Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category

When I wrote this article, I included an email sent out to the SCSU community through their Announce listserv. The email was sent by SCSU History Professor Mark Jaede. The email that Prof. Jaede sent out raised awareness of the fact that “Granite City Baptist Church in St. Cloud is sponsoring a presentation by a speaker who tours the country denouncing Islam and warning that Muslims are conspiring to take over America” and that “#unitecloud, an organization that seeks to support immigrants and bring together people from the St. Cloud area of different religious perspectives, is holding a counterdemonstration Friday at 5 pm.”

Then Prof. Jaede added this:

“This announcement is posted consistent with the guidelines for SCSU-Announce which can be found here:

and say in part:

“Examples of acceptable use:

  • Event announcements
  • Items that have been lost or found
  • Awards and recognitions
  • Community opportunities related to the university

As always, any comments, responses, or denunciations should not go to Announce, but should go either to Discuss or to me personally.”Interestingly, Prof. Jaede highlighted “event announcements” and “community opportunities related to the university.” What I’d be interested in hearing is Prof. Jaede’s explanation how a religious event at a church is related to St. Cloud State University. (BTW, the University’s spelling sucks. It shouldn’t be spelled “related to the university” because it’s talking about St. Cloud State University, which makes it a proper noun, which requires a capital letter. But I digress.)

Further, I can’t wait to hear Prof. Jaede’s justification for using government resources to talk about a counterprotest put on by a progressive political organization named #unitecloud. If you visit their missions page, it says “Who is your neighbor?

LGBT, Muslims, Christians, Immigrants, Disabled, Homeless, Poor, Women, Whites, Blacks, and on and on. We all have biases. They influence how we treat each other. You don’t have to agree with your neighbor’s lifestyle to promote a culture of respect. You don’t have to agree on anything to be kind. Our commonality is based in our humanness. Take time to look them in the eye, learn their story, and see how much we all hold in common.”

If that doesn’t sound like a DFL front group, then DFL front groups don’t exist. And I know DFL front groups exist because I’ve exposed more than a few dozen DFL front groups.

I’d love hearing President Potter’s or Prof. Jaede’s justification for using government resources to announce a political protest at a church on the opposite side of town from the University. I’m betting that they’d fumble their way through a justification if I asked them that question without notice.

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Chester Rorvig’s LTE sounds reasonable. It’s just missing one thing. First, let’s look at Mr. Rorvig’s LTE.

Rorvig’s LTE starts with “Legislators of both parties, along with transportation experts, agree that Minnesota needs $600 million per year for 10 years to get the state’s roads and bridges up to par.” That’s the conventional wisdom but I’m always skeptical of CW. It’s been wrong too often for me to think it’s reliable.

Rorvig goes wrong when he asks “Could not Democrats agree to divert this vehicle repair sales tax for half of the need, $300 million? Could not Republicans agree to a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, which, at the rate of each cent raising $30 million, would provide the other half of the need, $300 million?”

First, I’ve written many times that the last gas tax increase didn’t provide nearly the money the DFL predicted they’d need to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The whole idea behind Chairman Kelly’s transportation plan was to provide a more reliable revenue stream.

This is the biggest point of contention I have with Mr. Rorvig’s LTE:

I find it hard to believe that not one Republican would agree to the gas tax increase and that not one Democrat would agree to the vehicle repair sales tax diversion.

It isn’t that Republicans didn’t see the opportunity. It’s that they knew a gas tax increase is an outdated method of funding road and bridge repairs. Couple that with the fact that the vast majority of Minnesotans don’t want the gas tax increase and you have 2 powerful reasons not to raise the gas tax.

After all, the will of the people being governed should be heeded. I know it’s a radical idea but it makes sense.

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After publishing this post regarding MnSCU’s implicit approval of Inver Hills Community College President Tim Wynes and after seeing the level of financial mismanagement within MnSCU, I realize that I haven’t asked the most important question regarding the financial stewardship of MnSCU’s Central Office and its colleges and universities.

Specifically, since the MnSCU Board of Trustees has sat silent on MnSCU’s operational incompetence and its financial mismanagement, and since the legislature has essentially stuck its collective head in the sand in its attempt to ignore SCSU’s declining enrollment and multi-million dollar annual deficits, a basic question must be asked ASAP.

What’s the legislature’s, the Dayton administration’s and MnSCU’s definition of a financial crisis? Do these politicians and executives have a definition for a MnSCU crisis? If they have one, I definitely haven’t seen proof of it.

Rather than just highlight MnSCU’s and the legislature’s incompetence and indifference, I’ll take the time to connect the dots since MnSCU and the legislature aren’t interested in connecting them.

