Faculty union: MnSCU chancellor has hurt morale

Rosenstone (MnSCU)

Unionized faculty at Minnesota’s state-run universities have issued a tough report card for Chancellor Steven Rosenstone ahead of his job evaluation tomorrow.

In a list of 10 complaints it has sent to trustees, the Inter Faculty Organization says Rosenstone has mismanaged the university system, shown faculty disrespect, and broken financial obligations.

The letter comes at time when the system and union have yet to reach a contract settlement over pay and working conditions.

Nancy Black, president of the Inter Faculty Organization, said faculty morale “is the worst it has been since MnSCU was formed” almost 20 years ago.

Faculty morale on university campuses is low for many reasons, the letter says, including:

  • Financial. The chancellor issued a budget request that failed to show the system was spending money properly, it says, and it failed to convince legislators to give the state college and university system the money it needs. And instead of cutting central administration in the event of budget shortfalls as required by law, the letter says, the system allowed campuses such as MSU-Moorhead and Southwest State University to cut programs and faculty instead. Financial reporting within the system, it says, remains spotty and lacks transparency.
  • Missteps. Black said that under Rosenstone’s leadership, MnSCU officials ignored union warnings last summer that Metropolitan State University’s payroll system wasn’t functioning properly. After the problem blew up and gained the attention of the news media, Rosenstone ordered an audit. The union says he also mismanaged MSU-Mankato’s handling of football coach Todd Hoffner, whom an arbitrator ruled it wrongly fired in 2013 after a judge dismissed child pornography charges against him. Rosenstone has since called for a review of how MnSCU handled the case.
  • Personnel. The union says Rosenstone’s budgeting — as well as his plan to overhaul system operations — has not included enough faculty consultation. Nor, it says, has he adequately addressed concerns over diversity and the climate on campuses. Turnover among key central-office administrators has been high, the letter says, and several searches for new administrators at some campuses have been “protracted.”

Black said the lack of key administrators has meant that MnSCU has “postponed making critical decisions. … There’s uncertainty about the direction some policies are going.”

Black stopped short of saying the faculty would vote on whether it has confidence in the chancellor. She said members will decide when they return to campus in the fall.

“It’s time for the chancellor to show some us some actions that he supports us,” she said.

Board of Trustees Chairman Clarence Hightower said the union and Rosenstone just see things differently.

“The chancellor has our full support — unanimously, unwaivering — period,” he said.

In an emailed, letter, Hightower wrote:

“He is a visionary leader who cares passionately for our students and works tirelessly on their behalf. The Board remains enthusiastic about the strategy and direction of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities under Chancellor Rosenstone’s leadership.”

He added:

‘Faculty are crucial … and we call upon the faculty to join us in continuing to fulfill the critical commitments we have made, including providing access to an extraordinary education for all Minnesotans.”

Hightower would not comment on the fairness or accuracy of the union’s complaints.

But St. Cloud State University President Earl Potter said the IFO was not being fair toward Rosenstone. He said the union has been involved in discussions about the overhaul of the system:

“They’re expressing some fear and concern about the difficulty of the issues and scope and character of the changes we have to make, and that’s a reasonable thing to be afraid of the challenge. But they have been included.”

Regarding the system’s inability to get a lot of the funding it wanted this session:

“I doubt if any other agency head in the state is being blamed for the behavior of the legislature. That’s an unreasonable allegation.”

Ptter also said the requirement that MnSCU make cuts only at the central office was removed in the most recent legislative session.

(Update: House chairman Gene Pelowski says the requirement remains in effect, and that he plans next session to review whether colleges and universities are in compliance.)

Here’s the letter in full: