Archive for the ‘Academia’ Category
You know nanny statism has spun off the rails when you see notes like this:
I hope Leeza Pearson tells this moron to stick that note where the sun doesn’t shine. Here’s what happened:
Leeza Pearson was out of fruit and vegetables one day last week, so she tucked a pack of Oreos in her daughter Natalee’s lunch and sent her off to school at the Children’s Academy in Aurora, Colorado. Pearson said she was stunned when her 4-year-old came home later in the day with the cookies untouched and a sternly worded note from the school.
Here’s the text of the note:
Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a healthy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation.
That’s chilling words:
We need everyone’s participation.
Schools aren’t the final arbiter of what children eat. If health departments want to address childhood obesity, that’s one thing. It’s another when the government tells parents what to do.
Pearson said she is baffled by how the school handled the situation. “I think it is definitely over the top, especially because they told her she can’t eat what is in her lunch,” Pearson told ABC News. “They should have at least allowed to eat her food and contacted me to explain the policy and tell me not to pack them again.”
Officials at the Children’s Academy said they have no comment when contacted by ABC News. However, Patty Moon, a spokeswoman for the Aurora Public Schools, which provides funding for some of the children to attend the private pre-school, said a note in the lunchbox is not supposed to be standard practice. “From our end we want to inform parents but never want it to be anything punitive,” Moon said.
Moon’s statement is BS. The note sent home wasn’t hand-written. It was pre-printed. The school’s intentions are exceptionally clear. It’s clear that the school wants to dictate policy to parents. It’s time to pull the plug on this school.
Parents should decide what their children eat. Nanny staters shouldn’t have a say in the matter. Period.
What Difference Does A Million Here And A Million There Make When You Don’t Have That Million?
by Silence Dogood
Last October, heads turned when it was publically revealed that SCSU had a projected $9,542,000 deficit for FY15. This was especially disconcerting when the previous March, a budget projection said that the FY14 budget was balanced. A question that has never been answered by the administration is how you can go from a balanced budget in FY14 to a deficit of $9,542,000 the following year—without, of course, there being a cataclysmic event? I am just wondering if I missed something?
President Potter, at a town hall meeting on the budget in the fall, stated that the deficit for FY14 was $708,000 and that $700,000 of the deficit was due to increased costs for heating during the previous winter. At Meet and Confer in March, the administration released their latest budget projections showing the FY16 budget being cut by just over $9,000,000. A portion of the budget document is reproduced below:
The document also showed for FY16 the loss of 76 FYE faculty positions and 50 staff positions. Additionally, the document showed that the deficit for FY15 is projected to be $10,284,000, which is $742,000 or 7.8% larger than the deficit projected last October. Another surprise showed up in the document; the FY14 deficit was $11,840,000, which is quite a bit larger than the $708,000 cited by President Potter last fall.
A portion of the Meeting Notes of the Portfolio Management & Resource Allocation Steering Group meeting of April 8, 2015 is reproduced below:
According to this document, the expenses for FY16 are going to be reduced by $12 million. There are many things that I have been happily ignorant of at SCSU. However, I think that I have closely followed SCSU’s budget/enrollment situation. This is the first time that I have heard that the cuts for the FY16 budget have been increased from $9,000,0000 to $12,000,000. When you are dealing with such large numbers, what’s another $3,000,000? Unfortunately, an increase of $3,000,000 is an increase in the planned reduction by an additional 33%!
When the narrative for the SCSU’s Financial Recovery Plan was submitted, the FY16 deficit was reported as between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000. The precise size of the projected FY16 deficit will change over time as new information becomes available. When the Financial Recovery Plan was presented, it was understood that the administration wasn’t going to try to eliminate all of the deficit in one year because it would be attempting to cut too much at one time.
Five years ago, the administration cut $14,500,000 from the budget and enrollment declined 6.9%, 5.3%, 5.1%, and 5.0% in the four years following the cuts. It was not surprising that the administration was only planning on cutting $9,000,000 when the deficit was between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000. Now it appears that the ‘decision makers’ have decided to increase the amount of cuts from $9,000,000 to $12,000,000.
