MN State University faculty: MnSCU plan grabs too much central control


In June, I reported on a MnSCU plan — called Charting the Future — that would revamp how the state’s colleges and universities do business.

The idea was to come up with statewide plans in areas such as academics, e-learning, training and facilities. It could lead to campus mergers, the elimination of some programs and relocation of others to where MnSCU thought it needed them most.

At the time, Winona State University President Scott Olson, who helped lead the project, called the potential changes “disruptive” to the system.

Looks like it has proven that already.

The Inter Faculty Organization today has come out against the plan, saying it smacks of overcentralization.

(Sound familiar? I recently reposted a commentary on that very subject by Winona State University professor Darrell Downs. He was one of the officials who explained the announcement to today.)

You can read their full stance above. But I spoke with several IFO officials this morning, and my boiled-down interpretation of their position is essentially this:

The plan would put too much power into the hands of MnSCU’s central office. That alone would create more bureaucracy and raise costs, yet the plan also fails to address college affordability. It puts far too high an emphasis on technical education, and would inject an amount of academic uniformity that would stifle innovation — ultimately leading to a lowest-common-denominator level of educational quality. The plan caters too much to the interest of business, and has failed to show enough consideration toward members of the communities in which MnSCU has campuses.

Michael Dougherty, vice chancellor for advancement at MnSCU, emailed me this response:

“The draft recommendations neither suggest nor should lead to more centralization or a larger system office. The solutions to the challenges facing higher education will not be solved by centralization, but rather by collaboration and coordination that takes advantage of the individual characteristics and strengths of each of our colleges and universities.  This will position our campuses to better serve Minnesota students, communities and businesses by fostering efficiency, entrepreneurship and innovation.”

He said that since the June unveiling of the draft, the workgroups behind the report “have been seeking feedback and suggestions from constituent  groups across the state. These outreach efforts will continue through mid-October.  The suggestions and input will be used by the strategic workgroups as they revise the draft recommendations and prepare their  final report.”

He said the final recommendations will go to Chancellor Rosenstone and the trustees prior to the November board meeting.