The first thing people should think after reading this article is whether Chancellor Rosenstone is mouthing empty words of if he’s serious about MnSCU universities living up to his words. While visiting St. Cloud, Chancellor Rosenstone said this:
Rosenstone was in St. Cloud on Wednesday, his fourth trip here since becoming chancellor, and met with the Times Editorial Board for about an hour. He discussed higher education funding, the need for MnSCU schools to be the “partner of choice” for businesses and Minnesota communities and his philosophy of letting local leaders make decisions about their campus rather than the chancellor dictating the details.
“The solutions are not going to come from the new chancellor or shooting off lightning bolts from the Wells Fargo building in downtown St. Paul,” he said, referring to where the MnSCU offices are located.
It remains to be seen whether Chancellor Rosenstone meant that statement to be a shot across SCSU President Potter’s bow or whether it’s just empty talk. Following last year’s budget cuts, President Potter decided to drop the Aviation Department at SCSU.
That’s certainly within his rights. Unfortunately, there’s no proof that President Potter had meaningful, extensive consultation with St. Cloud’s business community, with SCSU students or faculty prior to deciding to permanently shut the Aviation program down.
There’s no proof that President Potter followed MnSCU procedures for shutting a program down. Here’s what MnSCU procedure requires in shutting a program down:
Closure. Closure of an academic program must be approved by the chancellor. Approval will only be granted under the following circumstances:
The closure is requested by a system college or university, and the chancellor determines that the documentation provided supports closure,
The chancellor determines that closure is warranted, or
The academic program has not been reinstated following a suspension.
The academic program closure application must be documented by information, as applicable, regarding
1. academic program need,
2. student enrollment trends,
3. employment of graduates,
4. the financial circumstances affecting the academic program, system college or university,
5. the plan to accommodate students currently enrolled in the academic program,
6. impact on faculty and support staff,
7. consultation with appropriate constituent groups including students, faculty and community,
8. alternatives considered, and
9. other factors affecting academic program operation.
A closed academic program cannot be relocated, replicated or reinstated.
The question that Chancellor Rosenstone must answer is whether he’ll insist that the process be re-opened or if he’ll just let President Potter ignore MnSCU procedure. According to this procedure, closing “an academic program” requires documentation that supports the closing of the program.
President Potter has said that the Chancellor and the MnSCU Board have signed off on his decision. He hasn’t said that he’s documented each of the 9 steps proving why the program should be shut.
Considering the fact that industry experts expect there to be a pilot shortage over the next 15 years, it isn’t a stretch to think that President Potter can’t document that there isn’t an academic need for Minnesota’s only accredited 4 year degree in Aviation. That alone should prevent the shutting of the program.
Considering the fact that President Potter kept open the Masters Degree program in Social Responsibility, which is substantially more expensive than the Aviation program, it’s difficult to picture the justification for closing the Aviation program, not Social Responsibility.
Most importantly, there’s no documented proof that President Potter met with “students, faculty and community.” Aviation student Logan Vold said that the only time they were told about the decision to close the program was when they were told about how to sign up for the teach out provision after the decision had been made.
Chancellor Rosenstone should be given the opportunity to do the right thing. He should be given the opportunity to tell President Potter that procedures are there for a reason and that they will be enforced.
If Chancellor Rosenstone won’t enforce the straightforward, thoughtful policies established by the MnSCU Board of Trustees, then Minnesota needs to know that these policies shouldn’t be taken seriously.
If the chancellor ignores thoughtful policies and the MnSCU Board doesn’t enforce the policies they’ve put together, then it’s appropriate to question the need for the Board and the chancellor.