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I just got an email from a professor at SCSU with an attached document highlighting MnSCU’s incompetence. The document was put together by the IFO, aka the Inter Faculty Organization. The IFO is “the collective bargaining representative for faculty in the seven state universities of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system.”

This information doesn’t cast Chancellor Rosenstone in a positive light:

The Chancellor has been Neglecting the Day to Day Operations of MnSCU
Metro State University’s entire HR staff resigned at once. Faculty members were being paid incorrect amounts, deductions were screwed up, and the financial management of the university is a complete mess. Moorhead and Southwest are in financial crisis. Faculty members are being non-renewed and programs for students are being cut.

Saying that the “entire HR staff” at Metro State “resigned at once” is technically accurate but incomplete. Metro State’s HR staff resigned at once because they’d screwed up the payroll so badly that they were about to get fired. Rather than having their resume say that they were terminated, these HR personnel resigned. Rumors abound that some faculty got overpaid by 10s of thousands of dollars over a period of years while others were underpaid by thousands of dollars.

What’s been confirmed is that Chancellor Rosenstone downplayed the Metro State crisis when initially confronted with the problem by the IFO. While it isn’t Chancellor Rosenstone’s responsibility to reconcile Metro State’s payroll each pay period, it’s his responsibility to make sure the problem is fixed ASAP. Thus far, he’s failed at that mission.

The presidents at Metro State and Moorhead State are being allowed to ‘retire’ at the end of this fiscal year, which ends on June 30, 2014. Moorhead went through retrenchment last year, which is a fancy way of saying faculty were terminated when Moorhead’s budget was cut.

Unfortunately, that isn’t MnSCU’s biggest problem:

The gross mismanagement involved in the Coach Todd Hoffner firing has caused immeasurable publicity damage and may cost students and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars—and none of the administrative decision makers are being held accountable for their bad judgments.

This is disgraceful. (I wrote about that crisis in this post.) MnSCU seems indifferent about its responsibilities.

President Davenport should’ve been terminated before the BMS, aka Bureau of Mediation Services, ruling was made official. When a prosecutor drops the case but a university continues building a case against the coach, which is what happened here, that’s justification for termination alone. That’s before considering the fact that Coach Hoffner’s lawsuit cost Mankato hundreds of thousands of dollars, including a year of back pay. That’s before considering the fact that Coach Hoffner’s lawsuit cost Mankato a fistful of money in legal expenses.

This past year, Chancellor Rosenstone has touted a new project titled “Charting the Future.” The IFO isn’t impressed with that project:

Meanwhile, we are in a fourth iteration of strategic planning that has yet to result in any change at the legislature or any benefit to students. It is time to start focusing on the present realities on our campuses instead of constantly cranking out vague documents that purport to chart the future.

Let’s be blunt about this. MnSCU isn’t a trainwreck waiting to happen. MnSCU is a trainwreck that’s happening. Before publishing “vague documents that purport to chart the future”, it’s important for MnSCU to get the payroll right each week. I’m betting that taxpayers would love seeing MnSCU getting its trains consistently running on time.

Right now, the trains aren’t running on time. Right now, it’s an accomplishment for MnSCU to get a train out of the depot once a day. If you can’t get payroll right consistently, why would people think you can predict the future?

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Rep. Gene Pelowski, (DFL-Red Winona), the chair of the House Higher Education Committee, must’ve been sleeping while President Davenport had investigators put together a case against football coach Todd Hoffner. Here’s a key part of the Strib’s editorial about the incident:

The new details about Hoffner’s firing came out in an arbitration ruling dated April 9. The state Bureau of Mediation Services declined to make the ruling public, citing a questionable interpretation of data privacy laws.

The Star Tribune obtained a copy of the ruling this week. Its 72 pages are highly critical of school officials and their inability to back away from an early decision to fire Hoffner, even as concerns mounted that he had been wronged by an overzealous prosecutor.

