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Do You Believe In The Easter Bunny?
by Silence Dogood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is SCSU A Great Place To Work?
by Silence Dogood

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

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

Then it was rescheduled:

Then it was rescheduled again:

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

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

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

The Policy of Mean!
by Silence Dogood

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

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

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

Here’s how one employee put it:

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

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

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

Later in the lengthy email it stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!
by Silence Dogood

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

The email clearly states:

Additionally, this is included:

Here’s the appropriate reaction to those quotes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is the Ship Sinking?
by Silence Dogood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is an old adage about experience:

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

What SCSU Needs: A Beer Major!
by Silence Dogood

According to an MPR article on April 24, 2016, “an Illinois university has a new accredited degree in fermentation science to train future brewers, distillers and vintners.”

According to the article, “We know this is a growth industry and our students will be well prepared to gain employment in this field.” As a result of enrollment declines and the concomitant budget deficits, SCSU’s President Potter is beating the bushes to grow enrollment by creating new programs. With an on-campus FYE enrollment decline from FY2010 through FY2016 of 24.5%, rushing to create new majors to attract students seems a bit like an act of desperation. However, in this case, a ‘beer major’ fits in well with the university’s decision to sell beer at hockey games “to enrich the student experience.” In fact, with the explosive growth in micro-breweries, the potential for a “Husky Brew” to enhance the SCSU brand is obvious. SCSU could be the first MnSCU university with its own brew! Think of all the free publicity you could get for that! After Colorado legalized consumption of pot, applications at the University of Colorado at Boulder increased by 30,000 applicants in the first year. So considering the recent enrollment declines this seems like a natural decision for SCSU.

The MPR article ends with the statement: “a 74,000 square-foot, geo-thermal building called the McLafferty Annex Collaborative Research Facility on the campus’s west side will be home to the program.” Another plus would be that a ‘beer major’ would fit in well with the intended purpose of the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility (ISELF) and in even a cursory walk around the ISELF building it is clear that there is plenty of space available to house it. As a result, SCSU already has available building space for the program saving millions in building costs.

A Beer major would be a natural tie in to Husky Hockey beer sales with the potential for additional revenue coming from eliminating the middleman. All that would be necessary is to simply run a line from the ISELF building to the Brooks Center and voila, Husky Brew on tap! And you can’t say it wouldn’t be popular—I’m sure there would be all kinds of interest!

If there’s a message that comes through loud and clear in this op-ed, it’s that Mike Vekich, the current chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, and Dr. Rosenstone, the current chancellor or MnSCU, think MnSCU is underfunded.

That message came through when they said “Our supplemental budget request of $21 million will protect critical programs and the people who deliver those programs on all our campuses, people like faculty and tutors, academic and financial aid advisers, career and mental health counselors.”

It’s disgusting that MnSCU is asking for additional funding, especially in light of the fact that MnSCU was just criticized for spending $617,000 on Dr. Rosenstone’s rebranding initiative. I noted in this post that Brandon Johnson and Gloria Kaul-Kennedy, students within the MnSCU system, openly mocked the rebranding initiative. Ms. Kaul-Kennedy said “The money could be well spent on many other things. The name change will mean nothing to 99.99 percent of the people. Don’t the administrators have other things to spend their expensive time on?” Johnson said “It cost $272,000 for someone to come up with a name they got from a ‘Coach’ rerun?”

That was before it was known that MnSCU had spent another $345,000 on the rebranding effort. That wouldn’t be the final cost of the initiative, though. It’s important this quote from Silence Dogood’s article:

However, the costs are not going to end at $617,000. New signage, stationary, documents, websites, etc. will be needed. Clearly, this will not occur without an additional cost.

Silence is right. Signage, stationery and other documents don’t come free of charge. The simple truth is that MnSCU would be properly funded if MnSCU administrators didn’t spend money this foolishly. The truth is that MnSCU couldn’t spend that money foolishly if the MnSCU Board of Trustees hadn’t just rubberstamped Dr. Rosenstone’s spending requests.

If the MnSCU Board of Trustees won’t pay attention to these things, then they’re utterly worthless. They might as well be disbanded.

Finally, students have noticed that MnSCU isn’t run well. Universities are laying off professors. Morale is sinking. Minnesota is experiencing a brain drain competition, which it’s losing.

