For months, faculty and administrators have been feuding over a plan to reshape Minnesota's 31 public colleges and state universities. Yet the two sides also have been quietly meeting — and making progress, said Jim Grabowska, head of the faculty union at the seven state universities.
So it came as a surprise this week when Gov. Mark Dayton sent 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 just before Dayton's Tuesday announcement, he said, he had no idea the governor was so worked up.
Last fall, the feud burst into the open when the two faculty unions publicly denounced Chancellor Steven Rosenstone over his handling of a strategic plan called "Charting the Future." Faculty at each of the state universities passed no-confidence votes on him.
The plan is a broad work-in-progress to modernize and streamline operations at the 24 two-year colleges and seven four-year universities. The faculties, though, expressed concerns about centralized control and the role of a private consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., which was paid $2 million to guide the process.
At a news conference Tuesday, Dayton said his goal was "to stimulate them to come together." On Wednesday, Grabowska wouldn't say how much progress has been made toward resolving the dispute, but acknowledged that they still have a ways to go. "What we're going for is substantive change," he said.
At MnSCU's board of trustees meeting Wednesday, Rosenstone simply said, "We deeply understand the governor's concerns," he said.
He 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.