Hoffner had been arrested in August 2012 after university officials found video on his malfunctioning smartphone of his three naked kids goofing off after bath time.

School officials apparently first decided in mid-October 2012 to fire Hoffner, but held off. After the judge threw out the child-porn charges against Hoffner in November 2012, which “should have ended the matter in the public eye,” according to the arbitrator, the university continued to build a case against him.

Of course, Rep. Pelowski offered his opinion:

“By the time you’re done, you’ve spent six figures on legal fees,” said Pelowski, who chairs the Minnesota House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. “That diverts resources away from a number of things,” he added, the most important of which is holding down tuition.

Chairman Pelowski is right that Mankato President Davenport spent north of $100,000 on legal fees pursuing a dead-end investigation. That being said, this is the same Chairman Pelowski who’s known about St. Cloud State President Potter spending more than $1,000,000 a year on an upscale apartment complex the University didn’t need, $240,000 a year on police officers for the campus when crime is going down and $150,000 a year on the Confucius Institute at a time when universities across the United States and Canada are shutting down their Confucius Institutes because they’re nothing more than a PR device for the Chinese government.

Chairman Pelowski, why weren’t you bothered with a university foolishly spending $1,500,000 a year but you’re worried about a different university paying $100,000 in legal fees?

What makes the SCSU situation worse is that SCSU is in Rep. Dorholt’s district. Rep. Dorholt is the vice-chair of the Higher Education Committee.

Apparently, oversight and accountability aren’t important priorities with the DFL, especially when it comes to MNsure or higher education. They’ve had the opportunity to police MNsure, Mankato State and SCSU. That’s 3 strikes against the DFL on the issue of accountability.

It’s time to boot them from these responsibilities because they’ve proven inept at their responsibilities. Minnesotans can’t afford to have them ignore millions of dollars of wasteful spending.

Davenport, the university president, was not available to answer questions about the arbitrator’s ruling, according to a spokesman. MnSCU Chancellor Rosenstone also was unavailable to answer questions about his involvement but provided a statement.

The lack of answers is unacceptable. Hoffner endured a harsh spotlight. The short-lived rebellion by Maverick players this week against his return shows just how hard he’ll have to work to rebuild his life. Legislators so far have said little about the handling of the coach’s employment. They do, however, have purview over the performance of Davenport, Rosenstone and other officials. It’s time for them to get involved and find out if Minnesota got the academic leadership it’s paying for.

President Davenport and Chancellor Rosenstone dropped the ball bigtime on the Mankato State disaster. Additionally, Rosenstone blew it by giving President Potter a free hand to piss away millions of dollars each year.

That’s why they both deserve to be terminated ASAP. Minnesota’s taxpayers deserve better than this.

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According to this email from Corie Beckerman, the director of Student Health Services at St. Cloud State, MnSCU has decided to drop its “domestic student health insurance plan for the 2014-2015 academic year”:

To all SCSU Faculty and Staff:

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) has decided to no longer offer a domestic student health insurance plan for the 2014-2015 academic year. Due to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect January 1, 2014, the cost of insurance for domestic students by our current provider would have increased substantially. There are several insurance coverage options available to students, which include being covered on their parent’s policy until age 26 or purchasing coverage through the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange (MNsure). A detailed explanation of this MnSCU decision can be found at www.stcloudstate.edu/healthservices.

Resources:

MNsure has numerous resources available on their website for students to help navigate their system as well as address any health insurance questions – www.mnsure.org or toll-free 1-855-366-7873.

For assistance in the in the St. Cloud area, students may contact Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid at projectcare@mylegalaid.org or 1-320-253-0121.

International students will continue to be required to purchase health insurance through the MnSCU sponsored health plan, as in the past, in accordance with MnSCU Board Policy 3.4.1 part 3, subpart B.2.

