Other’s Opinion: MnSCU needs to work quickly to make plan work

Published 8:32 am Friday, October 31, 2014

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and key leaders of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system need to quickly convince a growing number of faculty members to rejoin MnSCU’s ambitious “Charting the Future” plan.

The plan, more than two years in the making, is at a critical juncture. Two faculty unions last week voted to withdraw from the statewide effort, and faculty senates at Winona State University and St. Cloud State University issued votes of “no confidence” in Rosenstone.

Charting the Future is MnSCU administration’s vision of how to improve efficiencies and control costs of the entire MnSCU system mainly through more collaboration.

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Knowing MnSCU has 430,000 students, 54 campuses and a large administrative network, it’s reasonable to question whether the system’s operating model is sustainable for the long term without major reforms. And that’s clearly a driving force behind Charting the Future.

However, to develop and apply potential solutions to such a broad system simply cannot be done effectively without faculty support, which appears to be eroding.

In addition, Rosenstone and Charting the Future supporters have made a big deal about how “5,000 students, faculty and staff” have contributed to the plan so far. Plus, proponents continue to state they want input to help shape details.

To be true to those words means convincing faculty members to rejoin the effort.

The good news is initial statements from the two unions indicated their withdrawal is more about frustration with the process than rejecting recommendations.

News reports noted union leaders believe outcomes were predetermined. They also wanted more representation and possibly more power moving forward. Finally, they are upset with limited transparency, most evident in a $2 million contract Rosenstone signed with a consulting company that initially volunteered to help.

Unfortunately, Rosenstone has yet to indicate he is willing to talk about these issues in an effort to get these faculty unions and senates re-engaged in Charting the Future.

MnSCU issued a statement after Wednesday’s St. Cloud State vote that said it was “disappointed that the faculty union leaders are employing this tactic to further their goal of stopping the critical conversations that make up Charting the Future.” In response to early votes, supporters said Charting the Future would move forward by continuing to meet with faculty, students and staff.

Again, there is merit in Charting the Future’s goals. However, a system as large as MnSCU will never reach them when key players such as faculty are not engaged. It’s the chancellor’s job to bring them back.

— St. Cloud Times