A consultant says it's time to ditch the ungainly name of Minnesota's largest higher education system and try something simple: like Minnesota State.
The old name, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, just never rolled off the tongue easily. And that's especially true for its abbreviated nickname, MnSCU (pronounced Minn-skew), according to a report Tuesday to the Board of Trustees.
The branding experts at Padilla concluded that the system of 31 state colleges and universities is much better known by its individual parts: St. Cloud State University. Normandale Community College. Winona State University.
"Currently, MnSCU's brand is both weak and misunderstood," reports Padilla. So why not simplify and build on its strengths?
One suggestion: Just call it Minnesota State. Not to be confused with the University of Minnesota (which is a separate institution).
And label each school like so:
The Board of Trustees will have a chance to chew over the 53-page report before making a decision.
But the current name is "a mouthful" and "communicates very little," the branding experts say. "This is the right time to explore alternatives."
For months, faculty and administrators have been publicly feuding over a plan to reshape Minnesota's 31 public colleges and state universities.
Yet since before Christmas, the two sides have been quietly meeting - and making progress - to try to heal their rift, said Jim Grabowska, head of the faculty union at the seven state universities, on Wednesday.
So it came as something of a surprise this week, when Gov. Mark Dayton decided to send them a public message with his budget proposal: No increase in funding, at least not now, until they patch things up.
"Was I personally (surprised)? Yes," said Grabowska, president of the Inter Faculty Organization. Other than a courtesy call shortly before Dayton's Tuesday announcement, he said, he had no idea the governor was so worked up about it.
Last fall, the feud burst into the headlines when the two faculty unions publicly denounced the chancellor, Steven Rosenstone, over his handling of a new strategic plan for MnSCU, called "Charting the Future." The unions said their members didn't trust Rosenstone's leadership, a message that was reinforced when the faculty at each of the state universities passed no-confidence votes in the chancellor.
The plan at the center of the controversy is a broad work-in-progress, designed to modernize and streamline operations at the 24 two-year colleges and seven four-year universities. The faculty, though, expressed concerns about too-much centralized control, and about the role of a private consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., that was paid $2 million to guide the process.
At a news conference Tuesday, Dayton said his goal was "to stimulate them to come together."
"The continuation of this divide would be very detrimental to MnSCU," he said. "Now's the time to get it resolved."
On Wednesday, Grabowska wouldn't say how much progress has been made toward resolving the dispute, but acknowledged that they still have a way to go. "What we're going for is substantive change," he said.
Rosenstone offered no specifics when he addressed MnSCU's board of trustees meeting Wednesday. "We deeply understand the governor's concerns," he said. The two sides released a joint statement on Tuesday, saying they were taking steps to work out their differences.
But Rosenstone said they're all united behind MnSCU's request to the Legislature: for an additional $142 million over the next two years, to prevent painful tuition hikes and program cuts. The money is key, he said, to be able to offer a quality education and "protect affordability."
And then there were seven.
On Thursday, Metro State University became the last of the seven Minnesota state universities to join in a faculty protest against Chancellor Steven Rosenstone.
The Metro State Faculty Association approved a vote of no-confidence in Rosenstone, 62, who heads the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, a network of seven public universities and 24 two-year colleges.
"The faculty has completely lost confidence in the ability of Chancellor Rosenstone to serve the students, faculty and staff of MnSCU," said Matt Filner, vice president of the faculty association, in a statement released Thursday.
Faculty groups at the other six state universities have passed similar resolutions over the past three weeks.
Rosenstone's office had no immediate comment.
Thomas Renier, chair of the Board of Trustees, reaffirmed his support for Rosenstone in the face of what he called a union tactic to "stop the critical conversations" to bring needed reforms to the system.
He was referring to a decision by the two faculty unions not to take part in ongoing discussions about a strategic plan called "Charting the Future," which is designed to find ways to improve efficiency and student outcomes on the system's 54 campuses. The unions say that faculty concerns, about the possible impact on the quality of education, have been routinely ignored during the planning process.