Why is this important? The original budget cut of $9,075,000 projected the loss of 76 FYE faculty positions and 50 staff positions. Now with the budget cut increasing to $12,000,000, this may translate into the loss of an additional 25 FYE faculty positions and an additional 16 staff positions. This will affect lots of people. It’s a big deal!
The administration’s budget information, which was released as part of SCSU’s Financial Recovery Plan that was submitted to MnSCU (reproduced above), shows that even with a cut of $9,075,000 in expenses, there is still a projected deficit of $679,000 in FY16. The latest budget document that has been circulated projects a deficit of $12,378,000 for FY16. Apparently, the FY16 deficit has increased from $9,754,000 ($9,075,000 + $679,000) to $12,378,000, which represents an increase of $2,624,000 and corresponds to an increase of 26.9%. Concomitantly, the cuts have increased from $9,000,000 to $12,000,000. Unfortunately, the lack of communication and lack of transparency continues, on the part of the administration, as it appears that this increase in the deficit and the increase of the amounts of cuts have not been widely disseminated across the campus. (Budget cuts corresponding to $12,268,000 were revealed by Vice President of Finance and Administration Tammy McGee at the Budget Advisory Group meeting on April 24, 2015).
It has often been heard around the campus that the cuts will amount to a reduction of only 5%. The problem is the budget documents show that SCSU’s General Fund projects a deficit of $12,268,000 on a General Fund Revenue Total of $144,421,000. As a percentage, the deficit is 8.5%, which is considerably larger than the 5%. Additionally, since there are a number of fixed costs that cannot be cut and must be paid. Bond payments must be made, buildings need to be heated and lighted, water needs to come out of the faucets and contracts must be honored. Deciding to not pay the electric bill is probably not a successful long-term strategy. Because fixed costs and contractual costs can’t be cut easily, the cuts in other places will necessarily be larger and more in the range of 10%.
Almost everyone on campus knows that the budget axe is going to fall and it’s not going to be pretty when it hits. A review of the unit plans for budget reduction uniformly predict dire consequences if 10% reductions occur. It is also known by almost everyone that you can’t cut $12,000,000 (or $9,000,000 for that matter) and not at the same time cut programs and services that are generating revenue, which is clearly in conflict with the fourth bullet point of the Principles/Assumptions. However, the assumptions document, as written, appears to prevent cutting money loosing revenue generators (i.e., some activities generate $0.27 of revenue for every dollar expended). What needs to occur is an increase in the margin between revenue and expense for the campus as a whole. A focus only on revenue leaves a false impression that revenue needs to be preserved, however, increasing revenue production that costs more to produce than the revenue generated results in larger deficits not smaller deficits.
Anything that reduces revenue simply ‘kicks the can down the road’ because it will increase the deficit and will lead to additional cuts in subsequent years. Unfortunately, class sizes can’t simply be increased enough to overcome SCSU’s structural deficit.
Several weeks ago, Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker announced that the University of Wisconsin system would have to absorb a budget cut of $300,000,000. That very day, the President of the University of Wisconsin system, in response Walker’s announcement, stated that all out of state travel would be suspended. Recently, the Faculty Association distributed a document listing the administrative travel at SCSU, which is reproduced below:
The information shows that the administration paid $1,600,718 for travel in FY12, increasing to 1,902,706 in FY13 and increasing again to 2,089,731 in FY14. It is important to know that this data does not include faculty travel because it is not paid for from the general fund budget. The data for FY15 is not complete but it would be a safe bet that the total is going to be in the same range or higher than in FY14. The Faculty Association had asked for the travel expenses broken down by individual to see who is travelling at university expense, along with the reason for the travel, and just how much it is actually costing. The document received from the administration gives the travel expenses in such a way that it is not possible to see how much President Potter and others have spent on frequent trips out of the country. Clearly, some out of state travel has the potential to increase enrollment and revenue. However, not all travel has an equal potential for revenue enhancement. In fact, it is entirely possible that enrollment may go up but still lead to a negative return on investment.
