University faculty union leaders have rejected Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system Chancellor Steven Rosenstone's call for mediation in their dispute with him over plans for a system overhaul.
Inter Faculty Organization action coordinator Monte Bute said Rosenstone was acting in "bad faith" when he made his announcement early Thursday that a state agency would intervene. When Rosenstone made the announcement, Bute said, he had just rejected a faculty request to discuss their complaints with him at a union meeting scheduled for Friday.
Union leaders were talking to state officials about the terms under which mediation would take place, he said, but had not formally entered into it.
Bute called Rosenstone's announcement a "political ploy," and said union leaders have decided not to proceed with the mediation.
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"There’s no way that we can enter into negotiations when the chancellor has acted in bad faith," Bute said. "This is exactly the kind of behavior [that has led to] campuses voting "no confidence" in the chancellor."
The president of the union for faculty at two-year colleges, Kevin Lindstrom, said he respected the decision to reject Rosenstone's offer. But he said his union remains in preliminary talks about state mediation.
Rosenstone has been at odds with MnSCU's two faculty unions over his management of the system and the way he has tried to carry out his reform plan, called "Charting the Future."
Last month, they voted to pull out of system discussions of the overhaul, and faculty associations at five of the system's seven universities have passed votes of "no confidence" in him.
Thursday morning, Rosenstone said the state had agreed to intervene in the dispute, and that he had notified the unions.
“We clearly have some disagreements, he said, "and we’re clearly not making the progress I’d like to see in reaching a shared understanding of how to move forward.”
At the time, the unions declined to comment on the announcement.
But late Thursday evening, Inter Faculty Organization President Jim Grabowska sent out a press release suggesting Rosenstone was engaging in political maneuvering.
“In labor relations, mediation is a mutual process to be held in confidence, never to be exploited for political gain,” he wrote. “In that light, Chancellor Rosenstone has shown his bad faith. This recent action is part of a pattern of behavior which is an important reason that the faculty unions have lost trust in his leadership.”
MnSCU spokesman Doug Anderson said in a written reply Thursday night:
"MnSCU requested [state] assistance and invited [union] leadership to participate. The action was taken in the hope of re-engaging faculty in this critical initiative and resolving disagreements that stand in the way of progress. Announcing this invitation did not violate confidentiality, as mediation had not yet begun nor even been accepted."