Thanks

Corie

Corie Beckermann, Director
Student Health Services
St. Cloud State University
720 Fourth Avenue South
St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498

This sentence jumps off the page in importance:

Due to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect January 1, 2014, the cost of insurance for domestic students by our current provider would have increased substantially.

This is a stunning admission that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, isn’t affordable. MnSCU is filled with people who support President Obama and Obamacare. This isn’t a decision they made lightly. It’s instructive that MnSCU didn’t make this decision out of spite.

MnSCU made this decision because the ACA, aka Obamacare, is exceptionally expensive.

Last week, President Obama had his “Mission Accomplished” moment in the Rose Garden. The thing he highlighted most was the enrollment numbers. That moment will be fleeting. Most people have forgotten about the enrollment figures. Since that event, the administration has gotten hit with stories like MnSCU cancelling its health insurance program for domestic students and other horror stories.

Kathleen Sebelius must feel like the weight of the world’s been lifted from her shoulders now that she’s resigned. She won’t have to deal with the ACA mess once her replacement is confirmed.

That’s the opposite of Gov. Dayton. This is just another reminder that the ACA is anything but affordable.

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Who is Responsible for Creating a Great Place to Work?
Interpreting Survey Data
by Silence Dogood

If you look at the information from the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTWI) explaining the Survey Methodology for their Trust Index Survey it states:

“Employees are instructed to respond to each statement by selecting one of the following five choices, most accurately reflecting his or her experience in the workplace.

1 = Almost always untrue
2 = Often untrue
3 = Sometimes untrue/sometimes true
4 = Often true
5 = Almost always true

Your organization’s results are calculated and reflect the percentage of respondents indicating a statement to be “often true” or “almost always true.” For example, a result of 65 on a particular statement means that 65% of respondents that statement with either 4 or 5, and the remaining 35% rated it 1, 2, or 3. If a respondent did not rate a particular statement, it is excluded in the computation of the overall results for that statement. A rating of 4 or 5 reflects a consistently positive experience in the area the statement measures. The overall tally of 4s and 5s measures the consistency in employees experiencing the organization as a great workplace. Employees were asked to respond to each statement twice, once for their own work group and once for the organization as a whole. The following definitions of work group, organization and management are included in the instructions:

Work Group refers to all people in your immediate unit or department. Management of your workgroup refers to immediate supervisor.
Organization refers to your company as a whole. Management of the organization refers to the President and Executive management Group (or equivalent)”

All fifteen questions in the survey from the PowerPoint slides released on March 5th, 2014, which begin “Management…” are presented in what follows. Specifically, the results are presented for the response under the category of “Organization.” As a result, the cumulative effect of these fifteen survey items serves as a surrogate for a simple vote of confidence or no confidence in the management of the organization. These fifteen questions are a direct evaluation of the President and his management team. The data presented have not been edited except in the format used in presentation.

For all of the data, the red bar represents the average value for the “100 Best Companies.” All of blue bars represent the derived values from those who completed the survey at SCSU. Where there are no red bars, the question was generated locally so the number must be interpreted without a comparison.

From the methodology used by the GPTWI to create its index, a comparison of the blue bars with the red bars clearly indicates that the employees at SCSU have little confidence in the Potter management team. For some of the faculty, these results just put a number to the growing dissatisfaction in President Potter and the team of managers he has assembled.

For people who are interested in the reporting and analysis of data, the methodology used by the GPTWI is outside the norm for surveys using scaled responses. In fact, it is hard to believe that this type of methodology would be acceptable for any peer-reviewed scholarly publication except as an example of a poor methodology.

Essentially, the GPTWI is a public relations firm which is designed to make institutions look better than they really are—think advertising.

