Thus far, Chancellor Steve Rosenstone has said all the right things about what MnSCU. Not to be disrespectful to Chancellor Rosenstone, but I’m taking the Reagan approach to missile defense: trust but verify. That seems the prudent thing to do considering the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
That’s why I’m still skeptical after reading this article. Chancellor Rosenstone should be told to prove himself after making this statement:

“The solutions are not going to come from the new chancellor or shooting off lightning bolts from the Wells Fargo building in downtown St. Paul,” he said, referring to where the MnSCU offices are located. MnSCU presidents should be empowered and be held responsible for their decisions, he said, and he supports incentives to achieve that.

If Chancellor Rosenstone is serious about holding university presidents accountable, he should tell President Potter to re-open the reorganization process that kept an expensive Masters Degree program in Social Responsibility open while shutting down the Aviation program.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s set aside the fact that the Masters Degree program in Social Responsibility is multiple times more expensive than the Aviation.

Instead, let’s look at Minnesota ‘gets’ in terms of economic development from Social Responsibility vs. what Minnesota gets from Aviation graduates in terms of economic development, national security, airport and airline management and public safety.

Just on that comparison alone, this isn’t a fair fight.
There’s more to this issue, though, than just examining the comparitive worth of these programs. In shutting down the Aviation program, President Potter ignored this MnSCU policy:

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.

First, shouldn’t Chancellor Rosenstone insist that President Potter immediately make public the documentation that shows there isn’t a need for the Aviation program?

Second, has President Potter documented what impact his decision will have on the faculty and staff of the Aviation program? What proof is there that that was a major consideration for him? There surely wasn’t much compassion in his voice when he criticized the program in December, 2010. In fact, his speech that day was more of a scold than anything else.

Third, Chancellor Rosenstone should demand that President Potter produce documentation proving President Potter met with faculty, students and the community, as demanded by MnSCU procedure. If Chancellor Rosenstone doesn’t demand that, it’ll tell university presidents that a) they’re bigger than MnSCU and b) they can do whatever they want without his oversight.

That’s a terrible message to send at the start of an administration. The message it sends is that the chancellor is a rubberstamp. I can’t imagine that that’s the signal Chancellor Rosenstone wants to send at the start of his administration.

The proverbial ball is in Chancellor Rosenstone’s court. He can send the message that universities are accountable to their communities or he can signal that he’s a rubberstamp for university presidents.

Rest assured that I’ll be watching to see which direction he takes.

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