Rosenstone to retire as MnSCU chancellor in 2017

Tenure has been marked by clashes with faculty. 

By Maura Lerner Star Tribune APRIL 9, 2016

After five sometimes rocky years as chancellor, Steven Rosenstone announced Friday that he will retire as head of the Minnesota’s largest network of public colleges and universities when his current contract ends in July 2017.

Rosenstone, who will be 66 when he steps down, has led the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system since 2011.

During that time, he has been a lightning rod for criticism from faculty and other unions, which have clashed with him repeatedly over his leadership style and decisions.

Since taking office, Rosenstone has led an ambitious, and sometimes controversial, campaign to modernize and streamline programs throughout the sprawling MnSCU system, which has nearly 400,000 students in seven state universities and 24 two-year colleges. Many of the schools have struggled with dropping enrollment and financial challenges; last fall, Rosenstone created a task force to explore what he called the system’s “long-term financial sustainability.”

Michael Vekich, chair of MnSCU’s board of trustees, issued a statement saying: “Chancellor Rosenstone is a visionary leader who understands the staggering complexity and the thousands of moving parts in a large system of higher education like ours. He has led us through the setting of a new strategic direction that has inspired people on every campus to become collaborative leaders. Through it all, he has kept his focus — and the focus of our colleges and universities — on one goal: ensuring access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans.”
Rosenstone’s signature plan to reform the campuses, called Charting the Future, prompted a backlash from faculty members who felt they were being cut out of the planning process, and culminated in a series of no-confidence votes against him in 2014.

In 2015, Gov. Mark Dayton threatened to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the system unless the two sides ended their feud. Shortly after, administrators and faculty leaders agreed to set aside their differences and work together, giving faculty and students a bigger say in the planning process.

“Chancellor Rosenstone has served the Minnesota State College and University System with great distinction,” Dayton said in a statement Friday. “I thank him for his leadership and for helping to chart a new future for our public colleges and university system.”

Rosenstone’s latest clash with faculty erupted just last month, when he approved a new rule allowing college officials to examine employees’ privately owned cellphones for a wide range of business reasons. The move triggered a formal protest from leaders of seven employee unions and prompted a state Senate committee to call for a moratorium on the rule, which took effect on April 1.

On Friday, Jim Grabowska, president of the union representing university faculty, issued a brief statement saying: “With the announcement today, the Inter Faculty Organization looks forward to being part of discussions on the future of the MnSCU system. We thank Chancellor Rosenstone for his service.”
Before joining MnSCU, Rosenstone spent 15 years at the University of Minnesota, where he served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts and later vice president for scholarly and cultural affairs. He also was a political-science professor at Yale University and the University of Michigan.