Consider the following example: “Management is competent.” The result for SCSU is 32 (as compared to the average of the top 100 great places to work value of 90). So the management at SCSU is not viewed as competent by 68% of respondents and if competent management is associated with great places to work SCSU doesn’t look much like a “Great Place to Work”. Remember a result of 32 means 32% of the respondents answered 4 or 5 and 68% responded 1, 2 or 3. However, without the raw data (the numbers of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, and 5s), it is not possible to calculate a true arithrimetric average response (mean), the response with the greatest number of responses (mode), the mid-point of the distribution of responses (median), and all of the normal statistics used in describing the results of surveys using scaled items.

The reason why this might be important is illustrated in these three possibilities. For a result of 32, consider the following three hypothetical distributions that all have 32% of responses being either a 4 or 5.

For distribution I, each of the responses 1, 2, and 3 have the same value and represent a total of 68% of the scores. Similarly the scores 4 and 5 have the same value and represent 32% of the scores. Calculating the arithmetic mean gives a value of 2.80.

For distribution II, 68% of the scores are 3s and 32% are 5s, which yields a mean of 3.64.

For distribution III, 68% of the scores are 1s and 32% are 4s, which yields a mean of 1.96.

According to the GPTWI, all three of these distributions have the same “result.” However, the same “result” gives three widely differing means and three very different findings, three different interpretations, and three different conclusions.

It’s a shame that the raw data is not available. If it were, it would be possible to perform a more thorough analysis. However, even with all of its shortcomings, the data as presented by GPTWI demonstrates that the employees feel there are significant problems of trust resulting from the competence and truthfulness of President Potter’s management team. Even after only a cursory look at the GPTWI findings, an obvious conclusion is that St. Cloud State University is a very long way a way from being a great place to work!

It is strange that President Potter has stated that the numbers from the survey are not where “we” would like them to be and “we” have some work to do (St. Cloud Times Editorial Board interview February 21, 2014). Who is the “we” President Potter refers to and is we the same each time he uses it? Perhaps it is simply a ‘royal we.’ It is hard to believe the employees at SCSU are responsible for these ten items that were surveyed.

  1. Management is approachable.
  2. Management shares information openly and transparently.
  3. Management keeps me informed.
  4. Management delivers on its promises.
  5. Management’s actions match its words.
  6. Management makes sound financial decisions.
  7. Management has a clear view.Management is competent.
  8. Management seeks suggestions.Management involves people in decisions

President Potter has said he is going to schedule “listening sessions.” In my opinion, there is not much that the faculty and staff can do about these ten items. All of the improvement regarding these ten items needs to come from President Potter and his team of managers. Perhaps if President Potter was on campus more and actually talked with faculty and staff more frequently some of these statements would receive higher ratings of truthfulness? It is time for President Potter and his ‘gang of thirty,’ to change their behaviors. Here’s a suggestion for a change in behavior:

Truly keep everyone informed and share information “openly and transparently” rather than just saying that management is being open and transparent. Saying something doesn’t make it true and actions speak louder than words.

The results from GPTWI show that management’s actions at SCSU do not match its words or that management delivers on its promises. How are the faculty and staff going to be able to “work” to make SCSU a better place when what is needed is a change in management’s behavior? All of the ten items from the GPTW survey that start with the word “Management” are items that must start with the managers. It is time for these managers to lead and lead by example.

The Potter management team has not involved people in decisions and certainly does not seek suggestions from the faculty and staff or involve people in making decisions. Case in point. The administration simply announced at a Meet and Confer that they had signed a contract with the GPTWI to conduct a “Trust Survey.” Had President Potter asked for input from the faculty and staff BEFORE making the decision, a better survey might have been performed. But finding out once again after the decision has been made shows President Potter’s seemingly utter contempt for the faculty and staff and their opinions and views.

President Potter has not shared his vision (see results for Management has a clear vision) for the future other than saying he’s “right sizing” the university. To date, no information has been shared as to the “right size.” A cynic might say that perhaps when we get there, he’ll tell us. However, an unexplained full-year enrollment drop from FY10 of 15,096 to FY14 of 12,401 represents a loss of 2,695 FYE or a drop of 17.9%. (The enrollment numbers come from the MnSCU website and are current as of April 7, 2014).