Over the last 6 years, St. Cloud State has lost $8,700,000 on Coborn’s Plaza. Since FY2014, SCSU’s annual financial deficits have been in excess of $5,000,000. In fact, it’s well in excess of that. Meanwhile, MnSCU submitted a supplemental budget request this session for an additional $21,000,000. It isn’t difficult to figure it out that a significant portion of that amount is heading to St. Cloud State as a bailout.

Here’s a video promotion of Coborn’s Plaza:

Taxpayers shouldn’t be viewed at ATMs to fund MnSCU’s financial mismanagement. Instead, politicians, whether they’re found in the executive branch or the legislative branch, need to start putting political pressure on these ineptocrats and corruptocrats. They’re taking the taxpayers’ money and, for all intents and purposes, they’re lighting their cigars with the taxpayers’ money.

That’s just the purely financial side of MnSCU’s dysfunctional operation. That’s before examining the operational side of MnSCU’s operation. What does it say about Inver Hills’ ethical standards when a professor is the subject of a witch hunt of an investigation and nobody criticizes the people conducting the ‘investigation’ for not disclosing any information?

In 2013, then-Speaker Paul Thissen bragged about the DFL legislature making historic investments in education, which I wrote about in this post. What Thissen didn’t say is that the DFL made historic investments in accountability. Apparently, accountability isn’t something that the DFL believes in when it comes to their political allies.

It’s time to throw the DFL so far out of power that they won’t mistreat taxpayers for a decade or longer. Further, it’s time for a wholesale housecleaning at MnSCU.

It’s time to ask the DFL and MnSCU what their definition of a crisis is. MnSCU’s history of financial and ethical mismanagement has been disgusting. The legislature has been as disinterested as MnSCU in terms of accountability.

Finally, it’s time that citizens get outraged about how they’re getting abused by unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats.

Apparently, MnSCU, aka Minnesota State, approves of Inver Hills’ witch hunt tactics. First, some information is required so people can appreciate what’s happening. Last academic year, Dave Berger led the effort to hold a no-confidence vote against Inver Hills President Tim Wynes. That vote passed.

That’s just the start of things. Berger has been placed on paid leave while Inver Hills ‘investigates’ Dr. Berger. He’s also banned from campus while this ‘investigation’ is being conducted. While on paid leave, Berger “was named ‘Faculty Member of the Year’ in late April by the faculty development committee.” With that information in hand, now you can appreciate where this thing gets weird. (As though it wasn’t weird already. LOL)

From the time that Berger was put on paid leave, “school leaders began investigating the complaint. Details of the inquiry have not been made public, but Berger, a leader of the faculty union, suspects it has to do with his work to organize a no-confidence vote against college President Tim Wynes. School leaders have denied the investigation is related to Berger’s union activity and said the inquiry is continuing. They did not respond to a request for comment regarding Berger’s faculty member honor.”

Inver Hills insists that this doesn’t have anything to do with Berger’s union activities but they won’t talk about the ‘investigation’. That isn’t surprising considering MnSCU’s penchant for being as transparent as a rock. (Yes, MnSCU is a separate entity but the groupthink is identical.)

If the MnSCU Board of Trustees isn’t willing to hold college and university executives’ feet to the fire, and they haven’t been willing, they need to be dissolved ASAP. If they’re letting university and college presidents run roughshod over faculty without threat of punishment, then the Trustees don’t act as anything more than a rubberstamp for the executives.

That’s the fastest path to disaster imaginable. When executives can do whatever they want because they’re confident that they won’t get disciplined, accountability disappears.

It’s time for legislators to start taking this stuff seriously. Tens of millions of dollars get flushed down the toilet because university and college presidents aren’t held accountable. That’s unacceptable.

Zach Dorholt’s op-ed in this morning’s St. Cloud Times is a reminder of why he should be a one-term wonder. The Times asked what the legislature’s top priorities were. According to Dorholt, the answer is ” a constitutional one. The Minnesota Constitution obligates the Legislature to fund transportation and education.”

While it’s true that Minnesota’s constitution talks about transportation and education, it’s equally true that education was fully funded in last year’s budget. The budget that was adopted last year was a bipartisan budget that reflected both parties’ priorities. In short, neither party got everything they wanted but the people got a budget that funded everyone’s needs. What they didn’t get was everything on the special interests’ wish lists.

That’s why it isn’t worth paying attention to some of Dorholt’s drivel. In Dorholt’s op-ed, he brags about the fantastic job they did. Q: If you did such a magnificent job, why were you fired after your first term? Q2: If your education funding was so positive and so historic, why have school boards increased their operating levies? They’ve done that all across Minnesota. They’ve raised property taxes in both St. Cloud and in Princeton.

Simply put, Dorholt’s rhetoric doesn’t match Dorholt’s record.

