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Virginia Postrel’s article is a welcome spotlight on the corrupt practices of “Citrus Community College near Los Angeles.” Thankfully, someone afflicted by Citrus Community College’s corruption has a spine:

Last September, Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle, a student at Citrus Community College near Los Angeles, was collecting signatures on a petition asking the student government to condemn spying by the National Security Agency. He left the school’s designated “free speech area” to go to the student center. On his way there, he saw a likely prospect to join his cause: a student wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirt. He stopped the student and they began talking about the petition. Then an administrator came out of a nearby building, informed them their discussion was forbidden outside the speech zone, and warned Sinapi-Riddle he could be ejected from campus for violating the speech-zone rule.

Sinapi-Riddle has now sued Citrus College, a state institution, for violating his First Amendment rights by, among other things, demanding that “expressive activities” be confined to the 1.34 percent of campus designated as a “free speech area.” Perhaps the most outrageous part of his experience is how common it is. The vague bans on “offensive” language and other “politically correct” measures that most people think of when they imagine college speech codes are increasingly being joined by quarantine policies that restrict all student speech, regardless of its content.

People don’t have a constitutional right to not be offended. As Ms. Postrel, these policies aren’t just anti-constitutional, they’re anti-educational:

Contrary to what many people seem to think, higher education doesn’t exist to hand out job credentials to everyone who follows a clearly outlined set of rules. (Will this be on the exam? Do I have to come to class?) Education isn’t a matter of sitting students down and dumping pre-digested information into their heads.

Higher education exists to advance and transmit knowledge, and learning requires disagreement and argument. Even the most vocational curriculum, accounting, physical therapy, civil engineering, graphic design, represents knowledge accumulated through trial and error, experimentation and criticism. That open-ended process isn’t easy and it often isn’t comfortable. The idea that students should be protected from disagreeable ideas is a profoundly anti-educational concept.

That Citrus Community College thinks that they can establish a rule that trumps the First Amendment of our Constitution is stunning. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights trump everything. If a law doesn’t fit within the Constitution’s framework, it’s unconstitutional and it should be repealed ASAP.

Why would a college want to brag that they’re producing intellectual wimps incapable of dealing with life’s uglier moments? That doesn’t make sense, especially to employers. They’re looking for people who can defend their ideas, who can stand up to criticism and still deliver a high-quality product.

Places like Citrus Community College and other like-minded institutions are producing the opposite of what businesses are looking for.

Sinapi-Riddle, in other words, can make a strong case that the Citrus Community College District blatantly violated his First Amendment rights. That’s why his lawsuit and two others involving speech zones at other public schools are part of a new litigation push by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil-liberties watchdog group on whose board I serve. By bringing cases that don’t require new precedents, FIRE hopes to make public colleges pay for their violations of free speech and thereby change the financial incentives facing administrators. “They’re probably going to succeed,” says Volokh, who is not involved in the litigation, “because the case law is generally on their side.”

These lawsuits are great if you’re attempting to right a wrong. Litigation should always be a weapon in the citizen’s arsenal if anyone violated their constitutional rights. What’s better, though, is that state governing boards would discipline institutions that violate students’, or faculty’s, civil rights before it gets to a lawsuit.

Shouldn’t universities be held to a high standard of obeying students’ civil rights? After all, these instutions are shaping future captains of industry. They should respect a person’s civil rights.

I suspect, however, that they aren’t enforcing the Constitution because today’s ‘intellectuals’ don’t agree with the US Constitution. That attitude must stop ASAP. Any institution that doesn’t respect the Constitution deserves getting ridiculed. It’s that simple.

It’s time universities not hire administrators who won’t sign a pledge to live by the Constitution. It’s time that attitudes started changing about the Bill of Rights.

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Now that people are questisoning some of Chancellor Rosenstone’s decisions, like his decision to pay a consulting firm $2,000,000 or the Trustees’ decision to extend Chancellor Rosenstone’s contract before giving him a performance review, perhaps it’s time to ask what his qualifications were. This chart shows that Rosenstone wasn’t as qualified as the other finalist:

It’s too late to void Chancellor Rosenstone’s sweetheart deal but it isn’t too late to question whether the Trustees serve a useful purpose. Based on this side-by-side comparison and their decision to hire a less qualified candidate, I’d argue that their decisionmaking abilitie are questionable at best.