Without a doubt, it is not within the power of the SCSU faculty and staff to make the administration competent—there is simply nothing they can do to fix a belief that the administration is not competent. The only way the result for the competence question can improve is for President Potter to demonstrate competence. That might begin with his actually participating with the faculty and staff in shared governance.

“What you do is what matters, not what you think, say or plan.”
Jason Fried (from the book Rework)

This LTE is stunning from the standpoint that President Potter apparently is trying to blame everyone but himself for the trust deficit that’s prevalent on the SCSU campus:

After reading articles in the Times, watching the Editorial Board’s interview with St. Cloud State University President Earl H. Potter III, and reading the findings of two surveys, one wonders what efforts the president has made to address trust within the university.

In the interview, the president spoke of the culture and character of the university, which, he said, “has developed over the decades. And there are elements of the culture which are not helpful in achieving our mission.” He continued, “The level of trust that exists between faculty, staff and administration is not what it needs to be.”

President Potter apparently can’t admit that he’s the problem. When the GPTWI asked SCSU employees if “management is competent”, they asked if President Potter’s administration is competent. They didn’t ask if previous administrations were competent. When the GPTWI asked people if “management’s actions matched its words”, they asked if President Potter’s administration’s actions matched President Potter’s words. They didn’t ask whether previous administrations’ actions matched their words. When the GPTWI asked SCSU employees if “management made sound financial decisions”, they asked if President Potter’s administration made the right financial decisions. They didn’t ask if previous administrations had made the right financial decisions.

If Holly Schoenherr recommended that SCSU spend $49,900 on a survey to determine whether previous administrations were competent, the outcry would be deafening. That didn’t happen, though, because a significant percentage of respondents have worked at SCSU for less than 7 years. That’s how long President Potter has been SCSU’s president.

Here are some bullet points on the LTE:

  1. Lack of trust will continue until campus can trust Potter.
  2. Morale problem didn’t exist to this extent under previous leaders.
  3. Editorial Board needs to meet with faculty, staff groups.

Actually, I’d disagree with the last bullet point. The Times’ reporters should meet with the faculty. I’d recommend that they interview rank-and-file professors. The last thing that’s needed is for the Times’ reporters to meet with Steve Hornstein and other pro-administration faculty sellouts.

Otherwise, I totally agree with the first 2 bullet points. Faculty don’t trust President Potter because, in their words, his words haven’t matched his actions. According to the GPTWI Trust Index Survey, 76% of faculty said President Potter’s words didn’t match his actions.

There’s no question that this is the lowest morale has been in years at SCSU. The only question is whether President Potter will change.

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In the aftermath the Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Survey, President Potter announced that he’d be holding listening sessions. He’s sent out an email prepping people for those meetings. Here’s part of the text of that email:

To the Campus Community:

I know that many of you have taken time to review the data released earlier this month generated by the Great Place to Work survey. While the documents bring to light some difficult and sensitive issues, there are clearly some emerging themes represented in the data sets that warrant our collective attention as we seek to improve our work environment.

There are three primary phases of our work as we move forward: (1) Share; (2) Listen; and (3) Act. We have completed the first phase through the four town hall meetings that were held earlier this semester and through the creation of the “Campus Conversations” SharePoint site (https://myscsu.stcloudstate.edu/sites/President/Community), which contains all of the data we have received from the Great Place to Work Institute. Together we will now embark on the next stage of this important work, the listening phase.

Our next steps include a series of Campus Conversations and the President’s Listening Tour, beginning early April and continuing into the fall term. We recognize that the hectic schedules in April and May will make it difficult for many of you to engage in this process during this academic year; therefore, we will be scheduling sessions into next fall to facilitate full engagement from all faculty and staff.

