use for bonding projects.

It’s long been known that Sartell residents would be asked to approve a bonding referendum that would increase school capacity. This was known since before ISD 742 voters rejected their referendum last November. This morning’s St. Cloud Times Our View Editorial has some important information in it that Sartell residents should discuss.

Specifically, the Times editorial says that Sartell-St. Stephen school district residents “will be asked May 24 to cast ballots on a $105.8 million bond referendum” and that “enrollment is projected to grow 8 percent between now and 2026.” There’s little doubt that Sartell’s population is growing and that that population growth will necessitate increasing school capacity. What isn’t known is whether they need to spend $105,800,000 on the initiative.

After the ISD 742 bonding referendum was defeated, Kevin Allenspach wrote this article, which I quoted from in this post. The important information from Allenspach’s article came when Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk, who are both Tech graduates and architects, said that Tech could be renovated for less than $20,000,000. At the time, the school board said repairing the building would cost $85,000,000 to fix the building up for a decade.

Something tells me that Sartell’s $105,800,000 price tag is inflated.

Ann Rest’s amendment has sparked a great controversy at the Capitol. This article highlights how the DFL is filled with vitriol. It also highlights the fact that they’re still feeling a little sensitive about appropriating money to build the Senate Office Building. Brian Bakst and Tim Pugmire reported that tensions “rose in the Senate when majority Democrats amended the bill with a provision reallocating Republican office space inside the State Office Building to the Revisor of Statutes.”

What’s laughable is Sen. Rest’s rationalization/spin of her amendment. She actually had the temerity to say “It is not evicting you. You still have 13,000 square feet of space to operate your caucus in. What we are doing is saving the taxpayers money.”

Sen. Rest and her DFL colleagues don’t care about saving taxpayers money. If they did, they would’ve highlighted the foolish spending within the MnSCU Central Office and at St. Cloud State.

This is the text of Sen. Rest’s amendment:

If the DFL was sincere about saving the taxpayers’ money, where were they when they voted for this Taj Mahal for politicians? Republicans shouldn’t take Sen. Rest’s spin seriously. Until the DFL admits that the Senate Office Building was a taxpayer-funded boondoggle, Senate Republicans should remind taxpayers who’s looking out for them and who’s looking out for themselves.

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Is the Ship Sinking?
by Silence Dogood

Thursday morning, an email came from the Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy L. McGee announcing the departure of the Director of Human Resources Holly Schoenherr.

Holly was responsible for the Great Place to Work Survey. The results of the GPTW Survey can only be described as an indictment of the administration (others might say a vote of no confidence in the administration). Additionally, the ‘reorganization’ of the Human Resources area has been described by some as a ‘house cleaning’ where a number of key long-time employees left out of exasperation.

Heather Weems was hired in June of 2012 as SCSU’s first female athletic director replacing Morris Kurtz who had been SCSU’s athletic director for twenty-seven years. Less than four years later, just after cutting 6 sports programs, negatively affecting 80 out of 530 student athletes, it appears that she is looking to leave SCSU. On March 31, 2016, Heather Weems was announced as one of four finalists for the Athletic Director position at Grand Valley State (the position ultimately went to another person).

Mark Springer was appointed Dean of the College of Liberal Arts in May 2012. Although it has long been rumored that he was applying for positions elsewhere, this April he finally became one of four finalists at Montana State University. After interviewing on April 14, 2016, the selection of the new dean has yet to be announced.

Last year, after only one year on the job, the Associate Provost for Student Success and Dean of the University College Dr. Bruce Busby decided to retire rather than continue working at SCSU. The listing for the University College is listed below.

On top of these duties, the latest reorganization added oversight of the Summer School program and concurrent enrollment programs (S2S) to his list of responsibilities. Overseeing these two programs is almost a full-time job by itself. When added to what amounts to the workload of four or five positions, he must have been thought to be Superman. While given the current financial circumstances it is clear that people will be expected to do more (with less)—this is simply ridiculous! It is not hard to understand why Dr. Busby might have chosen to leave SCSU for retirement back in Ohio. Not only is the weather better, he won’t have to wear as many hats! In fact, he won’t have to wear any hat unless he’s fishing in the Mighty Maumee River. As an interesting side note, two people have now been tasked with the responsibilities that were formally assigned to Dr. Busby.

With all of the ‘reorganization’ that has occurred since President Potter’s arrival in 2007, SCSU must be the best-organized university in the country! Unfortunately, it seems that the pattern for most administrators at SCSU is to come in and reorganize and then leave BEFORE the full effects of their reorganization are known.

From the Provost’s website, the list of deans of the colleges and schools is shown:

Looking at the list, Provost Ashish Valdya is in his first year. Dean David Harris is in his first year. For the Colleges and Schools, there are four interims listed. The majority of the deans and associate deans were interim deans before being appointed to their permanent position. None were in permanent positions prior to 2012. As a result, this administrative team has very little institutional memory since none has been in their position on a permanent basis for more than four years. Additionally, at least one is actively pursuing employment away from SCSU.

One can always choose to look at administrators leaving as an example of those people being the ‘best’ who have lots of opportunities. However, when you see the sheer number of administrators who have left, SCSU must be the “Harvard of the Administrative World.” Unfortunately, with a large number of interims being appointed to permanent positions, it is also likely that it decreases the applicant talent pool because qualified candidates ask themselves if it is worth the effort to apply if the interim is going to be appointed to the permanent position in the first place. Clearly, there are qualified individuals that have been appointed to permanent positions after previously serving as an interim. However, of the permanent deans or associate deans, only David Harris and Adel Ali were not interims in their positions before becoming permanent.

There is an old adage about experience:

The administrators at SCSU don’t seem to have a lot of experience. Hopefully, these inexperienced folks won’t be making too many mistakes for the first or second time. Unfortunately, with a declining enrollment and dire financial situation, SCSU can’t afford too many more mistakes in the first place!