It does not need a banner hung over University Avenue to know that enrollment at SCSU has been declining. Enrollment for FY12, FY13, and FY14 correspond to enrollment declines of 6.9%, 6.4%, and 5.1%, respectively. From the data from the administration, it is clear that the enrollment decline is decreasing as the administration spends more money on travel. Let’s look at the data in a more quantitative way.
The enrollment decline at SCSU is plotted in the following figure:
The linear regression line is shown. Using the equation for the linear regression line, it is possible to calculate when the percent enrollment decline will eventually reduce to 0%, which means that the enrollment is no longer declining. The calculation yields that the enrollment decline will reach 0% during fiscal year 2020 (2019.8).
The following figure shows the amount spent on travel by the administration that came from the operational budget:
The linear regression line is shown. Using the equation for the linear regression line, it is possible to calculate what the administrative spending on travel will be for each year through fiscal year 2020. The results are shown in the following table:
The data shows that if the administration expends $15,433,000 on travel during the next five years, the enrollment decline will be reduced to 0%. If even more money is spent on travel, presumably the enrollment will turn around sooner!
I hope that anyone with even any knowledge of university finances will recognize that this argument about travel expenses and enrollment decline is not really serious. However, what is serious is that SCSU has to cut the budget for FY16 by over $12,000,000.
Genius idea. Let’s stop all administrative travel unless it is directly related to increasing enrollment that will result in a net gain in revenue. In this way, essentially all travel will literally fund itself. This strategy may save SCSU over $2,000,000 per year and it will probably result in increased enrollment. At a time when the budget is being cut by $12,000,000, a ‘painless’ $2,000,000 savings would almost seem like a ‘Christmas miracle.’ At this time, SCSU needs one.
Enrollment Good News (Except For The Data Analytics Workgroup)!
by Silence Dogood
On February 16, 2015, Associate Vice President and Associate Provost Lisa H. Foss sent an email entitled: “FYE enrollment projections information.” A table from the email is reproduced below.
Clearly, the data shows a projected decline for FY16 of 3.3%. As part of the 3.3% decline, the summer enrollment was projected to be down 59 FYE corresponding to a decline of 6.4%.
As of today, the Day-to-Day FYE Enrollment Comparison shows the following:
From this data, the first table shows that summer enrollment is currently ahead of last year’s enrollment by 33 FYE. The second table shows that the projection for summer enrollment is 957 FYE. From the summary table of the enrollment projections, the summer enrollment projection was 859 FYE. Now, at 957 FYE, the projection is 98 FYE or 11.4% higher. The third table also shows that the current projection of 957 is 39 FYE or 4.3% ahead of the final number for summer 2015. This is all good news!
February 15, 2015 the projection for summer was for being down 6.4%. Now, on April 15, 2015, after summer enrollment has occurred, the projection for summer shows an increase of 4.3%. From being down 6.4% to being up 4.3% corresponds to a differential of 10.7%. Anyone now want to talk about the accuracy of the enrollment projections of the Data Analytics Workgroup? Of course, IT IS a lot easier to make projections after registration has occurred.
If you look at the third table, the overall projection for FY16 now calls for only a drop of 1.0%. If the projections for fall and spring are off by as much as the projections were off for the summer, does SCSU really still have a budget problem?
President Potter: Necessary Fact Checks!
by Silence Dogood
On April 20, 2015, President Earl Potter sat for an interview with Jim Maurice on AM 1240 WJON.
According to the article President Potter makes a number of statements that need to be fact checked.
“St. Cloud State University is also hoping a three-year plan to add new programs, and close others, can help aid reverse a three-year trend of declining enrollment.” Earl Potter III WJON interview April 20, 2015
According to the website of the Office of Strategy, Planning and Effectiveness the following enrollment plot is shown.