It isn’t surprising that President Potter hid the GPTWI survey data on a password-protected webpage. President Potter isn’t into transparency. He doesn’t want people to find out that faculty don’t trust him to make sound financial decisions. President Potter doesn’t want the community to find out that the vast majority of the faculty don’t think that President Potter’s words match his actions.

President Potter, if you desire true openness, if you seek true transparency, put that data on a webpage that’s open to the public. If you keep this information hidden, we’ll know through your actions that you’re putting a higher priority on hiding this information than on making it public.

While I understand that significant portions of the survey don’t help you look good to the media, the reality is that this information is public information. That’s why I submitted a DPAR over the weekend. Our taxes paid for this survey. We have the right to know what’s in the survey. We shouldn’t have to submit Data Practices Act requests to find out what’s in it.

FYI- The information will be published.

President Potter, here’s a little unsolicited advice. The secrecy isn’t helping build trust with the faculty. Stop trying to hide the bad news. It’s time you stopped hiding public information. It’s time you started acting with integrity. Men of integrity don’t hide bad news because they don’t want their image stained.

President Potter, you’ve tried hiding the transcript scandal. You’ve done everything possible to hide the financial losses on the Wedum Foundation contract.

The GPTWI Trust Survey isn’t surprising to people who’ve paid attention. It’s still quite possible that it surprised the St. Cloud Times, which spent time playing ostrich before switching to being President Potter’s off-campus PR firm.

It’s beginning to look like transparency and integrity are four-letter words in President Potter’s vocabulary.

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Sen. Julianne Ortman’s own words are frightening. Here’s what I’m talking about:

We can and should raise some revenues to make targeted tax reductions that will help to stimulate the state’s economy.

For that reason, I proposed a tax increase this year; we should change our tax code to charge a tax on all lending institutions and other businesses that extend credit to Minnesotans and charge an APR interest rate in excess of 15%. Lenders and others may still charge whatever interest rate they would like. Those that charge less than 15% interest will be unaffected. On those transactions where they charge more than 15% they should pay a tax of 30% on that portion of the interest that exceeds15%. If, as a by-product, lenders reduce rates or reform lending practices, then so much the better.

But let’s be honest, 15% should be more than enough interest in an economy when banks can borrow at the federal
funds rate (0.25%), and the prime lending rate hovers at 3%.

My first question to Sen. Ortman is simple: who made Sen. Ortman the arbiter of what’s enough and what’s too much? My next question is equally simple: does Sen. Ortman realize the effect this proposed surtax would’ve had had it been signed into law? I suspect she didn’t. John Spry is one of the best tax economists in Minnesota. He wrote a study about what this legislation would have. Here’s the conclusion to Professor Spry’s report:

4. Conclusion
Minnesota’s proposed thirty percent surtax on consumer interest in excess of fifteen percent would create a highly regressive tax. Since the surtax is imposed only when consumers carry balances over fifteen percent, only the 11.8% of households with these loans would directly feel the burden of this surtax.

Sen. Ortman’s proposed tax is highly regressive because lower income people are more likely to have a high interest rate on their credit cards and because they’re most likely to carry a balance on their credit cards.

The effect that this proposed surtax would’ve had would’ve hurt low income people who would’ve been hit with lower minimum monthly payments. These low income people would’ve also gotten hit with a higher interest rate as a direct result of Sen. Ortman’s proposed tax increase, meaning low income people would’ve paid more to pay off their credit card debts.

Here’s another astonishing thing from Sen. Ortman’s website:

So let’s have the conversation at the capitol….who should pay for the State’s budget deficit?

