The SCTimes: Community Watchdog?
by Silence Dogood

On February 22, 2015 John Bodette, in an article in the SCTimes entitled “Ethical principles guide our journalism,” listed the principles to which the SCTimes is committed. In part,

Serving the public interest

“We will be vigilant watchdogs of government and institutions that affect the public, fighting to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public.”

It sounds great, but does the SCTimes actually “walk the walk?” Last spring, the SCTimes was given a slide from a public presentation by the administration detailing SCSU’s losses for the first four years of operation of the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments.

In a subsequent public presentation last November, the administration reported the occupancy of Coborn’s Plaza by “Student Composition.”

When you total the numbers for each of the years you obtain the following figure:

NOTE: The capacity of Coborn’s Plaza Apartments is 453.

The numbers for FY15 are only 7 more than in FY13 (when SCSU lost $1,300,000) and 14 less than in FY14 (when it lost $1,200,000). Clearly, it looks like the University will lose close to another $1,300,000 in FY15. The number for FY15 is also 40 less than the occupancy projection of 364 last Spring as the occupancy percentage dropped to 71.5% from 74%.

Based on the contract with the Wedum Foundation, SCSU is stuck in a lease of the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments for an additional five years. The following table shows, as was described as “conservative” enrollment projections, the enrollment that SCSU has submitted to the MnSCU system office:

Clearly, with declining enrollments, it is unlikely to see an increase in the occupancy of the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments during the next five years. As a result, in the second five years of the minimum ten-year lease, SCSU is likely to lose at least (remember the lease agreement calls for a 2% increase in SCSU’s cost each year) an additional $6,500,000 on top of the $7,700,000 lost in the first five years. In ten years, SCSU will have lost a staggering $14,200,000.

The question to be asked of the SCTimes: Is the loss of $7,700,000 in the first five years of operation of the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments with the potential of a loss totaling $14,200,000 over ten years something that would be of interest to the St. Cloud community? Apparently not, because information about SCSU’s losses on the Coborn’s Plaza Apartments has yet to make it into print in the SCTimes. A somewhat related question: Just how much would SCSU have to lose before the community watchdog determines that this is newsworthy? The answer will be known, if and when the SCTimes watchdogs smell all that money being burned in and on empty dorms.

I’m not holding my breath.

One Response to “Where’s the SCTimes?”

  • Mystique says:

    In an interview with the Times editorial board last year, Potter said that Coborn’s Apartments was “a success” even though it lost $6.4 million since it opened in 2010.

    How the editorial board didn’t break down with laughter or even crack a smile is one of life’s most profound mysteries. It gets better. In this ON YOUR SIDE article, David Unze’s Watchdog Team also consists of two other Times reporters. “They want to put their collective experience to work for you.” Doesn’t the buck stop with the captain of the ship? Perhaps it’s time for the Times Publisher to let the watchdogs off their leashes? For now, it should be: ON PRESIDENT POTTER’S SIDE.

    In yet another article, this Watchdog said: “As the government and tax watchdog reporter, I’ll be keeping en eye on how your tax dollars are being spend and investigating examples of waste.” How about taking the nest step and actually REPORTING the waste? This part is brilliant:

    “I’ll be part of a three-member watchdog team that will dig deeper into community problems and bring you stories you won’t find anywhere else. We have more than 50 years of collective experience in journalism, and we want to put that to work for you.”

    Bring us stories that won’t find anywhere else? What color is the sky in the Times’ world? Gary has written more in depth investigative stories in one week than the Times has in several years about SCSU, MnSCU and higher education waste.

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