Further, it’s time to admit that Gene Pelowski, Bud Nornes, Michelle Fischbach and Terry Bonoff haven’t done the job Minnesotans needed them to do. Their refusal to conduct oversight hearings is an indictment against their chairmanships.
What Minnesota needs is for the Trustees to disappear and for the legislature to play a more hands-on role in MnSCU, especially with regards to hiring chancellors and negotiating the chancellor’s contracts. I don’t want people who can’t be held accountable to make these important decisions. I expect people who can be held accountable at election time to make these decisions.

The best way to produce terrible results is to look the other way and not demand explanations for important decisions. Part of why Chancellor Rosenstone is making questionable decisions is because he wasn’t qualified. Another reason why he’s making questionable decisions is because he isn’t disciplined when he makes decisions like hiring a do-nothing consulting firm for $2,000,000.

I can’t say that Minnesota’s higher ed system is worthless. I can say, however, that MnSCU has made lots of foolish spending decisions that shouldn’t have gotten made.

That’s why MnSCU reform should be a high priority for the next legislature.

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This afternoon, I was sent a copy of a letter that Jim Grabowska sent to MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone about MnSCU’s hiring of McKinsey and Co. as consultants. Grabowska is the president of the Inter Faculty Organization, aka the IFO. Here’s part of Grabowska’s letter:

You can well imagine our dismay this morning when we found out about the $2 million contract that existed with McKinsey to support Charting the Future. We are writing to ask what the firm actually did for the $2 million they collected from Minnesota taxpayers and students. What assessment/criteria lead to the conclusion that the System Office needed a consultant firm to assist staff on implementation? Of specific concern is why it was determined before our collective internal implementation teams were even formed, or allowed to make recommendations for an implementation plan.

What’s disappointing (infuriating?) is that the IFO president asked more probing questions in that paragraph than the St. Cloud Times reporters have asked of President Potter since he was hired years ago.

The IFO asked substantive questions that question Chancellor Rosenstone’s justification for hiring McKinsey in that paragraph in a respectful fashion. Here’s more from the IFO’s letter:

From the story in the Pioneer Press, it sounds like consultants were hired on January 2nd, began work in March and finished in June. What could they have done in three or four months that wasn’t noticed but was worth $2 million?

I suspected that this consulting contract wasn’t legitimate. The fact that the IFO is questioning what McKinsey did to earn the money highlights why they’re questioning Rosenstone’s decision. There’s nothing that I’ve seen that suggests McKinsey’s work product was worth $2,000,000.

In the article, you justify the expenditure by saying students and their families might save $14 million if 10% of the students graduate faster. The problem is there is no indication that the $2 million spent will result in $14 million of savings — or any savings at all.

In the past decade, MnSCU has spent money by the tens of millions on IT consultants that claimed they would create efficiencies that would result in efficiencies for students — student tuitions still continued to skyrocket. The only savings we have seen for students in recent years came from the legislative buy down of tuition rates.

As much as this letter is an indictment of Chancellor Rosenstone, it’s an indictment of MnSCU’s trustees and the chairs of the higher education committees the past few years. This has been a bipartisan failing, with Bud Nornes and Michelle Fischbach failing to conduct proper oversight before Gene Pelowski and Terry Bonoff failed in their oversight responsibilities.

It’s a frightening statement that the IFO’s oversight of MnSCU outdistances the oversight provided by the MnSCU Trustees and the higher ed committees in the legislature. Combined.

At this point, it’s reasonable to ask whether MnSCU serves as anything more than another do-nothing bureaucracy. Further, it’s reasonable to ask whether the higher ed committees’ leadership pays attention to anything other than appropriating money. I haven’t seen proof that they’ve paid attention to what’s happening at MnSCU or the universities.

