This Strib editorial is a perfect illustration of wrongheaded editorial thinking:

It’s tough for legislators to resist the impulse to fix something they consider amiss in any part of state government. But when the part in question is the 54-campus Minnesota State Colleges and University (MnSCU) system at this juncture in its 20-year history, restraint is in order.

That’s what we would advise in the case of a pair of bills sponsored by GOP Sen. Jeremy Miller of Winona. Miller’s moves are well-intentioned. But if enacted, they would impose state law in matters customarily left to educators and governing boards and would do so just as MnSCU is restarting a strategic planning process that had been stalled by discord between the faculty and the system’s chancellor.

One of Miller’s bills would alter the selection of presidents at MnSCU’s 31 institutions to involve more control by a locally empaneled search committee and less by MnSCU’s chancellor, Steven Rosenstone. MnSCU’s existing process, which is not dictated by statute, involves considerable local consultation but gives Rosenstone latitude in shaping search committees. Campus presidents are ultimately appointed by MnSCU’s Board of Trustees.

The first structural problem of this editorial is that it thinks that MnSCU in needed. What proof do we have that MnSCU needs to exist? What proof do we have that MnSCU needs to exist in the way it currently exists? To answer those questions, it’s important to remember why MnSCU was created, then determine whether it’s lived up to its initial goals. Here’s the official history of MnSCU:

During the 1980s Minnesota legislators discussed various options for governing the state colleges and universities. In the 1991 session, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe introduced legislation to merge the seven state universities, 34 technical colleges and 21 community colleges under one board. Senator Moe suggested that the merger of these institutions would increase institutional accountability, improve student transfer, coordinate program delivery and improve facility planning. The general expectation was that the merger would not save money in the short term, but that efficiency and effectiveness would be increased over the long term.

Sen. Moe was terribly wrong in predicting that MnSCU “would increase institutional accountability.” By establishing a system where universities answer only to a chancellor stationed up to 200 miles away hasn’t worked out. Establishing a system where that chancellor reports to a board of political appointees essentially guarantees those appointees to be a rubberstamp for the chancellor.

That isn’t how accountability works. It’s how accountability is thwarted.

As for shaping search committees, why should the chancellor have virtually unlimited latitude in picking presidents without having to answer why his/her appointments haven’t worked? With 4 of the 7 universities submitting restoration plans, isn’t that proof that these presidents have failed? What price has Dr. Rosenstone paid for those decisions? Why haven’t the Trustees taken him to task for not monitoring those universities?

I’d argue that that’s proof that the trustees and the chancellor aren’t doing their job, which is further proof that they aren’t needed.

Doing nothing while MnSCU disintegrates is foolish. Doing nothing is a legitimate option if MnSCU was operating efficiently. MnSCU isn’t operating efficiently.

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