The last Legislature — of which I was a member — left this Legislature a budget surplus for a reason: the next generation of Minnesotans deserves the same quality-funded education their predecessors got.

However, these legislators have let college and university tuition go up again, forcing students to foot another large bill, or take out more loans, or even forgo college altogether. We still have a lot of catching up to do for our schools and colleges.

Let’s talk about Dorholt’s time in the legislature. Specifically, let’s discuss his time as vice-chair of the House Higher Education Committee. During his time as vice-chair, Dorholt ignored St. Cloud State’s financial and enrollment problems. There’s a reason why Dorholt only talks about tuitions going up. It’s because his time on the House Higher Education Committee was a disaster.

St. Cloud State is pretty much the poster child for financial dysfunctionality. Dorholt’s solution was to throw more money at the problem without fixing the underlying problem. In fact, there’s little evidence that he was interested in finding out what the underlying problems were.

It’s just more proof that you can’t find what you refuse to look for. Dorholt’s ostrich strategy (burying his head in the sand) didn’t work the last time he was in the legislature. That’s why he shouldn’t be returned to the legislature. He was a failure then. Nothing he’s said suggests that he won’t be a failure again.

Do You Believe In The Easter Bunny?
by Silence Dogood

According to an article in the St. Cloud Times on May 2, 2016, five members of the St. Cloud State University women’s tennis team have sued the university,

In a March 2, 2016 St. Cloud Times article about the proposed cuts to sports programs, President Potter is quoted:

In a document provided by SCSU entitled St. Cloud State Intercollegiate Athletics Frequently Asked Questions, there is the following table showing roster participants.

So in the 2016-17 academic year, it appears that there will be 254 women participants and 250 men participants. Nothing here shows unequal opportunities under Title IX. However, if you total up the numbers for 2015-16, you find that the women had 246 participants and the men had 374. As a result, in 2015-16, the men had 128 more participants than the women!

I may have been born at night—it just wasn’t last night! If there are 128 more men participants in intercollegiate sports than women, it certainly seems like this might be a violation of Title IX equal opportunity provisions. I guess that with such a large disparity between men’s and women’s participants in 2015-16, it was probably wise for the administration not to show the numbers totaled!

The lawsuit alleges that the university, for years, has offered more athletic opportunities for men than for women. Clearly, based on the 2015-16 academic year from the data provided by SCSU, the students have a strong case. Looking back at the participation numbers for previous years should be pretty easy to do. If the numbers for the prior years are similar to those for 2015-16, I’m fairly certain that SCSU will not issue a press release. So in this case, no press release means there were more opportunities for men than women, essentially proving the student’s case. If a press release comes out with the numbers showing equal access, the students probably don’t stand a chance in court.

As President, Earl Potter has the right to shut down any athletic program he wants to (just like he has the right to close any academic program—think aviation). After all, he is the President. So if he wants to reduce the number of participants to bring SCSU into Title IX compliance, he can certainly do so and in fact is obligated to do so under Title IX. In the March 2, 2016 SC Times article, it also states:

So President Potter may have been hinting that some of reductions in sports programs are due to Title IX considerations. I guess that is a whole lot better than saying for the nine years I’ve been President; we’ve been out of compliance with Title IX so these cuts are necessary to bring us into compliance. Instead, he used the urgency of a 10 million dollar budget deficit to justify cutting six sports programs—just so he wouldn’t have to explain why for years SCSU has been out of compliance with Title IX.

Some analysis of the proposed reductions in sports programs do not indicate that there will be a $250,000 savings as claimed by the administration. In fact, it has been argued that the reductions will actually cost the university more that what it claims it will save. The one thing for certain is that the administration’s handling of the elimination of the sports programs has given St. Cloud State another ‘black eye’ and the publicity from the lawsuit brings up the $8.7 million dollar loss on Coborn’s Plaza Apartments (over six years), a 24.8% decline in on campus students (since 2009-10), and the $10 million dollar budget deficit for FY17, all of which does not does not address any of the solutions to these complex problems.

So what does this all have to do with the Easter Bunny? Not a lot. However, if you believe in an egg laying long-eared, cotton-tailed creature, maybe you just might believe that the cuts in the sports programs at SCSU were part of solving the $10 million dollar budget deficit and not a clever way to bring SCSU into Title IX compliance without drawing attention to the fact it was so far out of compliance. Cutting $250,000 from the athletic department budget solves only 2.5% of the $10,000,000, as President Potter refers to it, “budget hole to close.” Obviously, more work needs to be done to end up with a budget that doesn’t result in a deficit—since there are no longer any mandated reserves to spend down.

Now if someone could only explain why the Easter Bunny’s eggs are made out of chocolate we might be able to solve one of the few last remaining mysteries.

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.

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.