What a Metropolitan State prof told a MnSCU listening session


Last week MPR aired my radio story on the statewide survey by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. It wants to see what job skills employers want to see in job candidates and how it can work (or “collaborate” as the new buzzword goes) with employers.

Metropolitan State University sociology professor Monte Bute was sitting in the audience of the listening session I attended in Minneapolis. About a quarter of the way through he began raising his hand repeatedly to make a comment.

(Considering the commentary he’d written in the Star Tribune concerning his belief that no true jobs-skills mismatch exists — as well as a conversation we’d had — I knew what he was going to say.)

When he finally got the microphone toward the end of the session, here’s what happened:

Bute: Folks, there is an elephant in the room. Have you noticed? How many of you realize that the next fiscal year the funding for MnSCU will be identical to what it was in 1999? We now have 50 percent more students. How many of you in the room realize — some of you who are as elderly as I am — that when I went to state colleges and universities in this state, the state picked up 80 percent of the tab? Then we went to the state picking up two-thirds of the tab. Today, students pay — and their parents — 60 percent of the tab. And yet many of you belong to business lobbies who spend a fortune every day at the Capitol to cut taxes and stop spending.

Moderator: Is this going to be a collaboration piece?

Bute: It is a collaboration, people.

Moderator: Then–

Bute: It is. Let me finish please, sir.

Moderator: Um–

Bute: The collaboration is: When is business going to start picking up their share of the tab, and quit expecting families and students to pick up the bulk of the tab? And quit expecting families and students to pick up the bulk of the tab? The question I have is a weird contradiction. You have supply and demand up there. What, is this a free-market failure going on?

Moderator: OK, I’m going to ask you please to … (Another audience member says he wants Bute to stop) … stop the …

Bute: Alright, I’m asking a question!

Moderator: Please. Please turn back the …

Bute: Please, please, please.

Moderator: Please turn back.

Bute: Let’s not ask questions about elephants!

Moderator: Please. Please turn back. Thank you …

Moderator #2: Are there any other comments?

Moderator: … very much.

To get the tone of the address — a sermon? a harangue? — you can listen to Monte Bute’s comment on lobbies.

(There’s a bit of a glitch, but you can get around it. Click on the link above and then click on the second blue Monte Bute’s comment on lobbies link under the black headline to get the audio player.)