MnSCU faculty, system leaders reach tentative agreement

New MnSCU chancellor
MnSCU chancellor Steven Rosenstone, Oct. 19, 2011.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2011

Faculty union leaders agreed Tuesday to rejoin efforts to overhaul the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, ending their months-long dispute with system leaders.

The tentative agreement over MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone's "Charting the Future" plan shifts at least some of the decision-making to campus committees.

That pleases faculty leaders, who have long complained that the central office was controlling the reform process too much, and not giving others enough say in proposing changes.

Decentralization "was the key," said Monte Bute, state action coordinator of the Inter Faculty Organization. "This is what we have sought for 17 months."

MnSCU spokeswoman Kim Olson said many questions — such as who will exercise final say over the reforms — remain unanswered.

"We're just thrilled that we're all back together," she said. "We've agreed to move forward cooperatively, and collaboratively, and we're all very optimistic about that."

Faculty leaders from both the two- and four-year campuses pulled out of reform talks in October, saying the central office was exercising too much control over the process.

Rosenstone has long said campuses need to coordinate more closely with each other so they can offer a better education at less cost. That could include standardizing online education, advising and course offerings.

Faculty leaders feared the plan would lead to a one-size-fits-all form of education, and that local campuses would lose their identity in a homogenized system.

Last fall, the relationship between faculty and Rosenstone grew so tense that union leaders asked trustees to fire their chancellor. The trustees refused and mediation began.

In January, Gov. Mark Dayton said he would withhold any increase in MnSCU funding until the faculty and the chancellor resolved their differences. Last week, he said his revised budget would provide enough money for MnSCU to freeze tuition for a year, with the understanding that MnSCU would make administrative cuts to cover a freeze for a second year.