The opening paragraph of President Potter’s report on SCSU’s difficulties was clearly written by someone with few writing skills. Here’s that opening paragraph:

Executive Summary
The circumstances that have created the situation from which St. Cloud State University (SCSU) must create a “workout” or “recovery” plan constitute a “perfect storm,” i.e., many forces converging at one point to create a “mega-event” of unusual size. 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. SCSU had reorganized the entire academic division between 2009 and 2011. Attention was focused on implementing new structures and developing the culture that would align with strategic priorities. Thus, new initiatives were limited. This meant that the University was poorly positioned to respond quickly to declining enrollments with new directions and, significantly, did not have the foundations for strategic cost reductions in place. Secondly, leadership transitions during the last three years made it difficult to maintain focus on essential changes. Thirdly, SCSU’s student population includes more part-time students than many of its peers and their percentage is increasing. These students are more vulnerable to economic ups and downs and are significantly more likely to not return or to stop in and out on their path to a degree. Finally, the University has been making cost reductions for the last eight years in order to deal with external financial limitations and to support reallocation to create student success systems necessitated by a student body with increasingly complex needs.

The fact that the opening paragraph was written by someone with virtually no writing skills isn’t the paragraph’s biggest problem. President Potter’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for the fiasco SCSU finds itself in isn’t just disturbing. It’s highly disappointing.

When President Potter took over at SCSU, enrollment was increasing. A system was in place to keep enrollment increasing or, at minimum, stable. Rather than keeping those things in place, President Potter chose to virtually dismantle systems that were working well. Instead, President Potter decided implementing his vision for the University was his highest priority.

It wasn’t a “perfect storm” that put SCSU into the vicious cycle it’s still in. It was President Potter’s foolish decisions that put SCSU into the downward path that it’s still experiencing. It’s shameful that President Potter couldn’t admit that. Unfortunately for SCSU, that’s just how SCSU’s difficulties started.

One of the wisest men I ever knew once said that “Stupidity is what gets us in trouble. Pride is what keeps us there.” That time-tested axiom fits President Potter’s crisis perfectly. Rather than returning to what worked, President Potter started making more foolish decisions.

One of the foolish decisions President Potter made was signing a lease with the J.A. Wedum Foundation. That lease has cost SCSU over $7,700,000 from its general fund since that apartment building opened. SCSU’s declining enrollment cost SCSU approximately $31,000,000 in tuition revenues. Meanwhile, President Potter’s contract with the Wedum Foundation cost SCSU another $7,700,000.

Faced with a growing crisis, President Potter didn’t focus on basics. Instead, President Potter decided that the University just needed rebranding. When President Potter signed the contract with Earthbound Media Group, little did he know that that initiative would cost SCSU almost $500,000. When EMG finished their work, SCSU was still heading in the wrong direction. The biggest difference from before and after was that SCSU was $500,000 light in the checkbook after the project.

Rather than accepting the fact that high-priced spin wasn’t the solution, President Potter tripled down on the spin. This time, he signed a contract with the Great Place to Work Institute, which cost SCSU another $50,000.

Add these things together and you’ve got nearly $40,000,000 either spent foolishly in less than 5 years or revenues that weren’t realized that should’ve been. The bottom line is that President Potter’s decisions have cost SCSU tens of millions of dollars.

It wasn’t a perfect storm that hit SCSU. President Potter’s foolish financial decisions hit SCSU. That isn’t a fancy way of putting things. It’s just the unvarnished truth.

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One Response to “SCSU admits failure, Part II”

  • Patrick-M says:

    We must not forget that President Potter’s arrogance led him to a) cut a unique, revenue-producing program (Aviation) and b) refuse to reconsider that decision because he didn’t want to appear “weak” (his words). Just like two NFL coaches said after losing the big games – ‘I made the right call’. Now is the time for Potter, Rosenstone, Maholtra and DeGroote to be shown the door. Unfortunately, the taxpayers of Minnesota are on the hook for their continued salaries and their walk-away pay. Higher Ed and politics are two places where one can work and not be subject to any (or very little) accountability for your actions.

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