I’ve written frequently about St. Cloud State President Earl Potter’s decision to shut down their Aviation Department. That said, this has never been just about shutting down SCSU’s Aviation Department. I’ve made it exceptionally clear that it’s also about reforming MnSCU and increasing accountability to the communities the universities serve. This weekend, while digging around MnSCU’s Education Policies page, I found this sub-page to be quite interesting:

1. Closure. Closure of an academic program must be approved by the chancellor. Approval will only be granted under the following circumstances:
The closure is requested by a system college or university, and the chancellor determines that the documentation provided supports closure,
The chancellor determines that closure is warranted, or
The academic program has not been reinstated following a suspension.

The academic program closure application must be documented by information, as applicable, regarding
1. academic program need,
2. student enrollment trends,
3. employment of graduates,
4. the financial circumstances affecting the academic program, system college or university,
5. the plan to accommodate students currently enrolled in the academic program,
6. impact on faculty and support staff,
7. consultation with appropriate constituent groups including students, faculty and community,
8. alternatives considered, and
9. other factors affecting academic program operation.

A closed academic program cannot be relocated, replicated or reinstated.

Based on what I’ve heard while attending airport commission hearings, SCSU didn’t consult with St. Cloud’s business community or with civic leaders. I’ve talked with several Aviation Department students, too, another affected group they didn’t talk with. From what I’ve been able to gather, the decision was pretty much done internally.

Beyond that, let’s look at the other items on the list. There’s soon to be a pilot shortage due to retirements at the airlines. These students wouldn’t be hired as airline pilots but they’d keep trained pilots in the pipeline gaining the experience they need.

That’s certainly an argument for keeping the Aviation program open.

This procedure says that student enrollment trends should be evaluated. Currently, Aviation is the tenth biggest major on SCSU’s campus.

Again, that’s another argument for keeping the Aviation program open.

Further, the procedure says that student employment rates should be considered. Again, using this criteria, this information strengthens the argument for keeping SCSU’s Aviation Department open.

Those things considered, the question that isn’t

From what I’ve seen in the organizational charts for MnSCU, accountability isn’t one of their specialties. Based on this chart, State University Presidents report to the MnSCU chancellor. In return, the MnSCU chancellor reports to the MnSCU board of trustees.

Noticeably missing from MnSCU’s organizational chart is how they’re accountable to their communities.

I don’t favor universities being micromanaged by legislators or communities second-guessing their every decision. Still, I’m troubled that communities don’t have significant input into their communities’ universities’ biggest decisions. That system doesn’t whisper accountability. Rather, it shouts unacountability.

In summary, it appears as though the proper steps weren’t taken in closing SCSU’s Aviation Department. If there’s a procedure in place dealing with that eventuality, then it’s important that that procedure is followed. It’s all the more important that it be followed because it’s filled with imperatives.

Let me repeat this because it’s important. That 9-point checklist isn’t a list of suggestions. It isn’t a list of recommendations. It’s a list of imperatives.

Finally, it’s important that it be followed because it’s the way that a university is accountable to the public and its students.

This procedure wasn’t followed. SCSU can’t include documentation on the academic program closure application a) proving that the Aviation department isn’t needed, b) that student enrollment trends are declining or c) that graduate employment rates aren’t declining.

Because SCSU can’t document those 3 important things, SCSU’s decision to close the Aviation Department should be voided ASAP.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Dotting the I’s, Crossing the T’s?”

  • Lee says:

    I’m an aviation student at St. Cloud. I couldn’t have put any of this into better perspective. Thank you for this article. The very last sentence of this article is my favorite, and is the single most stated thing in the aviation community here.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Thank you, Lee. That means alot to me coming from someone who’s living the life on the front lines of this fight.

Leave a Reply