Apparently, Sen. Ortman didn’t realize that imposing this surtax would force the poorest people to pay for Minnesota’s deficit. This graphic shows who gets hurt most by Sen. Ortman’s proposed tax increase:

This graphic shows that the lowest income people are hurt most by the tax on lenders. This graphic shows what happens to interest rates when this tax is implemented:

The graphic shows that interest rates would increase significantly if Sen. Ortman’s tax was implemented. If Minnesota implemented this surtax and the interest before implementation was 22%, the post-implementation interest rate would jump to 25%. As a direct result of that, the size of the minimum payment would jump. That would make it more difficult for low income people to a) make that minimum payment and b) pay off their credit card debt.

It’s better to think things through than blindly proposing a populist-sounding policy.

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Dave Unze’s article about the Great Place to Work Trust Index Survey included this interesting paragraph:

The survey was offered to all 1,582 university employees and generated a response from 40 percent of them. The university released the answers to two questions that were asked of those employees: What makes St. Cloud State a great place to work, and what would make the school a better place to work?

The administration needs to tell us why they’re hiding the Trust Index Survey results on a password-protected webpage that only people with a St. Cloud State account can access. Why wasn’t the entire survey released to the public? Why were only two open-ended questions released?

The St. Cloud Times needs to answer the legitimate question of why they didn’t demand that SCSU release everything from the survey, including the PowerPoint presentation. That PowerPoint presentation includes the results from some questions that I’m sure President Potter and his senior administration would rather see buried in the deep blue sea.

I’m certain President Potter would rather people not see this graphic:

Why would President Potter want people to see that only 20% of his employees think that “Management shares information openly and transparently”? President Potter certainly wouldn’t want the community to know that only 26% of his employees think that “Management delivers on its promises” and that only 24% of his employees think “Management’s actions match its words.”

It isn’t difficult to understand why President Potter doesn’t want the community to know that 28% of his employees think that “Management makes sound financial decisions” and that only 32% of employees think he’s competent. A university president doesn’t want it getting out that the vast majority of his employees think he’s incompetent and makes foolish financial decisions.

The past couple of weeks, the editorial page of the St. Cloud Times criticized a local school board and a city council for not being transparent. They’re right in calling for greater transparency from the school board and the city council. What’s puzzling is why the Times didn’t demand that same type of transparency from President Potter. Shouldn’t St. Cloud State be held to the same level of scrutiny as the Sartell-St. Stephen school board and the Cold Spring City Council?

Don’t St. Cloud residents deserve the same level of information-sharing that Sartell residents deserve.

If the Times won’t demand it, I will. President Potter, make all of the information from the GPTW Trust Index Survey available to the public. The Survey was paid for with taxpayers money. Public employees participated by filling out the Survey. Therefore, all information, including the PowerPoint presentation, should be public property. Period.

That level of secretiveness shouldn’t be tolerated from university presidents. The only thing worse is a media outlet that won’t push public officials for public information. Not pushing public officials for public information lets the University escape scrutiny and accountability.

The Times needs to ask itself an important question, namely, do they value accountability more than access to President Potter? If they prioritize accountability, then they’ll have to push President Potter.

President Potter needs to ask himself a question, too. Is being popular more important than doing the right thing? Based on this survey, his employees think President Potter puts a higher priority on staying popular in the community than he puts on doing the right thing.

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It was impossible to do a proper critique of the Times article in a single post so here’s Part II. First, let’s start with more Potter spin:

Potter said he was proud of the university community for the way it responded to the questions, and he noted that St. Cloud State was one of only a few higher education institutions to participate in this type of survey.

“It’s a risky thing to do. We knew that we would get some hard messages back,” he said. “We knew that we would not be near the top, that we have a long way to go. But (we) felt it was absolutely essential to take the step and move our culture forward.”

Fortunately for President Potter, the Times buried those hard messages from employees under a pile of manure. When the vast majority of employees think that the boss is incompetent and untrustworthy, those aren’t the ingredients for a great place to work. As damning as those things are, this might be the worst criticism of the Potter administration:

The survey was the idea of Holly Schoenherr, the university’s human resources director. Shortly after she started two years ago, she began to hear about employees who felt they were being bullied in the workplace and about concerns regarding civil discourse.

