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MnSCU chancellor, faculty call truce

ST. PAUL -- A rift between Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and faculty of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is over. Five weeks after Gov. Mark Dayton threatened to withhold money from the higher education system, the parties Tuesday sen...

ST. PAUL - A rift between Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and faculty of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is over.

Five weeks after Gov. Mark Dayton threatened to withhold money from the higher education system, the parties Tuesday sent the governor a copy of a deal. The agreement will give greater voice to faculty, students and staff as MnSCU moves ahead with Rosenstone’s systemwide reform effort, Charting the Future.
“We agree on the importance of moving Charting the Future forward with increased input and ownership from all constituent groups (faculty, staff and students) in a manner which acknowledges and respects the two years of work many individuals have contributed to Charting the Future, and the desire for additional campus-based discussion,” said the agreement reached by the two faculty groups and MnSCU administrators and trustees.
Charting the Future aims to get the system’s 31 institutions collaborating more on many fronts, ultimately cutting costs and saving students money. But students and especially faculty have complained about top-down implementation and the secrecy surrounding a $2 million consulting contract for McKinsey & Co. Some say the project is too focused on serving industrial employers at the expense of liberal arts studies.
After a year of complaining about the process, the two faculty unions quit participating in Charting the Future in October. Some schools’ student associations also have passed symbolic votes criticizing Rosenstone’s leadership.
MnSCU in November invited the faculty to mediate the dispute.
As a result of those negotiations, MnSCU will dissolve its Charting the Future implementation teams no later than June and turn that work over to campus-based regional groups. Those groups will be led by a new coordinating committee, which the faculty unions will join.
“This agreement is exactly what the unions have fought for the last 17 months. It takes Charting the Future out of the central office and places it back on the campuses,” said Monte Bute, a Metropolitan State faculty member.
“We think this is a step in the right direction. Obviously, we feel strongly about faculty being involved in charting the future. They’re the ones we see every day,” said Kari Cooper, state chair of the Minnesota State University Student Association. “If anything, bringing it down to a campus or regional level will give more opportunities for students to be involved.”
Cooper added that it was her feeling that Dayton’s threat played a role in the negotiations, which neither she nor any student representative was a part of.
Several MnSCU trustees reportedly involved in the mediation did not return calls for comment. Kevin Lindstrom, president of Minnesota State College Faculty, also did not immediately return a call for comment.
MnSCU is seeking a $142 million increase in state funding this legislative session.
In his Jan. 27 budget address, Dayton recommended no new funding unless faculty and system leaders resolve their dispute.
After the state’s projected budget surplus grew, and with the Charting the Future dispute nearing a resolution, the governor said Friday that he wants to fulfill $95 million of MnSCU’s $142 million request.
That’s enough to freeze tuition next year and half of what is needed to freeze tuition again in 2016-17; MnSCU would be expected to make up the difference on its own.
When asked whether he was releasing funding because the dispute had been resolved, Dayton said: “I’m going... (on) a bit of faith that their discussions are going to lead to better rapport and better ability of everybody involved to move cooperatively and constructively ahead together.”

Tad Vezner and David Montgomery contributed to this report.

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