Friday, January 24, 2003

Higher ed happenings around Minnesota 

A colleague posted today of a gender pay equity settlement at two other schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (that SCSU belongs to.) This news, on the heels of SCSU's own settlement of the anti-Semitism case and of a gender pay equity case early last year at Bemidji State and in 2001 here, is beginning to rack up some serious money. On the latest cases, $360,000 will go to 324 women faculty at Minnesota State University, Mankato for back pay, along with adjustments to base pay worth $145,779 annually. Winona State University will cough up $150,000 in back pay and an base adjustment of $51,808 annually. The named plaintiffs in each case got an extra $15,000, and (you knew this was coming) the lawyers get $1,193,000!

If this kind of greenmail doesn't increase applications to the Minnesota bar, the recession is a whole lot worse than I thought! So here we are in a period of very tight budgets, and this settlement means in effect that there will be three fewer faculty at Mankato and one less at Winona, figuring only the effect on the academic budgets of the continuing base adjustments. The $1.7 million in back pay and lawyer welfare? If Mankato and Winona are treated like SCSU has been, well, I hope they've got ample reserves, but this article in the Mankato Free Press quotes Mankato president Richard Davenport as saying MnSCU covered the attorney fees.

There's almost an uncanny similarity in the phrasing of the reason for settling.

"While not an admission of wrongdoing or liability, we believe that this agreement avoids further expense, inconvenience and the distraction of burdensome and protracted litigation." -- SCSU President Roy Saigo, 12/3/02

"We wanted to avoid the negative impact that lengthy trials, probably lasting several months, would have had on the campuses. These settlements allow us to move forward in a positive environment."
-- MnSCU legal counsel Gail Olson, 1/23/03

Maybe we should send the press release to

Of course, in meetings here after the SCSU settlement, the Chancellor's office was at pains to put the decision to settle squarely on Saigo. Apparently, all the university presidents have gotten the order to lay on the grenades. From the Free Press article
"If it would have gone to trial, it would have gone on and on is what I feared," said Davenport, who encouraged attorneys at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities to settle the case after taking over the MSU presidency last year.
Geez, you paid the lawyers $1.2 million. How much more would a trial have cost???

While looking at the MnSCU press release, I found another one on how MnSCU is consolidating some of its far-flung campuses in northwestern Minnesota. An economist would call this a vertical merger: Bemidji State will now effectively run a nearby technical college, and administration of some smaller technical and community colleges will be done from two offices rather than six. The cost savings are about $700,000 according to the press release. It's gotten very little coverage that I can find.

Last, this article from the PioneerPress discusses a pattern of spending overruns on the University of Minnesota's building projects.