MnSCU: Winona St. no-confidence vote a surprise

Update: Kim Olson, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system’s chief marketing and communication officer, told me this evening that today’s announcement of a unanimous “no confidence” vote in MnSCU chancellor Steven Rosenstone by Winona State University faculty comes a bit out of the blue.

She wrote:

Although Chancellor Steven Rosenstone meets regularly with Inter Faculty Organization (IFO) leadership, we have not been formally contacted by any Winona faculty about a vote of “no confidence” or to discuss any concerns that would lead to a vote of this kind.  The WSU Faculty Association Senate is composed of approximately 28 faculty members (out of 18,000 MnSCU faculty and staff) on one of MnSCU’s 54 campuses. We’ve been in touch with the IFO’s state leadership and have been told it’s a local issue. News like this is always concerning, however, it will not distract from serving our students, their communities and the state of Minnesota.

According to a late-afternoon press release by Faculty Association President Darrell Downs, members voted unanimously, citing “a recurring pattern of secrecy in MnSCU decision making regarding the hiring of private consultants, questionable spending decisions by the System Office, and an unwillingness to incorporate greater student and faculty input into long term planning.”

Downs has been a public critic of Rosenstone’s plan to overhaul the way the system does business, saying it centralized power too much.

His announcement today states:

Faculty Senator, Bruce Svingen noted “Three years is too long to wait for the Chancellor to recognize that campus students, faculty, and staff need to be involved at the ground level of higher education decisions.”

It is the view of the Faculty Senate that WSU’s strength is in providing an excellent education to its students and serving its varied communities.  However pursuing a costly long-term planning agenda without sufficient public funding dedicated to that purpose and without fully transparent decision making unnecessarily jeopardizes this university.

WSU Faculty Association President, Darrell Downs, said “he had hoped that the Chancellor’s management style would provide more openness and more directly engage students and faculty in long term planning.”

This vote of “no confidence” in the leadership of the Chancellor sends a message to the Chancellor, as well as to the MnSCU Board of Trustees, that WSU’s distinctive mission in higher education is best preserved though open and fully transparent decision making led by students, faculty, and staff.

  • Molly

    This is the first shot. Others will be coming. This Chancellor has lost the respect of the student unions, allowed a University president to bully a student in front of him, and has a nasty temper.

  • Kevin

    I’m a former Student Government President, and Professor Downs is spot on. This is not the first time a vote of no confidence has been discussed. People are absolutely sickened by the MnSCU central office, and specifically, Chancellor Rosenstone. He has been bulling student leaders since he took this leadership role

    • Kevin

      I realize the spelling errors, just to settle the anxieties of the internet trolls… I’m typing on my phone….

  • Beverly

    “Out of the blue?” “A local issue?” Get off it. Last spring, this Chancellor was been sent an extensive bill of particulars outlining faculty concerns. This has been covered in the press. Since then, the problems have only multiplied. This chancellor operates by fear and intimidation. His record of achievement it thin. I encourage MPR to investigate the claims made by Kim Olson. MnSCU is in the hands of a tyrant. What is needed is transparency and democracy.

  • Brian

    Love the MnSCU response basically stating the lack of care given towards this, that’ll definitely make the problem better just pretend there isn’t one.

  • CS

    The WSU administration knew since the end of the Spring term that this vote was on its way. The specific date on which the vote would occur was communicated widely and openly among WSU faculty and announced to WSU administration well in advance. As noted by others, the statewide faculty association has been moving toward a vote of no confidence for almost 6 months as well, and it has been completely open with Rosenstone about this. The IFO is also not alone among bargaining units in expressing its distress over this Chancellor, and the state organization of university students has also been in open conflict with him.

    To characterize this recent vote as coming as a “surprise” demonstrates either willful ignorance or deliberate dishonesty, both of which have been chronic under Rosenstone. It is time for him to resign.

  • Rex

    Twenty-eight faculty showed up for a vote that apparently was months in the planning. Twenty-eight? Out of hundreds of faculty. If that is all the outrage that quirky old WSU can muster, then MnSCU’s response appears appropriate. Faculty and students are part of every Charting the Future committee. Plenty of opportunity to voice an opinion. It seems that for some of the groups, they want to be the only opinion.

    • Sean Duckworth

      Not every faculty member is part of the faculty senate…

    • Plebian

      It would be interesting to see the actual break down of faculty and student participation of Charting the Future. I don’t think it would show what you seem to think it would show, Rex.

      I would really welcome investigative reporting by MPR–or any media–as to the doings at MNSCU central, including the Charting the Future initiative, this chancellor’s relationship with student leadership and the various claims made by Kim Olson. I’d love to seem a thorough investigation into Rosenstone, who successfully pressured the MNSCU board into doing an end run around limitations of bonuses and compensation set by the legislature.

    • CS

      To clarify, the vote was taken by the faculty senate, and the vote was unanimous. To say that only two dozen votes were cast would be like hearing that the US Senate passed a resolution unanimiusly, and then dismissing the event because only 100 people voted. The WSU faculty senate is an elected body authorized to represent the faculty as a whole.

      As for involvement with Charting the Future, the process has involved a series of committees, each with close to 20 members. On each, there has been one university faculty member and one university student. Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. For the original CTF committees, members were told explicitly that they were not there to represent the constituencies from which they were selected, and a “gag order” prohibited faculty and students from consulting with other faculty and students about the issues being discussed. The initial CTF report and its revision were both written by central office staff. Recently, at a CTF meeting, the two highest ranking administrators interrupted and verbally attacked the student representative, even asserting that she had no right to speak for other students. The point is that simply saying that university faculty and students each make up 5% of the CTF groups OVERSTATES their inflience.