The plot clearly shows a decline in FY11, FY12, FY13 and FY14. On February 16, 2015, Associate Vice President and Associate Provost Lisa H. Foss sent an email entitled: “FYE enrollment projections information.” A table from the email is reproduced below.
FY 15 is not yet through but the table shows that enrollment will be down 5.0%. So if enrollment was down in FY11, FY12, FY13, FY14 and FY15, isn’t this a five-year enrollment decline? So what “three-year decline” is President Potter referring to when he hopes for a reversal in SCSU’s prospects? In the five-year period since FY10, FYE enrollment at SCSU has declined by 21.8% and according to his data analytics group, enrollment is predicted to decline for another 6 years. If his group is right SCSU is at least 6 years away from possibly turning the corner on enrollment decline.
Declining enrollment not responded to has resulted in deficit spending at SCSU and here is what Potter told WJON:
“Potter says they’ve trimmed the budget by $4 million this year, and they’ll need to make another $10 million in cuts next year.” Earl Potter III WJON interview April 20, 2015
Let’s check the second part of the statement first (that “they’ll need to make another $10 million in cuts next year.”) A portion of the Meeting Notes of the Portfolio Management & Resource Allocation Steering Group meeting of April 8, 2015 is reproduced below.
This document clearly states that the FY16 cuts are going to be $12 million. I guess while President Potter was on his three-week international excursion he wasn’t keeping up with the activities on campus as well as he thought he would. Or perhaps he has new information that the cuts will only be $10 million. If this is indeed the case, he probably would have stated that he originally thought he needed to cut $12 million but found out that he only needed to cut $10 million. Unfortunately, it is more likely that the cut really needs to be $12 million and he either misspoke or is ‘out of the loop’. Let’s hope it’s the former and not the latter.
On Thursday, April 23, 2015, Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee provided documents at the Budget Advisory Group meeting that list the projected deficit for FY16 as $12,268,000.
Now the first part of the statement also needs to be checked (“Potter says they’ve trimmed the budget by $4 million this year).” According to budget documents released on Thursday, April 23, 2015, by Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee at the Budget Advisory Group meeting, SCSU has not actually cut $4 million but rather only $2,827,000. As a result, $1,173,000 still needs to be cut to get to the $4 million target and that will still mean SCSU will have spend $5.5 million more than it takes in revenue this year.
Given that there are less than three months left in the fiscal year and that it is not possible to cut personnel contracts, it is going to be very tough to come up with another $1.2 million without causing significant harm. It is also important to understand that if the cuts are one-time cuts, it will simply kick the can down the road and increase the amount that needs to be cut from the FY16 budget. Further VP McGee reported that reserves which should be, by MnSCU policy, $10.5 million will have been drawn to $1.5 million—even if the additional cuts are achieved. As a result, in order to replenish the reserves to 10.5 million the cuts would need to be greater than 21 million
“Declining enrollment has been common at public universities across the state and country since the end of the great recession.” Earl Potter III WJON interview April 20, 2015
I’m not going to challenge the enrollment across the country part of this statement but the following Figure shows MnSCU data for FYE enrollments from FY2003 through FY2014 (the actual final numbers), plus as of last fall each university’s own predictions for enrollment for FY2015, FY2016 and FY2017.
Only two universities in the MnSCU system could be labeled as being “in decline” and they are Minnesota State University—Moorhead and SCSU. From FY10 to the prediction for FY17, Moorhead’s decline of 1,072 FYE represents a decline of 15.9%. For the same time period, SCSU’s decline of 3,871 FYE represents a decline of 25.3%! It is also interesting to note that Moorhead actually predicts an enrollment ‘bottom’ for FY16 followed in FY17 by an increase of 96 FYE. On the other hand, SCSU’s prediction for FY17 continues the enrollment slide from FY16 losing an additional 195 FYE.
“The President of St. Cloud State University says they’ve turned a corner after years of declining enrollment.”