Rather than rebranding MnSCU, perhaps Gov. Dayton should consider fixing the problem by hiring competent people to run things.

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The Enrollment Numbers Are Actually Worse Than They Appear!
by Silence Dogood

The enrollment declines at SCSU are stunning:

Even with the slight uptick of 9 FYE in FY2016, the decline still amounts to a drop in enrollment of 21.1%. If the data were calculated based on the enrollment in FY2010, the decline is even greater since the enrollment in FY2011 was 15,096 FYE.

Of course, there is a lot of hand wringing by the administration and blaming the recession, the subsequent recovery, part-time students, changing demographics and when that doesn’t work simply saying that everybody’s declining. I guess there is comfort in drowning if everyone is drowning? Unfortunately, by avoiding taking responsibility for drowning, no one looks to see if drowning was avoidable in the first place.

The overall FYE enrollment is a compilation of a lot of different sources: on campus students, traditional PSEO students, concurrent enrollment students, online students and graduate students.

The number of FYE generated by concurrent enrollment students (i.e., high school students who get college credit for their high school classes) from FY11 through FY16 is shown in the figure below:

Growing from 428 FYE in FY2011 to 620 FYE in FY2016 is a growth of 44.9% in a five-year period!

The data for concurrent enrollment is easy to find. Unfortunately, the number of traditional PSEO students (i.e., high school students who take college classes at a college campus) is not as easy. However, after some digging, the FYE data for traditional PSEO students is shown in the figure below:

Growing from 185 FYE in FY2011 to 272 FYE in FY2016 is a growth of an even more amazing 47.0% in a five-year period.

If you were to add the number of FYE generated by Concurrent Enrollment and Traditional On Campus PSEO, the following plot is obtained:

The growth from 613 FYE in FY2011 to 892 in FY2016 represents a growth of 45.5%. As a result, with a decline in overall FYE enrollment, and the growth in the Concurrent and Traditional On Campus PSEO enrollment, high school students are making up an ever-increasing percentage of the SCSU’s enrollment:

In just five years, the percentage of the total FYE enrollment has grown by an amazing 82.9%! When coupled with the declining enrollment, the number of available ‘traditional’ students has declined from 14,363 FYE in FY2011 to 10,968 FYE in FY2016, which corresponds to a decline of 23.6%. If the data were included for FY2010 to FY2016, the decline would increase to approximately 24.5%!

This means that in six years, the number of non high school students that are living on campus, in the surrounding community or commuting to SCSU has declined by nearly 25%! The effect of this decline on the university and the surrounding community is enormous. In 2009, the occupancy rate in the dorms was at 96%. By reducing the number of on campus students by 25% makes for a lot of empty dorms. The problem is only exacerbated by increasing capacity by adding 453 rooms in the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments. Now it should be easy to figure out why they are planning on demolishing W.W. Holes Hall, which might be the first of several dorms to be taken down.

If 25% of a population got sick, we’d call it an epidemic. If 25% of a population lost their job, we’d call it a depression. Why is there no reaction when 25% of a student population disappears over the course of six years? One thing is certain. The loss of these students has significantly affected the financial health of SCSU.

From reserves that were more than ten million to essentially zero in a few short years. A Composite Financial Index that is negative, and another round of budget cuts totaling more that 10 million dollars, indicates that SCSU is not where it wants to be. Unfortunately, even last week at a town hall budget meeting no details were given other than the administration says they are expecting an increase in some revenues so that the cuts would have to total somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million dollars. Ten weeks from the beginning of the next fiscal year and there is no plan. At least not one that can be revealed to the public. For an administration that prides itself on being open and transparent, this doesn’t seem very transparent.

One needs to look back to a few weeks ago when all of the members of SCSU’s sports programs were summoned to a meeting at which time the closing of six sports was announced. None of the coaches were asked ahead of time how they could reduce expenses. The cuts were simply announced from the top down. I’m assuming that soon after the spring semester ends, the cuts for the rest of the university will be announced. Clearly, the administration’s strategy is to make the announcement AFTER most people have left campus. Some people will be happy, some will be sad. Others will be left scratching their heads wondering and feeling a sense of powerlessness. Plan on the morale on campus taking another hit.

