No one who knows Monte Bute, a firebrand of a sociology professor, would say he’s afraid of speaking his mind. In just the past year, he has accused his employer, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU), of pandering to corporate interests and turning its relationship with faculty into a “Greek tragedy.”
But now Bute, 70, is stepping away from his official role as a faculty union leader so he can REALLY let his opinions fly.
“I have never been known for being appropriately politic,” says Bute, a onetime antiwar activist who once served time in the Red Wing boys’ reformatory. But, he admits that he’s been asked to tone it down on occasion during his past four years as state action coordinator for the Inter Faculty Organization (IFO), the union representing thousands of Minnesota state university instructors.
Last week, he notified union officials that he would not seek another term, after his last one expires today, “in order to write and speak without restraint.” He signed the e-mail: “Your crazy uncle, Monte.”
As action coordinator, his main job was to mobilize the members behind important issues — “Sort of an agitator in chief,” he says. But his sometimes blunt talk wasn’t always appreciated, especially about MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. (Bute has referred to him as “the archbishop of MnSCU.” Rosenstone has declined to comment).
“He’s been exceptionally valuable to the union,” says Jim Grabowska, the IFO president. But he suspects that Bute chafed against the internal constraints. “That’s Monte,” he said.
Bute says he has no plans to retire as a professor at Metropolitan State University. And he’ll continue to crusade against what he calls the “corporate takeover of higher education” — turning colleges into training grounds for private businesses.
“Eventually, if unchecked, [it] will destroy the meaning of higher education in Minnesota,” he said. “It will be little more than a hiring hall.”