President Potter cites that new student admissions and new entering transfers are up for next fall. Additionally, he cites that “our returning students are up as well.” Unfortunately, his highly praised Data Analytics Workgroup on February 15, 2015 predicted FY16 enrollment would be down 3.3%. As a result, even if the new student admissions and transfer admissions are up, the prediction is that the enrollment will still be down. Decreasing the enrollment decline from 5.0% to 3.3% is a good thing. However, it is important to recognize that the enrollment is still declining. A 3.3% decline is going to lead to a loss in tuition revenue and ultimately the enrollment loss will lead to a lower state appropriation.
So the question is exactly what ‘corner’ has been turned? The Data Analytics Workgroup projections for FY17 was a decline of 1.7%, FY18 was a decline of 0.9% FY 19 was a decline of 0.5%, FY20 was a decline of 0.3% and FY21 of 0.2%. While the rate of decline is projected to decrease, has a corner really been ‘turned’ if the enrollment is projected to decline for the next six years?
“If SCSU can start growing enrollment again, Potter is hoping to be back to a positive budget by 2017.” Earl Potter III WJON interview April 20, 2015
Unfortunately, even if all of the cuts are made and enrollment declines follow the projections, for FY16 SCSU will still have spent all but 1.5 million of its reserve. If SCSU has to rebuild the reserve to 10.5 million (as required by MnSCU), the budget for FY17 will have to be cut by 10.5 million, enrollment will have to grow significantly without increasing expenses in order to generate excess revenue to expenses, or a combination of the two for SCSU to be restored to fiscal health.
If President Potter’s excuses: “part-time students,” “demographics,” “that shock of coming out of the recession,” and the “decline in the number of high-school graduates” have any basis in fact, it is hard to believe that SCSU will be able to “turn the corner.” More likely, we’ll just hear another excuse and more misstatement of fact.
Check out the opening paragraph of the St. Cloud Times Our View editorial:
St. Cloud has acquired a jewel of a park — in need of refurbishing.
The City of St. Cloud didn’t “acquire” George Friedrich Park. They fleeced SCSU President Potter when they talked him into swapping a beautifully wooded 50-acre plot even up for 5 acres of land that can’t be developed. The St. Cloud Times said that a) the Friedrich Park land is worth $328,000 and that the land just south of the National Hockey Center is worth $294,000. According to my calculator, that means the barren wasteland south of the Hockey Center is worth $58,800/acre and that the beautifully wooded Friedrich Park is worth $6,560/acre.
Does anyone seriously think that barren wasteland is worth 9 times more per acre than a beautifully wooded lot?
At least the Times took time to indict President Potter’s mishandling of the Park:
Improvements to Friedrich Park have been talked about for years. The land swap resulted from a collaboration between Kleis and St. Cloud State University President Earl H. Potter III. Kleis has added an important chapter to his legacy. His knowledge of the history of the community and the park is exceptional. But to his credit, he turned the knowledge into action.
Let’s assume for this discussion that acquiring Friedrich Park adds “an important chapter to” Kleis’ legacy. Wouldn’t it be equally true that refurbishing and restoring Friedrich Park would’ve added to President Potter’s legacy? The same lessons about St. Cloud’s history would still be there.
It’s true, though, that the Friedrich Park fleecing will be part of President Potter’s legacy. It’ll rank right up there with his lease with the Wedum Foundation, his hiring the Earthbound Media Group to rebrand the University’s image and his paying the City of St. Cloud to police their city.
Thus far, SCSU has lost $7,700,000 on the Wedum Foundation lease. Additionally, SCSU paid EMG more than $400,000 to rebrand the University. Since the time of the rebranding, enrollment has continued its decline and SCSU’s revenues have dried up. As for President Potter paying $720,000 for 3 years of policing, the injustice is that SCSU is paying for police officers that the City should’ve paid for.
Adding Friedrich Park to those financial disasters just makes President Potter’s ‘legacy’ one of financial foolishness.
