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MnSCU overhaul falters

Alex Friedrich 

The signs were long in coming.

After Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system Chancellor Steven Rosenstone unveiled a proposal in 2013 to revamp how the system would do business – a plan called Charting the Future – faculty representatives were uneasy.

They said the proposed reforms smelled of Soviet centralization and feared the plan would put too much power into the hands of the central office.

In June of this year, the statewide faculty union issued a list of complaints against Rosenstone, who they said had driven faculty morale to a new low through mismanagement and a show of disrespect toward professors.

We’re not on board. Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

In October, faculty began to bolt. Winona State University started a wave that led faculty at all seven state universities to hold votes of “no confidence” in Rosenstone’s leadership.

The system’s two statewide unions pulled out of the planning process. They said they didn’t have enough say in decision-making, and feared the plan would lead to “the McDonaldization of higher education.”

They expressed distrust in Rosenstone, citing revelations that the chancellor had quietly signed a contract extension the previous fall – a move that was never formally disclosed to the board – and had signed a $2 million contract with an overhaul consultant under the radar of faculty and students as well.

They rejected Rosenstone’s public offer of state mediation in November, saying it was a surprise announcment – and a political strong-arm tactic to get them to the table on his terms.

Rosenstone has said the reform process will continue. The unions still aren’t in mediation with him, but university faculty union President Jim Grabowska said faculty representatives have been in informal talks with several trustees about their concerns.