I’ve spoken with several SCSU professors. They won’t go on the record for fear of retribution from President Potter, corrupt members of the faculty or both. The pervasive atmosphere amongst faculty is that retribution is considered a management tool by the administration and their apologists.

What’s puzzling is that Mr. Unze didn’t ask Ms. Schoenherr whether the survey showed if the bullying had persisted. Also, why didn’t Mr. Unze ask whether the discourse had improved from being hostile? These are questions that should’ve been asked. These are questions that the public has a right to know.

As amateurish as the Times’ reporting is, that isn’t the focus of this post. What’s important is that this post highlight President Potter’s management (mismanagement?) style, the on-campus bullying and whether steps have been taken to improve on-campus morale.

Based on the information contained in this post, I’d argue that nothing concrete has changed:

The statistics speak for themselves. People don’t trust President Potter because his actions don’t match his words, because “management isn’t approachable” and because they think he’s incompetent.

There’s no reason to think President Potter will change. Absent him changing dramatically, the problems at SCSU will persist. No amount of spin from the administration and the St. Cloud Times will change that fact.

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For the umpteenth time, the St. Cloud Times treated disastrous news for President Potter like it was a minor bump in the road. Most importantly, the article showed how lazy Times reporter Dave Unze is:

The survey was offered to all 1,582 university employees and generated a response from 40 percent of them. The university released the answers to two questions that were asked of those employees: What makes St. Cloud State a great place to work, and what would make the school a better place to work?

That’s pathetic ‘reporting’. Why didn’t Unze ask for the other questions in the survey? This is the type of ‘journalism’ I’d expect from TMZ. Jon Stewart asks harder hitting questions than this. But I digress.

The survey’s findings are devastating to President Potter. Just look at this graphic:

Here’s what I wrote when I got the full results of the GPTWI survey:

When asked if “management’s words match its actions”, only 24% of respondents said yes. When asked if “management is competent”, only 32% said yes. When asked if “management makes sound financial decisions”, only 28% said they did.

Instead of digging into the meat of the survey, the Times picked out two softball questions that doesn’t get to the heart of the survey. That isn’t reporting. That’s insulting to the point that I should question whether President Potter is paying the Times to be his off-campus PR firm.

The graphic titled the numbers tell the story raises some important questions about President Potter’s competency and trustworthiness. In addition to the questions in the above paragraph, there are other damning questions. Here are some examples:

  1. Only 20% of survey respondents agreed with this statement: Management shares information openly and transparently.
  2. Only 29% of survey respondents agreed with this statement: Management is approachable.
  3. Only 26% of survey respondents agreed with this statement: Management delivers on its promises.
  4. Only 25% of survey respondents agreed with this statement: Management has a clear view.

The Times is cheating its readers by not asking hard-hitting questions. Apparently, the Times’ goal is to take whatever information President Potter gives them, then turns it into a story that praises President Potter.

President Potter’s decisions have taken St. Cloud State from being the flagship university in the MnSCU to being a distant 2nd place and fading fast. The only thing more disgusting than SCSU’s decline during President Potter’s watch is how the St. Cloud Times has refused to challenge President Potter’s spin.

The damning information is there for those willing to look for it. It’s apparent that Dave Unze isn’t willing to look for that type of information. It’s apparent that the Times management isn’t interested in holding Mr. Unze accountable for not digging into the story the way a real reporter would do.

This paragraph is insulting:

“As in any complex organization, there are folks that think that St. Cloud State is a great place to work. There is strong agreement among them about why they think that’s true,” Potter said.

When only a third of SCSU employees think management is competent, that’s a sign that there aren’t many folks who think SCSU is a great place to work.” When a fourth of SCSU’s employees think that management’s words match its actions, it’s impossible to think that SCSU employees trust President Potter and his senior management team. In the private sector, those survey results would get the CEO terminated immediately.

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