Karie Petrie’s article about St. Cloud’s newest park contains a statement that made me laugh:
Mike and Theresa Erickson live next door to Albers and share her concerns about parking. They also wonder how the city will patrol the park. Kleis says officers will patrol the park as they do other city parks.
That’s disappointing. Considering the fleecing that St. Cloud State got in past deals, President Potter should’ve agreed to pay for the officers who will patrol the park he just gave away. Seriously, President Potter is paying $240,000/year for 3 police officers who don’t patrol the SCSU campus.
The least he should do is pay for the police who will patrol the park he just traded away.
Let’s review. Monday night, the St. Cloud City Council voted to approve the land swap where the City of St. Cloud gave St. Cloud State several parcels of land that can’t be developed and that are pretty much useless in exchange for 50 acres of wooded property that once was home to a granite mining operation. Both properties need significant cleanup.
The difference is that the wooded property will be quite usable once it’s cleaned up whereas the empty parking lot and the old railroad right-of-way will still be pretty worthless. What essentially happened is that St. Cloud State traded a 50-acre beautifully wooded lot for a parking lot.
Considering the fact that SCSU a) mothballed 2 dorms in the last 2 years and b) built a parking ramp on campus right before the enrollment collapse, St. Cloud State doesn’t need another parking lot, especially one that’s way to the south of campus.
It’s possible that the thing that’s preventing President Potter from paying for the police patrols for the park is that SCSU’s running multi-million dollar deficits.
I don’t blame the City Council approving the deal. From St. Cloud’s standpoint, why wouldn’t they make this swap in a New York minute? The people I’ve criticized are President Potter, the MnSCU Board of Trustees and Dr. Rosenstone.
Apparently, the Trustees, Dr. Rosenstone and President Potter don’t care whether they’re getting fleeced, most likely because it isn’t their money that they’re flushing down the proverbial toilet.
Slick, Slick, Slick!
by Silence Dogood
The SCSU PR machine is good! SCSU got a very favorable article announcing a land swap between the City of St. Cloud and SCSU into the SCTimes on April 17, 2015. Fridays are always slow news days. In the news media, Fridays are often referred to as “take out the trash day.” On Monday, April 20, 2015, the St. Cloud City Council met and unanimously approved the swap. Based on my own review of the two properties, it is easy to see why the vote by the city council was quick and unanimous. On Tuesday, the MnSCU board of Trustees voted to approve the swap. Getting something approved in such short order without discussion or objection is about as rare as an appearance of Hailey’s Comet! It also doesn’t pass the “Smell Test.”
Someone has stated that the land swap was initially instigated by President Roy Saigo, who left SCSU in the summer of 2007. As a result, it has been argued that the land swap can hardly be described as something that was ‘rushed.’ I beg to differ. Since you can’t prove a negative, simply provide documentation showing that it was discussed publically any time within the last five years. Personally, I don’t believe such documentation exists but I am willing to be convinced. However, I’m going to adopt the Missouri model—”Show Me.”
In my opinion, this land swap continues the administration’s practice of what can only be charitably called ‘back room’ dealing. The contract between SCSU and the City of St. Cloud for the hiring of three City of St. Cloud police officers back in July 2013 comes to mind. Essentially, SCSU is paying the City of St. Cloud $240,000 per year for the City of St. Cloud to assign three police officers to patrol the vicinity of the SCSU campus. In many ways it almost seems as if SCSU is paying for protection. Unfortunately, the worst part is that the deal was announced AFTER the contract had already been signed. Once again, if it was such an important and worthwhile endeavor, why was it done in secret? Again, if someone can provide documentation where the police officer contract was discussed in a public forum or at Meet and Confer, it would help dispel the transparency question. Private conversations between President Earl Potter and Mayor Dave Kleis don’t really count as public discussion—despite the fact that they may have taken place in public!