In a statement released Thursday, Renier said that MnSCU officials would "welcome the faculty back to the table any time they choose to return."
Chancellor Steven Rosenstone woke up to news of another no-confidence vote today, this one from faculty at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
It's the sixth time in three weeks that faculty groups at different campuses have passed protest votes against Rosenstone, 62, who heads the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system.
Theodore Gracyk, president of the Moorhead faculty association, issued a statement late Tuesday about the latest no-confidence vote, saying that faculty members there are concerned that the quality of education "is threatened by Chancellor Rosenstone's track record of unilateral decision making, duplicity, and mismanagement."
The protests have centered largely on Rosenstone's handling of a major reform effort, called Charting the Future, which is designed to increase efficiency and improve student outcomes at the system's 31 colleges and universities. Critics have accused Rosenstone of pushing a one-size-fits-all plan that could harm individual campuses.
Rosenstone had no immediate comment. But Thomas Renier, chair of the Board of Trustees, released a statement Wednesday, saying he was disappointed by the cascade of protests. "The faculty union is employing this tactic to stop the critical conversations that make up Charting the Future and the change needed to ensure that affordable and accessible higher education remains a reality for all Minnesotans," he said. He said he hopes the faculty unions will accept the chancellor's offer to work with a state mediator to resolve their differences.
So far, no-confidence votes have been passed by faculty groups at six of the seven state universities: Bemidji State, MSU Mankato, Moorhead, St. Cloud, Southwest Minnesota State and Winona. The seventh, at Metro State in St. Paul, has scheduled a vote Thursday.
Faculty members, it seems, aren't the only ones registering their displeasure with Steven Rosenstone, the chancellor of Minnesota's largest public college system.
On Friday, the student senate at Metro State University passed a 'no confidence' vote in Rosenstone's leadership, and their counterparts at Winona State University stopped just short, passing a "Bill of Particulars" questioning the chancellor's "performance, professionalism and accountability."
The moves came in the wake of no-confidence votes against Rosenstone by faculty members at five state universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system.
In response, Rosenstone issued a statement Monday, saying: "I am deeply troubled by the latest in a coordinated series of votes of no confidence, particularly because it comes from our students. I have asked for the opportunity to meet in person to respond to these concerns."
The Metro State and Winona students took Rosenstone to task for his handling of a controversial strategic plan called "Charting the Future," which is supposed to overhaul operations at the system's 24 two-year colleges and seven four-year universities. They cited, among other things, a "lack of transparency" that has "negatively impacted morale."
Rosenstone, in his defense, has said he intentionally created an open process, with teams of faculty, students, staff and administrators to debate and shape the new plan.
The protest has been building for more than two weeks, since the unions representing nearly 9,000 faculty members announced they were withdrawing from the planning process for "Charting the Future." The union leaders say they're not against the plan itself, which is supposed to encourage efficiency and better student outcomes at the campuses. But the faculty members say their concerns, about how changes may affect quality of education, have been ignored.
Rosenstone, 62, has been on the job for three years. Faculty sources say at least two more campuses are expected to consider no-confidence votes this week.
Today may signal the start of fall semester at the University of Minnesota. But for some students, the big event begins tomorrow: the return of Woodstock the Therapy Chicken.
Woodstock and some specially trained cats and dogs will be greeting students from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Boynton Health Service as part of its popular PAWS (Pet Away Worry and Stress) program.
The pets exude their own kind of animal magnetism, with an almost Zen-like calm as hundreds of students parade through to ooh and ah and stroke their fur. It's well known that pets can have a calming affect on people, and in the past, many schools have trotted them out at especially stressful times, such as mid-terms and finals.
This year, the U is scheduling the free pet-therapy sessions once a week on the Minneapolis campus through most of the semester, with occasional appearances on the St. Paul campus. For dates and times, check out this website.