Taxpayers can’t afford this consistent nonchalance from Chancellor Rosenston, the Trustees or the higher ed committee chairs. Their performance, or lack thereof, has been infuriating.

UPDATE: Here’s the IFO’s letter to Chancellor Rosenstone:

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Yesterday, I wrote this post to highlight how the media is letting the people down. In this instance, I criticized the St. Cloud Times for their kid glove treatment of SCSU President Earl Potter III. This part especially upset me:

The struggle to fill St. Cloud State University’s Coborn’s Plaza, high-end student housing, needs to be viewed as an opportunity, not a blame game.

In my commentary, I said that that type of thinking is what helps people continue making terrible decisions. Anytime the media doesn’t question decisionmakers’ decisions, the media breaks their trust with We The People. That’s unacceptable. In fact, it’s downright dangerous.

It’s aggravating that the Times couldn’t even publish accurate information before making their editorial statements:

To the former, from fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2015, the annual subsidy is projected to decline from $1.348 million to $937,800. While that’s progress, it only amounts to an annual decline of about $105,000. So how much longer will it take to break even?

Had the Times read my post on that matter, they wouldn’t have asked that question:

At the April 30, 2013 meeting of the Budget Advisory Committee, Patrick Jacobson-Schulte, Associate Vice President for Financial Management and Budget, informed the committee that, even under the best scenario of 100% occupancy, Coborn’s Plaza would lose between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.

This brings us to two important questions. First, why didn’t the Times learn about this information? Second, why did the Times hesitate in affixing blame on President Potter? They certainly didn’t hesitate in criticizing former SCSU President Saigo.

This isn’t meant as a critique of Dr. Saigo. Frankly, I didn’t pay that much attention to St. Cloud State prior to Potter’s administration. I won’t use this post to praise or criticize him. I’ll just use this post to highlight the fact that the St. Cloud Times frequently criticized Dr. Saigo but they refuse to criticize President Potter. What’s up with that?

It isn’t like President Potter hasn’t made lots of questionable decisions. For instance, he spent $50,000 on the Great Place to Work Institute’s Trust Index Survey. Here’s what the Trust Index Survey found:

Even after seeing these results, the Times insisted that both sides needed to ask themselves what they can do to make SCSU a better place to work. When 26% of respondents say that management delivers on its promises, there isn’t much that the faculty can do to change that figure, with the exception of lying. When 24% of respondents say that “management’s actions match its words”, it’s management’s responsibility to fix that crisis.

It isn’t the Times’ responsibility to say that ‘both sides can do better.’ It’s the Times’ responsibility to accurately state that it’s President Potter’s responsibility to fix the problem. Each time that the Times takes a on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand approach, it lets President Potter off the hook.

More importantly, the Times lets down the community by not giving people the information they need to make informed decisions. Each time the Times deflects attention away from President Potter, it’s taking sides. That, in turn, helps him pretend that he’s doing a good job.

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This Our View editorial is breathtaking in how the Times operates…again…as President Potter’s PR firm:

The struggle to fill St. Cloud State University’s Coborn’s Plaza — high-end student housing — needs to be viewed as an opportunity, not a blame game.

The reality is this: The roughly $30 million plaza undoubtedly helps St. Cloud State attract and retain a segment of students it would otherwise lose to the countless other universities that offer this housing option. As such, that benefits the entire metro area.

First, the Times’ editorial accepts as fact that high-end student housing is popular. While it’s possible to find some students who prefer this type of housing, it’s impossible to find many students who want this type of housing, at least without some enticements thrown in.

Second, “the entire metro” benefits isn’t taking everything into account. The property is owned by a 501(c)(3). That means that property isn’t paying property taxes.

An equally compelling reality: The 453-unit plaza was overbuilt. That was evidenced again in a Monday Times news report about how occupancy rates, while increasing, are not growing fast enough to help St. Cloud State cover its costs.

