Rosenstone (Courtesy of MnSCU)

The two faculty unions at Minnesota’s state colleges and universities say they won’t take part anymore in a proposed overhaul of the system.

Union leaders, who voted for the pullout Thursday evening, say they know the system needs major changes to run more efficiently and improve education.

But they say they haven’t been given enough say in what’s to be done and how.

Jim Grabowska, president of the union for university faculty, says MnSCU leaders have stated publicly that they’re being inclusive – but haven’t been in meetings.

“We felt that we were being used in order to be able to make that statement,” he said, “that while we were at the table, we didn’t have the input, and our views were not being valued.”

The overhaul, known as Charting the Future, lays out sweeping changes to how the system does business. It got the green light from trustees last year.

Among other things, it calls on campuses to stop competing so much with each other for students, reassess the academic programs they offer, and be more systematic in how they accept prior credit and handle online information.

It called for so much coordination of campuses that faculty expressed fears it would lead to too much centralization of power in the system office.

For months they have publicly demanded more of a voice in the plan, and have remained dissatisfied with Chancellor Steven Rosenstone’s actions and behavior in that area.

Grabowska said Rosenstone and other top officials have shown hostility toward faculty and student proposals to include more nonadministrators in decision-making.

Grabowska (Courtesy of IFO)

He also said faculty have become suspicious of the hiring of a consulting firm to help on the plan.

The chancellor got into hot water earlier this year by signing a $2 million contract with McKinsey & Co. without telling faculty and students about it. Grabowska said that eroded faculty trust in the administration, and now they question whether the firm is playing an outsized role in the overhaul.

In a letter to employees and students before Thursday’s vote, Rosenstone wrote, “Change is hard, and is always accompanied by high emotion and complication. Without a doubt, some things could have been handled differently, and some handled better. I remain committed to doing my best to make sure all opinions are heard and all people are treated respectfully.”

Grabowska said faculty members still believe in the goals of the plan, and will come up with their own proposals on how to meet them.

He said campus officials tend to be open to faculty suggestions, and may likely integrate them into the official Charting the Future changes they end up carrying out.

A potential clash of proposals could be messy, but Grabowska said, “There’s nothing wrong with messy. It’s through open discussion … that the best ideas rise to the top.”

MnSCU Chief Communication Officer Kim Olson says officials have already received a lot of good suggestions for changes.

“We’re confident that we’ll be able to implement,” she said, “and progress will continue.”

In his message to employees and students, Rosenstone called the union walkoff “regrettable,” but said, “their seats will be there for them whenever they decide to return. “

Olson forwarded an unsigned letter indicating that campus presidents were voicing support for the overhaul.

She also sent an unpublished supportive commentary by Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Renier.

“Steven Rosenstone is a strong leader taking the sometimes difficult steps needed in this challenging environment,” he wrote. “We are proud of the effort contributed by him … and the 124 leaders of the Charting the Future effort.”

Faculty at state-run universities have long been grumbling over how the chancellor has been carrying out his plan to revamp the system.

The frustration appears to be coming to a head this evening with a vote on how — or whether — it wants to participate in the overhaul.

Officials at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system have forwarded to me a letter from Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, who appears to see a walk-out coming.

He acknowledges criticism of his management:

Without a doubt, some things could have been handled differently, and some handled better.

But he ends with:

While the heads of the unions may have made the regrettable decision to walk away from the table, their seats will be there for them whenever they decide to return.

Here’s the whole message:

 

To All Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Charting the Future is an unprecedented effort to engage students, faculty, staff, and all of our campuses in seeking creative solutions to significant threats to our future. The effort is nothing short of the most broadly consultative initiative in the history of the system, involving more than 5,000 students, faculty, and staff across the state. The effort seeks to deliver and ensure access to the highest value, most affordable and extraordinary education for our students and communities. Unfortunately, we have heard rumors that the heads of some of our unions have decided to walk away from the Charting the Future effort. Despite their stance, I will continue to seek the input of all students, faculty, and staff just as I have done for the past two years that we have all been working together on Charting the Future.

Change is hard, and is always accompanied by high emotion and complication. Without a doubt, some things could have been handled differently, and some handled better. I remain committed to doing my best to make sure all opinions are heard and all people are treated respectfully. Campus-led teams have begun to identify the initial implementation strategies needed to address our challenges. They need to continue to make progress.

From the beginning, everyone has had a seat at the table. The process continues to be one that welcomes everyone’s best ideas. I have not and will not deviate from my commitment that everyone’s best ideas are welcomed and that only after extensive consultation should we move forward the best ideas that emerge. We will continue to use this effort as a roadmap to serve our students better and strengthen our colleges and universities. While the heads of the unions may have made the regrettable decision to walk away from the table, their seats will be there for them whenever they decide to return.

Best,

Steven

President Kevin Lindstrom of Minnesota State College Faculty, the union for instructors at two-year state colleges, writes what his constituents want out of Chancellor Steven Rosenstone’s plan — called Charting the Future — to revamp the state-run college and university system:

“We want a process that builds unity, not one that creates division. … We want a process that respects and honors dissenting opinions — not not one that results in personal attacks on those holding the opinions … “

This is the second union to print its concerns with the process. On multiple occasions, the union for faculty at state-run universities has taken issue.

Read the whole letter here: