Slick, Slick, Slick!
by Silence Dogood

The SCSU PR machine is good! SCSU got a very favorable article announcing a land swap between the City of St. Cloud and SCSU into the SCTimes on April 17, 2015. Fridays are always slow news days. In the news media, Fridays are often referred to as “take out the trash day.” On Monday, April 20, 2015, the St. Cloud City Council met and unanimously approved the swap. Based on my own review of the two properties, it is easy to see why the vote by the city council was quick and unanimous. On Tuesday, the MnSCU board of Trustees voted to approve the swap. Getting something approved in such short order without discussion or objection is about as rare as an appearance of Hailey’s Comet! It also doesn’t pass the “Smell Test.”

Someone has stated that the land swap was initially instigated by President Roy Saigo, who left SCSU in the summer of 2007. As a result, it has been argued that the land swap can hardly be described as something that was ‘rushed.’ I beg to differ. Since you can’t prove a negative, simply provide documentation showing that it was discussed publically any time within the last five years. Personally, I don’t believe such documentation exists but I am willing to be convinced. However, I’m going to adopt the Missouri model—”Show Me.”

In my opinion, this land swap continues the administration’s practice of what can only be charitably called ‘back room’ dealing. The contract between SCSU and the City of St. Cloud for the hiring of three City of St. Cloud police officers back in July 2013 comes to mind. Essentially, SCSU is paying the City of St. Cloud $240,000 per year for the City of St. Cloud to assign three police officers to patrol the vicinity of the SCSU campus. In many ways it almost seems as if SCSU is paying for protection. Unfortunately, the worst part is that the deal was announced AFTER the contract had already been signed. Once again, if it was such an important and worthwhile endeavor, why was it done in secret? Again, if someone can provide documentation where the police officer contract was discussed in a public forum or at Meet and Confer, it would help dispel the transparency question. Private conversations between President Earl Potter and Mayor Dave Kleis don’t really count as public discussion—despite the fact that they may have taken place in public!

Another example of decisions being made behind the scenes and then an announcement informing people of an accomplishment happened during the summer of 2013. The administration signed a contract with the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTWI) to perform a “Trust Survey” of the faculty and staff at SCSU and never consulted outside of the inner circle of Potter confidants. Whether or not the GPTWI was the best choice to perform the survey or whether or not the survey should be conducted at all was never presented to the faculty for consideration. The administration simply announced that a contract had been signed.

The GPTWI Survey questions were to be answered in terms of both the employee’s “Workgroup” and “Organization.”

Workgroup: “refers to all people in your immediate unit or department. Management of your work group refers to your immediate supervisor. (Note: if you are the supervisor of your workgroup, then Management refers to yourself.)”

Organization: “refers to the University as a whole. Management of the organization refers to the senior level members of the administration, including the President, Provost, and vice presidents.”

The results of the survey listed below refer to the management of the organization, which means the President, Provost, and vice presidents. The results are grouped into several areas with SCSU results in blue and bench marks in red.

Communication shows up as an issue for SCSU. A score of 31 compares to a GPTW value of 83 for “Management keeps me informed.” What’s even more telling is the question about management shares information openly and transparently because this is one of the key phrases from President Potter’s administration that they are “open and transparent.” A score of 20 indicates that there is a big difference between saying that you are open and transparent and actually being open and transparent.

Scoring just better than one-third of the GPTW value of 90, with a 32 on “Management is competent” is not a ringing endorsement of the current leadership. Less than one-third believe the “Management has a clear view (a value of 25 compared to the GPTW value of 85).

Even the consultant from the GPTWI in their report highlighted: “The absence of a strong relationship with leadership, limited communication and challenging financial times all contribute to employees questioning leadership’s effectiveness.”

The consultant from the GPTWI in their report highlighted: “Employees request even greater opportunity to be heard, with specific mentions around Participatory Decision Making.” The average scores under 30 in this category clearly indicate that people feel unable to influence the course of the university.

The last category on listening shows that there is a significant disconnect between the people rowing the boat and the captain of the ship. Clearly, President Potter, despite his efforts, since the release of the results of the survey, to attend “listening sessions” apparently still believes that it is not important to actually listen and in the case of the land swap not to even consider asking for input from the campus community.

In the fourteen months since the release of the results from the GPTWI survey, has anything changed regarding the campus culture to encourage people at all levels to give input into decisions? Apparently not! It simply seems as if the input from faculty and staff remains a very low priority and this is directly evident when decisions are made and the results announced. Given the current climate at SCSU, does anyone really think President Potter’s administration is going to get it right when in comes to slashing over $12,000,000 from the budget for FY16? Stop laughing—the administration did get a score of 32 on the question of being competent, one of SCSU administration’s highest scores, but that did not compare favorably to the average score employees working at the actual great places to work (GPTW value of 90) gave their bosses. Come to think of it, it is better to laugh than to cry.

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