Here’s a dose of reality. President Potter signed a contract that should’ve gotten him fired. Patrick Jacobson-Schulte told the Budget Advisory Committee that Coborn’s Plaza can’t break even:

At the April 30, 2013 meeting of the Budget Advisory Committee, Patrick Jacobson-Schulte, Associate Vice President for Financial Management and Budget, informed the committee that, even under the best scenario of 100% occupancy, Coborn’s Plaza would lose between $50,000 and $150,000 annually.

If the Times is going to offer its opinions on something, they should at least get their facts straight.

This paragraph is stunning:

To the former, from fiscal 2012 through fiscal 2015, the annual subsidy is projected to decline from $1.348 million to $937,800. While that’s progress, it only amounts to an annual decline of about $105,000. So how much longer will it take to break even?

Answer: It’ll never break even during this lease. Though that’s stunning, this is breathtaking:

At a growth rate of 17 units annually, it will be fiscal 2020 or longer before 100 percent capacity. That’s too long and too expensive.

Therein lies the opportunity: Open those vacancies to nonstudents.

This isn’t an opportunity. It’s a disaster. The ‘solution’ isn’t any better. What the Times is proposing is opening the taxpayer-subsidized apartment complex to non-students. Why didn’t I think of that? That’s what we need. Government subsidizing private foundations’ housing projects.

Again, community and university leaders need to see this is an opportunity, not a blame game.

That’s stunning. Here’s another term for blame game: professional accountability. Thus far, the Times has worked overtime to make sure President Potter wasn’t criticized for making terrible, expensive, decisions. There’s no reason to think that’ll change anytime this decade.

There’s an old saying that says “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I’m creating a different saying that dovetails with that saying. “Those who don’t affix blame on people who make terrible decisions allow those people to continue making terrible decisions.”

I know that isn’t a snappy one-liner but it’s the truth. It’s time to start affixing blame on the Teflon President, aka Earl Potter. Signing that contract with the Wedum Foundation was stupid. Telling the Times’ Editorial Board that it’s a great success is pure spin.

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David Schultz’s post about the Hobby Lobby ruling is stunningly dishonest, especially considering he’s a lawyer. Here’s Dr. Schultz’s dishonesty:

Five votes. Five Catholics. Five men. One decision. Potentially millions of American women denied contraceptive coverage.

Dr. Schultz should be ashamed of himself for making that dishonest statememt. The Hobby Lobby ruling didn’t say closely held companies like Hobby Lobby could deny all types of contraceptive coverage. It said that the ACA couldn’t force Hobby Lobby to provide coverage for 4 types of contraceptives known as abortifacients. Megyn Kelly explained in this video:

Here’s Kelly’s explanation of the Hobby Lobby ruling:

MEGYN KELLY: Nancy Pelosi either doesn’t know what she is talking about or is intentionally misleading you. First of all the gender of the justices in the Hobby Lobby majority is irrelevant. Mrs. Pelosi’s reference to it is obviously an attempt to stoke resentment. When Roe vs. Wade was decided it was all men in the majority. Does she think those justices were ill-equipped to fairly decide that case? Or is it only when a judge disagrees with Mrs. Pelosi that his gender is an issue. If Speaker john Boehner made a similar comment about the female Supreme Court justices, Nancy Pelosi would be crying sexism and that’s what she is guilty of here.

Moreover, the five men in the Hobby Lobby majority did not, I repeat, did not “determine what contraceptions are legal” nor they did get down to the specifics of “whether a woman should use a diaphragm.” What a gross misrepresentation. News flash, all birth control that was legal before this decision remains legal today. The high court simply found that a religious freedom law which was cosponsored by none other than, wait for it, Nancy Pelosi, sometimes protects corporations from being forced to violate their religious beliefs. She cosponsored the law that gave them the right!

Neither the high court or Hobby Lobby took issue with Kathleen Sebelius’s minions over at HHS mandating behind closed doors after Obamacare was passed, that companies cover birth control. Sixteen forms of it in fact. But the majority did say Hobby Lobby still had the right to object to covering four terms of birth control that happen to terminate a fertilized egg, which some believe is abortion. No one ruled those contraceptives were illegal and the diaphragm was never even discussed. It wasn’t one of the birth control forms at issue, which she should know since she famously promised us that after Obamacare was passed at some point, we’d know what was in it.

