This Strib editorial rightly criticizes the MnSCU Board of Trustees for their negotiating Dr. Rosenstone’s contract extension:

The 15 public appointees who oversee MnSCU, the state’s crucial network of state universities and community and technical colleges, have serious work ahead of them to put the trust back in the board of trustees on which they serve. It’s disappointing how difficult it is to tell if this reality has sunk in after the recent troubling news that the board renewed its well-paid chancellor’s contract eight months ago, and gave him a healthy raise, without bothering to take a vote on the deal or make the details public.

These trustees have their heads buried so deep in the sand that it’s impossible to think that they realize their credibility is on a par with the IRS. The legislature should void Dr. Rosenstone’s contract and demand that it be more in line with his accomplishments, not the Board’s childish gushings in their evaluation of Dr. Rosenstone’s performance. That would require legislative leadership, something Rep. Pelowski isn’t famous for. Mostly, he’s known for criticizing things after-the-fact.

That Rosenstone’s contract had been settled quietly, and with a bump in salary and expenses that made up for the administrative bonuses banned by state lawmakers, understandably raised ire statewide.

Outgoing Board Chairman Hightower negotiated a luxurious deal with Rosenstone, especially considering his history of failures. Let’s remember that he didn’t notice the payroll scandal at Metropolitan State until after the entire HR Department resigned right before they would’ve been fired. Let’s remember that Chancellor Rosenstone didn’t intervene when President Richard Davenport improperly fire Mankato head football coach Todd Hoffner.

Chairman Pelowski hasn’t held a single hearing looking into any of these disgraceful events. Examining the minutes for the House Higher Ed Committee’s meetings shows that Chairman Pelowski didn’t devote a single minute on oversight. Chairman Pelowski didn’t ask Clarence Hightower where negotiations were at between the Board and Chancellor Rosenstone. He didn’t ask the MnSCU Board about contract negotiations between MnSCU and the IFO.

To be fair, 2 of the 4 hearings that Chairman Pelowski held dealt with the U of M’s and MnSCU’s bonding proposals.

Trustees are there to provide oversight on behalf of the public. It’s hard to see how they lived up to their responsibilities by failing to follow up with board chairman Clarence Hightower after delegating to him negotiation duties with Rosenstone. Incredibly, some of the trustees apparently weren’t aware of the terms until this week. That reflects poorly not just on Hightower, but on everyone serving.

I’ve written many times that MnSCU doesn’t do oversight. It’s common knowledge that Chancellor Rosenstone discourages Trustees from visiting the campuses. The trustees haven’t fought him on that nor have they defied him on that. They aren’t watchdogs. They’re more like Rosenstone’s lap puppies:

Hightower also did not help himself or the board by dubbing the lack of transparency “an unfortunate oversight,” a “distraction” and a “lapse in communication.” These characterizations trivialize a lack of judgment and raise concerns about the board’s broader oversight.

While the Strib is critical of Hightower and the MnSCU Board, they aren’t critical of Rep. Pelowski or Sen. Bonoff:

Pelowski and Bonoff have vowed to follow up on the questions raised by the poor handling of the contract. Good. Clearly the board charged with assessing Rosenstone’s performance is in need of a job review itself.

If an unpaid board is charged with representing Minnesota’s taxpayers, then paid legislators on the higher education committees should represent Minnesota’s taxpayers, too. Apparently, they’re too busy spending the taxpayers’ money to be bothered with finding out whether that money is being wisely spent.

I’m totally on board with criticizing the MnSCU Board of Trustees. It’s been repeatedly proven that they haven’t done their job. It’s just that the Strib’s criticism shouldn’t stop at the board. The Strib should’ve also criticized Rep. Pelowski and Sen. Bonoff. They’ve let the taxpayers down, too.

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