Earlier this week, I wrote about how President Potter had gotten a bit unhinged. That time, it was his attempting to intimidate students. This afternoon, the minutes to the last Meet & Confer meeting were posted. This time, President Potter lost his temper with members of the faculty:
FA: It’s probably pointless for us to continue this but I don’t think that the enrollment decline was a monotonic decline. I don’t think that it would continue to decline to zero, that’s the implication I am saying that it was declining for five years. I think in fact they had a step function reduction in enrollment that had been stabilized.
Admin: I don’t believe that the assertion that the assumption was that it would decline to zero makes any sense and it certainly not what I would have made. I think that’s a straw horse that’s clearly provocative and it’s a stupid position to take and I won’t take that position. It was declining at a time when lots of other programs were growing; you cannot claim that the recession and 911 were the sole causes for that decline. Other programs grew. International programs grew. They could say people were scared to fly and that’s why they didn’t enroll in the program; I don’t believe that’s true. A decision was made, it was made through an inclusive, deliberate processes and I am going to stand on those. Not because I am the President and I made the decision, I will not overturn a process that was legitimate, well considered and I think in the end in the best interest of the University.
It’s pretty insulting for a university president to say that the faculty’s arguments are “stupid.” The faculty in that room each have PhDs. It’s one thing to say that you disagree with their argument. That’s how a statesman would’ve handled the situation. Instead, President Potter chose to insult members of his faculty. Rather than showing calm leadership, President Potter resorted to hurling insults.
That isn’t a portrait in statesmanship or leadership. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only time President Potter lost his temper at the March Meet & Confer meeting:
We cut the budget $20 million; we had to do that, if it were not that program that we closed it would be another several programs that we closed. The position has not changed and Mr. Johnson raised the question to the governor Monday night in a public forum; the governor said it’s a MnSCU decision I will not intervene. Professor Johnson takes the question regularly to the legislature, he has gone from people to General Larry Shellito to David Olson the chair of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, he’s been told no by every office to which he as gone. David Olson from the MN Chamber said he would not take action on just the most recent request. The case is put forward again and again. I want to be very careful and respectful of your good faith because I believe you are doing what you are required to do representing issues brought to you by the faculty. But I am deeply disturbed that students are employed in this ongoing campaign and given misinformation and put up before the public to represent a position they don’t understand. The program was referred to by Dr. Johnson as a viable program last Monday night. A program with declining enrollments that is losing $600,000 a year is not viable.
Focus on this statement:
I am deeply disturbed that students are employed in this ongoing campaign and given misinformation and put up before the public to represent a position they don’t understand.
The inference is clear. President Potter thinks Professor Johnson is willfully feeding his students misinformation, then telling them to use public forums to advance Professor Johnson’s agenda. What’s President Potter’s proof that substantiates his accusation?
Having attended quite a few public forums myself, I’ve met many of these students. They’re self-informed. They think for themselves. With them, the closing of the program is personal. They aren’t mind-numbed robots doing what they’ve been told to do by Professor Johnson.
They’re also the people that President Potter has repeatedly denigrated.
UPDATE: I just got an email from a faithful reader of this blog. This person participated in the meeting. According to this person, the minutes are a paraphrase. According to this person, President Potter said that Professor Johnson “colluded with” his students and given misinformation.
Saying that a professor had colluded with people is a provocative term for a university president to use, especially when that president doesn’t have proof backing up that allegation.