Either Dr. Schultz didn’t read the ruling or he’s intentionally being dishonest. Based on what he said later in the post, I’m betting that he’s being intentionally dishonest. Here’s what he said later in the post:

So think first about the sexism of the decision. Five male Justices rule that it is ok for an employer to deny women contraceptive coverage.

Again, that statement is dishonest. In fact, if Dr. Schultz had done his research, which he obviously didn’t, he’d know that Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan has covered contraceptives long before the ACA was passed. They just didn’t cover abortifacients.

At this point, I don’t know whether Dr. Schultz is an ill-informed scholar or if he’s a political hatchetman spewing the DFL’s chanting points. At this point, both are definite possibilities. Later, Dr. Schultz said this:

When the First Amendment was written it declared that “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion.”

Like most liberals, Dr. Schultz didn’t include the full text. Here’s that text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In other words, the First Amendment proposed a balance on religion. First, it said that the government couldn’t declare a denomination as the national religion. Their intent was to prevent the government from telling religious institutions what their beliefs should be.

The next clause in the First Amendment says that government can’t prohibit people from living their faith. Dr. Schultz says that “RFRA and the five Justice majority appear to have” established a religion. I’d pose a contrarian question. Didn’t the HHS essentially tell people that they didn’t have the right to practice their religious faith? How is it ok for government bureaucrats to tell people of faith that they can’t live out their faith but it’s wrong for the Supreme Court to protect a company’s First Amendment rights?

Dr. Schultz’s hypocrisy is disappointing. He’s substituted his political beliefs when he should be rendering a constitutional opinion. By doing that, he’s lost credibility.

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Greg Riegstad’s LTE is short because he accepted the task of explaining why Zach Dorholt deserves re-election:

Zach Dorholt deserves re-election to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

After years of gridlock in our state government, this last session made real progress. The Legislature made a real commitment to education, reduced taxes for the middle class, and turned the budget deficit to a surplus.

The second paragraph is utterly laughable. First, the DFL spent more money on education. That isn’t the same as saying that they “made a real commitment to education.” Dorholt was the vice-chair of the Higher Ed Committee. As vice-chair of the committee, Dorholt didn’t pay attention to the corruption within MnSCU. Clarence Hightower, then-chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, negotiated a contract renewal with MnSCU Chancellor Steve Rosenstone.

What’s stunning is that the House Higher Ed Committee did’t even know that it’d been negotiated. The other thing that’s stunnning is that Hightower negotiated the contract extension before giving Rosenstone a performance review.

During the 2014 ‘Unsession’, the House Higher Ed Committee met 4 times, twice to hear bonding presentations, once to hear about a supplemental appropriation and another time to move a bill onto the General Register. Noticeably missing are any oversight hearings.

Thanks to Mssrs. Pelowski and Dorholt, $2,000,000 was quietly spent on a consulting firm that prefered to “work in the background.” Saying that oversight wasn’t a priority for Mssrs. Pelowski and Dorholt is understatement.

Second, the DFL promised property tax relief. That won’t happen because school districts are raising property taxes. A tiny percentage of people will see the property tax relief that the DFL promised.

Third, saying that they started with a deficit and turned it into a surplus isn’t an accomplishment. Thanks to the fiscal restraint of the GOP legislature, the deficit was $624,000,000. When the DFL controlled the legislature from 2007-2010, the deficits were more than $5,000,000,000.

Fourth, what the DFL isn’t telling people is that they spent one-time money on ongoing expenses. The surplus that they’re bragging about doesn’t exist.

Let’s also remind people of some other things that this “working group” accomplished. They spent $90,000,000 on a plush office building that’ll be used 4 months a year. They spent it on that instead of using that money to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. That money could’ve fixed ton of roads. Instead, Mr. Dorholt chose to spend it on his friends in the Senate.

Mr. Dorholt also voted to raise taxes and fees by $2,500,000,000. Then he voted to reduce that tax increase by $300,000,000, which he’s now calling a tax cut. The taxes he raised has sent companies scurrying from Minnesota.

