For years, SCSU’s failures have been visible for those willing to see what they actually saw. That required President Potter and then-Provost Malhotra to pretend that they didn’t see what they were seeing, at least when they talked with reporters or with the public. They don’t have a choice anymore. Facing a multi-million dollar deficit, SCSU finally has to admit that they aren’t right-sizing. SCSU has to admit that the school’s finances have been mishandled.

A frequent reader of LFR sent me a copy of a document that became public this morning. The Executive Summary portion of the report is particularly interesting. Here’s one of SCSU’s admissions:

First, rising enrollments during the recession masked inefficiencies and poor practices that were revealed as enrollments began to decline in the economic recovery. These practices included a failure to pursue market opportunities, inefficient scheduling and faculty assignment adjustments, elective offerings beyond what was required, and ineffective program review process that did not encourage innovation in our academic programs.

TRANSLATION: SCSU didn’t identify “inefficiencies” or make recommendations that would strengthen the University. Instead, SCSU hired consultants that recommended papering over SCSU’s inefficiencies with an expensive rebranding effort.

During SCSU’s rebranding effort, LFR was accused of hurting SCSU’s image:

Even more concerning, they found that negative perceptions from many outsiders who control the “blogosphere” are not grounded in reality. In their language, we have a “brand gap”, a gap between perception and reality.

LFR relied on verified information from credible sources on campus. The things I reported, like the transcript fraud scandal or the enrollment decline, were later written about by so-called real journalists at MPR and the St. Cloud Times. LFR was the first media outlet that reported on ISELF’s empty rooms, a story that KSTP found compelling enough to assign Tom Hauser to.

SCSU’s problem wasn’t that there was a gap between my reporting and reality. SCSU’s problem was that there was a huge gap between President Potter’s spin and reality. Now that SCSU’s finances are in the crapper, SCSU is (grudgingly) admitting that they’ve made lots of major mistakes.

This sentence shouldn’t be overlooked:

Secondly, leadership transitions during the last three years made it difficult to maintain focus on essential changes.

While morale on campus dropped precipitously, key administrators left the sinking ship. There’s no polite way of putting this. Even if there was, it shouldn’t be sugarcoated. These administrators were hand-picked by President Potter. If administrators left, it’s because President Potter either made poor choices or the administrators left because of the poor morale on campus.

Either way, it’s a challenge of President Potter’s own making.

This chart is somewhat deceptive:

Compare the FYE enrollment drop in that table with this chart:

In the chart published by SCSU, FYE enrollment is down 15%. That’s because it’s based on FY2009’s FYE enrollment. The chart put together by Silence Dogood highlights the FYE enrollment by fiscal year. SCSU’s high in terms of FYE enrollment was in FY2010. Since then, FYE enrollment at SCSU has dropped by 18%, not 15%.

It’s sad that President Potter can’t resist being dishonest with enrollment.

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2 Responses to “SCSU admits failure, Part I”

  • Rex Newman says:

    In business, too, there is a tendency to get “sloppy” when sales are good, focused on top line growth. But when business levels off and profits drop, business then corrects, re-examining the cost structure top to bottom.

    It strikes me that public institutions like SCSU with a historically stable franchise seldom enter that second world of cost reduction and process improvement. So in a way, this downturn – whether Administration’s fault or not – can be a good, overdue thing for SCSU.

    From your articles here, as supported by public documents and occasionally other media, it’s pretty clear that Mr. Potter is not and will never be part of the solution. Replacing him won’t work if Mr. Rosenstone simply hires another of his ilk, however, so I further conclude that given the MNSCU-wide dissatisfaction with him, he has to go as well.

    But such firings do no real good unless the mood and focus in St. Paul changes. Until it does, at a minimum meaning then Governor Smith loses re-election in 2018, we need to keep turning over the rocks to find what else has been going wrong the past 20 years or so.

  • Crimson Trace says:

    Well said, Rex. A voice of reason. A major systemic change is badly needed. Rosenstone has been so busy charting the future to the detriment of overseeing the day to day operations at SCSU.

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