Two views on Dayton’s role in MnSCU agreement

Lighting the fire. (Peter Cox / MPR News)

With the power of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system on some lawmakers’ minds, I thought I’d quickly revisit last week’s tentative agreement ending the feud between faculty union leaders and Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.

(Faculty concerns over centralized power in the system office was at the core of their concern.)

A question has been the role of politics in the agreement. When Gov. Mark Dayton warned MnSCU in January it would get no funding recommendation unless it ironed things out with faculty, both sides downplayed its significance.

But when I asked MnSCU trustee Duane Benson last week about the agreement, he told me:

“The force unrecognized here is the governor. When he said, ‘No new money,’ I think that got everybody’s attention.”

House higher-education committee Chairman Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) had a different take. He told reporters last week that Dayton would try to take credit for the agreement. But he said a resolution to the feud:

“… would have happened anyway. I had assurances from the chancellor’s office and [union officials] and others involved that they were going to work together to get it done.”

(Still, Nornes said the agreement will make things easier for higher-ed legislators, saying, “I personally don’t like negative things hanging over me or my committee.”)

Last week Dayton sounded like he’d be keeping tabs on the situation. He told reporters:

“The real test will be: Can they work cooperatively together in the months ahead, which they need to do to turn the situation around?”

MPR News reporters Tom Scheck and Riham Feshir contributed to this report.