Another example of decisions being made behind the scenes and then an announcement informing people of an accomplishment happened during the summer of 2013. The administration signed a contract with the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTWI) to perform a “Trust Survey” of the faculty and staff at SCSU and never consulted outside of the inner circle of Potter confidants. Whether or not the GPTWI was the best choice to perform the survey or whether or not the survey should be conducted at all was never presented to the faculty for consideration. The administration simply announced that a contract had been signed.
The GPTWI Survey questions were to be answered in terms of both the employee’s “Workgroup” and “Organization.”
Workgroup: “refers to all people in your immediate unit or department. Management of your work group refers to your immediate supervisor. (Note: if you are the supervisor of your workgroup, then Management refers to yourself.)”
Organization: “refers to the University as a whole. Management of the organization refers to the senior level members of the administration, including the President, Provost, and vice presidents.”
The results of the survey listed below refer to the management of the organization, which means the President, Provost, and vice presidents. The results are grouped into several areas with SCSU results in blue and bench marks in red.
Communication shows up as an issue for SCSU. A score of 31 compares to a GPTW value of 83 for “Management keeps me informed.” What’s even more telling is the question about management shares information openly and transparently because this is one of the key phrases from President Potter’s administration that they are “open and transparent.” A score of 20 indicates that there is a big difference between saying that you are open and transparent and actually being open and transparent.
Scoring just better than one-third of the GPTW value of 90, with a 32 on “Management is competent” is not a ringing endorsement of the current leadership. Less than one-third believe the “Management has a clear view (a value of 25 compared to the GPTW value of 85).
Even the consultant from the GPTWI in their report highlighted: “The absence of a strong relationship with leadership, limited communication and challenging financial times all contribute to employees questioning leadership’s effectiveness.”
The consultant from the GPTWI in their report highlighted: “Employees request even greater opportunity to be heard, with specific mentions around Participatory Decision Making.” The average scores under 30 in this category clearly indicate that people feel unable to influence the course of the university.
The last category on listening shows that there is a significant disconnect between the people rowing the boat and the captain of the ship. Clearly, President Potter, despite his efforts, since the release of the results of the survey, to attend “listening sessions” apparently still believes that it is not important to actually listen and in the case of the land swap not to even consider asking for input from the campus community.
In the fourteen months since the release of the results from the GPTWI survey, has anything changed regarding the campus culture to encourage people at all levels to give input into decisions? Apparently not! It simply seems as if the input from faculty and staff remains a very low priority and this is directly evident when decisions are made and the results announced. Given the current climate at SCSU, does anyone really think President Potter’s administration is going to get it right when in comes to slashing over $12,000,000 from the budget for FY16? Stop laughing—the administration did get a score of 32 on the question of being competent, one of SCSU administration’s highest scores, but that did not compare favorably to the average score employees working at the actual great places to work (GPTW value of 90) gave their bosses. Come to think of it, it is better to laugh than to cry.
Until recently, Rep. Gene Pelowski, (DFL-Winona), had a reputation of being a reformer of higher education systems. That reputation has slipped mightily in the last 3 years. I wrote this post to highlight how disengaged he’s been on higher education:
Chairman Pelowski hasn’t held a single hearing looking into any of these disgraceful events. Examining the minutes for the House Higher Ed Committee’s meetings shows that Chairman Pelowski didn’t devote a single minute on oversight. Chairman Pelowski didn’t ask Clarence Hightower where negotiations were at between the Board and Chancellor Rosenstone. He didn’t ask the MnSCU Board about contract negotiations between MnSCU and the IFO.
Rep. Pelowski’s inattention to detail is only surpassed by his willingness to insist on just throwing more money at the problem without providing proper oversight. Here’s something from his latest e-letter:
Rep. Gene Pelowski, the minority lead on the committee, issued the following statement after the vote:
“With a projected budget surplus of $1.9 billion, now isn’t the time to burden our college students with more debt. If enacted, the House Republican’s bill would lead to increased tuition for Minnesota’s students and more debt. Making higher education more accessible and affordable is part of Minnesota’s economic success that produced the $1.9 billion surplus.”
