Faculty leaders at the three largest four-year schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system have voted "no confidence" in its chancellor, spurred by what they say is a lack of transparency and poor oversight of the 31-school system.
The faculty association at Minnesota State University, Mankato was the most recent to jump on board, with a unanimous vote of no confidence on Thursday against Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. Similar votes took place in recent weeks at Winona State and St. Cloud State universities. The three schools represent more than half of MnSCU's students and faculty.
"The Faculty Association hopes that its action will encourage the MnSCU Board of Trustees to take a greater role in oversight … and redirect the Chancellor to more open and participatory leadership," an MSU Mankato faculty association statement said Friday.
Faculty leaders have expressed particular concern over Rosenstone's handling of Charting the Future, a long-term plan to reform the MnSCU system. Two faculty unions pulled out of the planning process last week, citing transparency concerns.
MSU Mankato Faculty Association President Mary Visser said faculty agree with the plan's tenets — things such as increasing affordability and access for students. What they don't agree with, she said, is how the planning process is unfolding.
"They listen to us because they have to, and then they do whatever it is they want," she said. "And it's not always, in our minds, in the best interest of the students, of our institution, of MnSCU as a whole."
The faculty association statement called Rosenstone's management decisions "secretive, non-inclusionary and damaging," pointing out such specific examples as money spent on an outside contractor for Charting the Future.
"He spent $2 million on consultants while the state campuses were suffering crippling budget shortfalls and struggling with declining enrollment," the faculty statement said.
Rosenstone declined to comment Friday. MnSCU issued a statement Thursday pointing to strong attendance at recent Charting the Future feedback sessions, called "Gallery Walks."
"The initial success of the Gallery Walks is in contrast to recent university faculty votes of 'no confidence,' " the statement said.
Though Charting the Future is a big concern, it's just the tip of the iceberg. Faculty say they've struggled with Rosenstone's leadership since he started in fall 2011.
"These concerns have been building, and they've existed for quite a while," said Inter Faculty Organization President Jim Grabowska.
Shortly after Rosenstone's arrival, he froze money that faculty use for professional development, such as attending conferences.
"That was something that didn't have to happen. It's not something that normally happened," Visser said. "Right off the bat, it was like, 'OK, what's going on here? Is this person going to be in support of the faculty, or what?' "
In late spring, faculty members put together a "Bill of Particulars" listing issues ranging from a lack of opportunity for input on major decisions to how Rosenstone represents MnSCU at the Legislature.
Still, faculty say, they haven't gotten much response from the chancellor beyond official statements. "What we really need is some serious conversation," Grabowska said.