We can’t afford more of Zach Dorholt’s accomplishments. That’s why he needs to be replaced by Jim Knoblach.

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One of the sad things I realized in writing this post is that the people that theoretically provide oversight of MnSCU aren’t consistently asking the right questions. It isn’t that they never ask the right question. It’s that they don’t consistently ask them. Here’s an example:

Meanwhile, Bonoff and Pelowski said they are working on legislation that would require the MnSCU Board of Trustees to publicly approve future chancellor contracts.

A critic of overhead at MnSCU and the U, Pelowski questions the lack of public airing of the McKinsey contract and the need for such a sizable investment: “Do you not have enough administrators that you have to hire somebody for $2 million to figure out how to chart your future?”

While it’s true that the Board of Trustees has primary oversight responsibility, there’s no denying the fact that the higher ed committees have oversight responsibilities, too. The fact is that the legislature hasn’t paid enough attention to MnSCU headquarters or the universities. They’ve just trusted that things were working well.

That isn’t oversight. That’s blind faith. The reality is that Sen. Bonoff and Rep. Pelowski are reacting rather than being proactive. Meanwhile, millions of dollars were spent without oversight from the Trustees or the committee chairs. That’s before talking about how the Trustees got taken by a chancellor who clearly isn’t interested in transparency and accountability.

Hiring a consultant is one thing. Not telling the people with oversight responsibility is acting in bad faith. In my opinion, it’s worthy of at least a public reprimand, if not termination. Rationalizing not telling people with oversight responsibility because the consultant prefers to stay out of the spotlight is, in my opinion, grounds for termination.

What’s really needed is a housecleaning. Appointing a politician’s cronies to an oversight board isn’t just terrible policy. It’s an invitation to the chancellor to do whatever he wants to do. That, in turn, gives university presidents license to do whatever they want to do.

Without major changes, MnSCU is destined to consistently fail.

First, Rosenstone wasn’t the best candidate for the chancellor’s job. He got the job because some of the trustees fell in love with Rosenstone’s vision for MnSCU, not because he was the most qualified candidate.

Second, the Trustees need to know that they’ll be spotlighted if they don’t take their oversight responsibilities to the taxpayers seriously. If they’re lax in that responsibility, they need to be terminated.

Third, the higher ed committees need to do regular oversight hearings. They need to make visits to the universities to talk with the faculty, the staff and lower level administrators before talking with high-ranking administrators. That way, the President Potters of the world won’t be able to bamboozle them when they talk with him.

Fourth, MnSCU headquarters needs to be sent a signal that their wasteful ways must end immediately. MnSCU HQ needs to understand that the money they’re pissing away is someone’s hard-earned money. The least they can do is treat taxpayers with respect.

Fifth, the chancellor’s office must be made transparent immediately. Having a chancellor say that he kept a consultant’s job quiet because that’s how the company prefers to operate that way should immediately disqualify that consultant from getting the job.

It’s time MnSCU is scrutinized. That includes its chancellor, their presidents and the consultants they hire. In fact, they should be required to submit a cost-benefit analysis to the Trustees before the first interview can take place. Additionally, it should be required that the cost-benefit analysis be posted on the MnSCU or university website. That CBA should include a report on why existing staff can’t do the job.

That’s the only way we’ll get rid of MnSCU’s complacency, secrecy and unaccountability.

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After reading this article, people should question the wisdom of negotiating a new contract with Steven Rosenstone:

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has hired a consultant to help it launch a far-reaching overhaul. The $2 million contract with McKinsey & Co., though, comes as a surprise to students and faculty involved with Charting the Future, MnSCU’s bid to spur innovation and collaboration among its 31 campuses.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone did not bring up the arrangement with New York-based McKinsey when students asked about the plan’s costs or when he updated the board of trustees about the initiative. “That seems like a detail that should have been made known to all stakeholders in this process,” said Kari Cooper, who leads MnSCU’s university student association.

