I wrote here about how President Potter is equally adept at ignoring MnSCU procedures as he is in ignoring SCSU procedures. This post dovetails with that post because it highlights with documentation that President Potter ignored MnSCU procedure in closing the Aviation program. In this morning’s post, I higlighted MnSCU’s procedure for closing programs:

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.

It’s clear that MnSCU procedure 3.36.1 requires that the university document 9 specific things.

In the program closeout document used by SCSU officials under “Evidence Required” it clearly states that “Consortial programs require verification (below) by all member institutions” above the signature lines. The aviation program had a consortial agreement with Metro State among others. From the form itself, it is a stretch to believe that Lisa Foss, Devinder Malhotra, and Earl Potter simply forgot to obtain the required verification by all member institutions.

Failure to complete required documentation is foolish. What’s far worse is for a MnSCU administrator to whitewash the matter. A faithful reader provided further evidence the procedures were ignored specifically #7 which addresses the consultation with appropriate constituent groups. In the fall of 2010 after Dean David DeGroote announced the aviation program would close during the university’s reorganizational process, there was an open session on campus run by Provost Devinder Malhotra for university employees to ask questions and provide feedback. Reports indicated there were at least 200 employees present. At the open forum, Aviation Professor Jeff Johnson publicly asked Malhotra in an open mic session if there were any plans for the university to have public hearings beyond the university walls. He gave specific examples of public hearings in the community with business leaders, chamber of commerce members, and the public at large. Johnson explained that closing academic programs can have an impact on the community. Malhotra said no to Johnson’s question. Almost a year later, when MnSCU was pressed for information regarding SCSU’s public hearings by the Dayton Administration, this October 2011 letter from Governor Dayton’s office actually lists the names of the community constituent groups who were “consulted” by Potter’s administration.

The faithful reader noted that all of the external constituents named in this letter (minus Mayor Dave Kleis and administrator Michael Williams) were industry friends of the aviation program who were asked by the aviation department chair to meet with university officials in order to convince them of the importance of the aviation program. Two of the five members were also on the SCSU aviation advisory board. A year earlier, Malhotra said there was not going to be any external public hearings. Governor Dayton’s letter stated this:

“The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system works to provide its students with the programs that are in the highest demand. In conjunction with deepening budget constraints, the elimination of programs that may not have high employment demand is an unfortunate cost of the current budget situation.”

Last March, Rep. Paul Marquart (Chair of the House Education Finance Committee), along with Rep. Zach Dorholt, had a town hall meeting with St. Cloud area citizens. The presentation was titled, “Putting our Kids on the Path to the World’s Best Workforce.” One handout quoted MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. Here’s what Rosenstone said:

Can Minnesota produce the world’s best workforce? Not only can we do it Minnesota absolutely must do it. Producing the world’s best workforce is a state imperative. What’s at stake is nothing less than economic vitality of our state and the quality of life of all Minnesotans.

Gov. Dayton and Chancellor Rosenstone, when was there a high employment demand for graduates requiring a SCSU professor to be paid to run a weed infested community garden? When was there a demand for high end off campus student housing that loses over $1 million dollars per year? How do you justify killing a viable accredited aviation program with a strong industry demand that had over 170 students when SCSU’s enrollments are plummeting?

According to this article, Dayton was specifically mentioned as a player for successfully getting Pinnacle Airlines to move their headquarters to Minnesota. Pinnacle airlines is still doing quite a bit of hiring. Apparently, President Potter’s agenda is clearly not in alignment with the Governor’s and Chancellor’s workforce initiatives.

There are 3 things to keep in mind. First, Provost Malhotra announced that the University wouldn’t consult with transportation experts, business leaders or industry experts. That’s important because MnSCU requires it. Not only does MnSCU require it but it requires these consultations be documented.

Second, 4 of the 5 people listed in Gov. Dayton’s letter as having been consulted by President Potter, Provost Malhotra and Dean DeGroote vehemently opposed closing the Aviation program. Mike Landy passionately opposed closing the program.

Third, when President Potter decided to close the Aviation program, he ignored the opinions of aviation industry experts, instead choosing to close a program he once called one of the best in the nation.

In short, this administration was secretive, unwilling to listen to industry experts, then packaged a bunch of things together to make it look like they followed MnSCU procedures. What could possibly go wrong?

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