Again, Rep. Pelowski hasn’t demonstrated an attitude towards making sure MnSCU spends the taxpayers’ money wisely. Rep. Pelowski’s attention is solely focused on funding.
KEY QUESTION: Why isn’t Rep. Pelowski interested in efficiency?
Here’s what’s heartbreaking. Throwing good money into a dysfunctional system incentivizes corrupt officials to continue misspending money on unimportant initiatives. Nothing about that sounds right to a sane person. While I’m picking on Rep. Pelowski in this post, the truth is that other legislators have the same attitude.
In 2007, when higher ed funding was increased by $296,000,000, Sen. Sandy Pappas complained that we were “starving higher education.” Despite that increase in funding, students still got hit with major tuition increases. That $296,000,000 increase, BTW, represented an 11% increase in funding.
The point is that MnSCU received a major funding increase but didn’t lift a finger to limit tuition increases. Parents got hit twice, once for a funding increase, then with a tuition increase. There’s nothing equitable about that. In fact, it’s a rip-off to parents. That’s before talking about students who had to take out student loans to pay for MnSCU’s fiscal insanity.
Surprise, Surprise; NOT!
by Silence Dogood
Monday evening the St. Cloud City Council unanimously approved a land swap brokered by Mayor Kleis between the city and SCSU’s President Earl H. Potter. Essentially, Mayor Kleis fleeced SCSU out of a 50-acre parcel of land on the East side of St. Cloud by swapping it for a couple of acres of what amounts to some pretty valueless property south of the St. Cloud campus.
What did the city get? A 50-acre parcel which is a natural area with several water-filled quarries. What did the city have to give up? The 66-foot wide right of way for a road that no longer exists, a small vacant lot, and a little-used and unneeded storage yard. Total acreage of the three city properties is less than a few acres.
Based on the ‘appraised’ values of the property, the city came out ahead by $34,000. However, based on the real value of the swapped properties, the city took President Potter and SCSU ‘to the cleaners.’ The deal needs to be approved by the MnSCU Board of Trustees before it becomes final. However, the Board also approved the lease between the Wedum Foundation and SCSU that has already cost the university $7,700,000 with the potential to cost the university another $6,000,000 over the next five years of the lease. So much for sanity prevailing.
The case for major reform of MnSCU seemingly gets stronger each week. Silence Dogood’s article about the latest financial crisis at St. Cloud State is an argument against MnSCU’s current structure. While the ‘highlight’ of the article is on President Potter’s getting taken to the cleaners by St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, the understory is MnSCU’s indifference towards President Potter’s mismanagement of SCSU’s finances.
Here’s the first question that MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone hasn’t answered: Why didn’t MnSCU, either through MnSCU’s Central Office, MnSCU’s Board of Trustees or through Dr. Rosenstone’s office directly, take quicker action to get SCSU’s finances in order?
OBSERVATION: Dr. Rosenstone, the MnSCU Central Office and MnSCU’s Board of Trustees have been portraits in lethargy, indifference and apathy. Simply put, they’ve drawn 6-figure salaries without being the taxpayers’ watchdog or without providing oversight of the system.
Here’s the next question that needs answering: Why did MnSCU hire a consultant to a $2,000,000 contracts for things that MnSCU employees should’ve been able to handle? Apparently, spending money that doesn’t need to be spent is a habit within MnSCU. This emphatically suggests that the culture within MnSCU needs changing. That won’t happen with this chancellor. He’s established his identity. Dr. Rosenstone had the chance to straighten MnSCU’s financial ship out. He failed. Dr. Rosenstone was officially installed in October, 2011.
ULTIMATE QUESTION: How many more multi-million dollar contracts will Dr. Rosenstone be allowed to sign before he’s terminated?
In 2013, the DFL legislature bragged about freezing tuition. While I’m sure students and parents appreciated that, I’m totally certain that this didn’t lower the cost of higher education. It just increased the subsidy needed to hide the cost of getting a degree.