Over the past 18 months, I’ve written about the different stories President Potter has used to rationalize his shutting down the Aviation Department. Thanks to a new website, (Check it out here.) we now have President Potter in his own words on video. Here is President Potter in his own contradictory words:

According to President Potter’s Convocation Address in August, 2007, President Potter remarked how the Aviation program had positioned itself on the “national radar” with its unique on-site labs at Twin Cities corporate flight departments. By December, 2010, President Potter had changed his opinion of SCSU’s Aviation program:

POTTER: Accreditors had noted the deficiency of the curriculum and, for two years, no progress was made.”

That statement is especially noteworthy because the AABI accreditors didn’t get to the SCSU Aviation Program offices until July, 2009. Their report wasn’t issued until August, 2009. That means only 16 months lapsed between AABI’s report and President Potter’s statement.

Anyone who’s been in management knows that something as dramatic as closing a major department knows the closing will be documented 9 ways to Sunday. They’ll dot their I’s and cross their T’s. If AABI had noted the deficiency of the curriculum, they wouldn’t be off by more than half a year. They would’ve cited it in months, days and hours.

When you’re in management, documenting things like that is vitally important because of the litigious society we live in.

I made a Data Practices Act Request for all e-communications between AABI and either President Potter, Provost Devinder Malhotra or Dean DeGroote. I didn’t see any emails from AABI, the accrediting organization, to President Potter, Provost Malhotra or Dean DeGroote that criticized the curriculum.

There certainly wasn’t a string of emails between AABI and President Potter, Provost Malhotra or Dean DeGroote saying that the curriculum wasn’t improving.

Adding to President Potter’s credibility difficulties is President Potter’s quote in the Star Tribune:

We have very fine students in a strong program that we can no longer afford.

That quote was published in a May 26,2011 article by Tony Kennedy. The trail of contradictory statements doesn’t stop there. On August 15, 2011, President Potter spoke at a St. Cloud City Council study session. Here’s what he said then:

It was not a judgment that it was a poor program; it was a successful program.

A pattern has emerged, a pattern that shows President Potter saying mostly positive things about the Aviation program in public but negative things about the program when speaking to a campus audience.

President Potter can’t have it both ways. He can’t claim that those statements don’t contradict each other.

The First Amendment protects President Potter’s right to say these things. It doesn’t protect his credibility, however. That’s only protected by President Potter consistently telling the truth.

If President Potter continues to tell one thing to one group of people and another thing to other groups of people, President Potter’s credibility will be irreparably damaged.

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9 Responses to “The Aviation Gospel according to President Potter”

  • eric z says:

    Flip flopping like that he could work on Romney’s campaign.

    Does SCSU have the problem the TC campus has, the old boys at the top with their hand out for handouts?

    When I see tuition rising through the ceiling and student loan burdens non-dischargeable, and then slush funding at the top among role model folks, it galls.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Eric, Hop on into this. Yes, there’s alot of good-old-boy-gladhanding happening. I’ve been told by U of M students about buildings built on the U of M campus with the equivalent of general fund money.

    It wasn’t that these buildings were important to improving student achievement. Several were built, I’m told, as Taj Majals to remember insignificant administrators. These administrators think that the buildings are part of their legacies. Meanwhile, tuitions keep rising, students accumulate excessive amounts of student loan debt. That doesn’t sound like living the American Dream to me.

    That’s corruption by most people’s standards, though not by these administrators’ standards. I’ve always said that “there’s no such thing as acceptable corruption.”

    We might disagree on the definition of corruption but if we see it, we report it.

  • Patrick Mattson says:

    The SCSU ISELF building fits into the category of feeding the current administrators’ legacies – $45 million plus $14.5-million Wick addition and the $13.6-million renovation of Brown Hall. In 5 years brick and mortar will not be as relevant and the administrators will be long retired. $73.1 million dollars and my educated guess is they will not be fully utilized.

  • Jethro says:

    GAME OVER! If you are good, you may be able to defend a record of flip flopping on 2 or maybe 3 issues. However, the video clearly showed Potter flip flopping on 8 or 9 issues. What reasonable defense could any person in the same position use to overcome that many issues in a plausible defense? “I am sorry…I have been undergoing an intensive, regimented therapeutic program for my meth addiction so I wasn’t thinking clearly for the last several years.”

  • Gary Gross says:

    Jethro, I couldn’t agree more. What’s more galling is that President Potter was supposed to follow a procedure mandated by the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Procedure 3.36.1 Subpart B to be precise:

    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.

    President Potter didn’t document any of those mandated things. When it was reported to MnSCU, Larry Litecky, who’s now conveniently retired, said that President Potter had met the criteria to their satisfaction. This wasn’t based on any objective criteria. It was based on Litecky’s willingness to bail President Potter out.

  • Jethro says:

    Does anyone think there are any “common themes” when it comes to the problems that are swirling across the SCSU campus like a hurricane?


    Dr. Saffari’s response: There is an assistant vice president for university marketing and communication who is principally responsible for developing marketing plans/initiatives. For the second time, the administration continues to spend significantly to hire external consultants to do what that office must be able to achieve, a practice that is becoming more common at SCSU. The hiring of California Earthbound Marketing Firm (one of several recently hired consultants, costing the university about $500,000) is just an example, especially during tough budget cuts and scarce resources.

    Do you get the impression that Dr. Saffari, former Associate VP of Enrollment Management, started asking too many tough questions of the SCSU administrators? Spending close to the tune of a cool half-million dollars for an out of state marketing firm got what kind of results for the taxpayers?

  • Gary Gross says:

    Jethro, I don’t think the Saffari firing was racist but I think it’s quite possible he was terminated because President Potter doesn’t like getting questioned.

    IMO, President Potter’s decisionmaking stinks. What type of university president ends a program that’s training pilots at a time when experts are predicting a worldwide pilot shortage for each of the next 15-20 years?

    What type of university president keeps open a Masters Degree program in Social Responsibility that helps graduates become (get this) government workers & community organizers?

    Is that the right priorities? I don’t think so.

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