When the Ship is Sinking, Rebrand!
by Silence Dogood

Unless you live under a rock, you know that MnSCU is experiencing significant financial difficulties. Declining enrollments and poor expenditure decisions have combined to place MnSCU at risk. In fact, the situation is so dire that MnSCU made a desperate request to the Minnesota Legislature for 21 million in supplemental funding to MnSCU’s base budget and two weeks ago appeared before legislative committees to justify their request.

One week after appearing before the Minnesota Legislature, the Associated Press, in an article in the St. Clout Times on April 20, 2016, reported that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (i.e., MnSCU) is changing its name and will be known henceforward as Minnesota State. Additionally, the logo for the system is changing. The new logo appears below:

In 2014, MnSCU paid PadillaCRT, a public relations firm, $272,000 to do some brand research. According an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on April 20, 2016, Chancellor Steven Rosenstone is quoted as saying that “brand research has found the MnSCU name to be confusing.”

“Why do organizations rebrand in the first place? In a study of 165 cases of rebranding, Muzellec and Lambkin (2006) found that, whether a rebranding follows from corporate strategy (e.g., mergers and acquisitions) or constitutes the actual marketing strategy (change the corporate reputation), it aims at enhancing, regaining, transferring, and/or recreating the corporate brand equity.” (Wikipedia)

What is the brand equity of a University or University System? An obvious answer is the power of the brand to attract students and impact enrollment in a positive manner.” The following figure shows the total FYE enrollment in the MnSCU system from FY2003 to FY2016:

Enrollment at MnSCU institutions has grown for most of its’ existence with the decline in enrollment happening after Steve Rosenstone’s appointment as Chancellor of the system. It appears that Chancellor Rosenstone’s solution to declining enrollment is a marketing campaign to make MnSCU look good rather than actually be good.

We’ll likely never know where Chancellor Rosenstone got the idea for rebranding. However, it is possible and even likely that he got the idea from one of his biggest supporters: President Potter at St. Cloud State University. In 2011, SCSU, President Potter decided to spend nearly half a million dollars to rebrand SCSU. SCSU’s enrollment peaked in 2010. To combat the decline, in 2011 he fired the Vice President for Enrollment Management and decided to enhance the university through a new logo and start a rebranding campaign.

The exact amount from the original contracts and extensions with Earthbound Media Group is $459,045.75. The original contract was signed 5/9/11, and there were three amendments.
A portion of the contract with EMG and SCSU is shown below:

For the MnSCU system, the original $272,00 was spent just to say you should spend more. As a result, an additional $345,000 contract was signed to help roll out the change. To date, it appears that at least $617,000 has been spent to ‘rebrand’ MnSCU. However, the costs are not going to end at $617,000. New signage, stationary, documents, websites, etc. will be needed. Clearly, this will not occur without an additional cost.

In early April of this year, the Chancellor announced his decision to retire in 2017 and just barely a few weeks later has decided the rebranding will go forward with the new name and logo. According to an article in the April 19, 2016 St. Paul Pioneer Press, Trustee Bob Hoffman “called the name change and logo change a solution in search of a problem.” So at least one Trustee thinks that the rebranding campaign is a waste of money (especially when nineteen of the MnSCU institutions are experiencing financial difficulties resulting in the development of financial recovery plans).

However, not all of the MnSCU trustees, excuse me, Minnesota State trustees, think this rebranding effort is a waste of money. Enough is enough! Any member of the Board of Trustees (whether MnSCU or MS)who voted to approve the funding for the rebranding should resign. The Chancellor should also resign.

Spending money on new names and logos does not really solve any of the problems facing the state university system. The MnSCU system has financial reserves but without solving the underlying enrollment and expenditure problems, it seems like spending money on rebranding is much like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We all know how well that turned out!

Hold the presses. After several articles were posted on the university email system about the rebranding, SCSU’s University Communication posted the following:

As a result, in an effort to stop the laughter over spending more than half a million dollars on rebranding, they announce that it isn’t really a done deal. I don’t really know which is dumber, spending the money on rebranding and then doing it or spending the money and not doing it. It is hard to believe that these people are actually running a 1.5 billion dollar organization. A portion of the FY2016 budget page is reproduced below:

If someone were to try to explain this all to me I think I would just laugh at them in disbelief. However, these are facts. I just can’t wait and see what the next fourteen months with Chancellor Rosenstone at the helm will bring. With the apparent lack of oversight by the Board of Trustees, I’m expecting the future will generate more examples that demonstrate additional examples of incompetence.