Apparently, Chancellor Rosenstone doesn’t like accountability or transparency. It’s apparent because he’s avoided both recently. He certainly was secretive about signing his contract extension. He’s certainly escaped accountability for a plethora of problems he didn’t monitor, much less fix. MnSCU’s Board of Trustees negotiated a new contract with him before giving him a performance review.

Here’s more proof that Chancellor Rosenstone prefers secrecy:

Cooper says association members asked Rosenstone about expenses Charting the Future is incurring during an April meeting. Rosenstone brought up staff time and stipends for students and faculty on the implementation teams.

“No mention of McKinsey was brought up when we point-blank asked,” Cooper said.

Rosenstone said MnSCU did not publicize the McKinsey contract because the company prefers to “work in the background.” He also said student leaders did not explicitly ask if the system had engaged an outside consultant.

Chancellor Rosenstone’s response is filled with weasel words:

Rosenstone said MnSCU did not publicize the McKinsey contract because the company prefers to “work in the background.” He also said student leaders did not explicitly ask if the system had engaged an outside consultant.

That’s despicable on a multitude of levels. First, I don’t care if a company hired with taxpayer dollars “prefers to ‘work in the background.’” It’s the taxpayers’ money and they have a right to know how their money is getting spent. Period. The fact that this company prefers secrecy raises other questions, starting with wanting to know why they’re uncomfortable with the spotlight. Have they been involved in a scandal elsewhere? Is it that they prefer not to have their work scrutinized?

Third, Rosenstone has an affirmative responsibility to fully inform the people he works for of the money he’s spending on projects. Student leaders shouldn’t need to ask whether MnSCU hired a consultant to implement their Charting the Future initiative.

In a court of law, the oath is to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Public servants should be held to that same standard. Not giving information because the precise, pinpoint question wasn’t asked isn’t acceptable.

Check back later today for Part II of this post.

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When President Potter insisted that students want to live in upscale apartments, he implied that government was the right instrument to ‘fix’ this ‘problem’. That theory isn’t difficult to debunk.

First, let’s question whether students want expensive upscale apartments. It’s plausible that students don’t want to live in dorms built before they were born. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re interested in paying the high rent that Wedum is charging.

It’s highly possible that President Potter misinterpreted what students wanted. It’s quite possible they just wanted apartments with a) high-speed internet and b) private bathrooms.

Next, let’s question whether government is the right instrument to fix this perceived problem. Government a) isn’t proficient at determining markets, b) doesn’t spend money wisely and c) isn’t responsive to people’s needs. Ask yourself whether those attributes apply to the private sector, where people are motivated by making profits.

Simply put, that isn’t a fair fight. Government is inert. For-profit capitalism is energetic. They’re always looking for their next money-making opportunity. A healthy argument could be made for privatizing on-campus living quarters. The students would benefit because entrepreneurs would have to provide the things students want. Universities would benefit because they could focus on educating students. Additionally, they could establish a scholarship fund when they sold the property where the dormitories currently exist. The cities where universities are located in would benefit because they’d get a big boost in property tax revenues when that public property is turned into private property.

Which brings us back to the Wedum Foundation. They’re a 501(c)3, which means that St. Cloud isn’t collecting a penny in property taxes on a piece of prime real estate. Thanks to that, one of 3 things must happen to make up for that lost property tax revenue. The first possibility is property owners getting hit with high property taxes. Another possibility is that the city puts off some of the things it’s supposed to do, like filling potholes and repairing roads. The other possibility is that the city might raise the local sales tax.

Those options are terrible compared with a flourishing university surrounded by private property with newly constructed apartments and single family dwellings. The ‘Wedum Option’ is a drain on the city. The ‘Private Property Option’ would be a boost to St. Cloud’s coffers. A SCSU would boost St. Cloud’s economy, too.

The only things missing to make this happen are political pressure from would-be entrepreneurs and civic leaders and the leadership from President Potter.

This won’t happen because President Potter a) isn’t a visionary and b) won’t admit that Wedum is a mistake. That’s the biggest reason why SCSU is worse off now than when he started.

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