Monday, October 20, 2003
St. Cloud State University's seemingly endless struggle to make the campus a more welcoming place experienced some ups and downs in recent weeks.We think the president was right to move ahead in killing IRC, for reasons the Times understood.
The most positive development was President Roy Saigo's decision to move forward in creating an action plan to improve diversity. But just a few days later, the administration's decision to remove the dean of the College of Social Sciences spurred threats of a lawsuit for age discrimination.
So what should be made of all this?
Regarding the former, Saigo is right to move ahead. Regarding the latter, data privacy laws and potential court action could well squelch any chance the public has of learning all the facts. Taken together, though, they present a perplexing picture for the community.
Consisting of faculty members, students, employees and administrators, the 19-member panel was to review four independent assessments of the university and recommend ways to improve tolerance. The IRC, though, struggled in its mission. The best it could do was issue a preliminary report, which even lacked majority support.As we pointed out months ago, the silly voting rules of this committee made it impossible for them to reach any decisions. Moreover, one member of the committee that I spoke to found it contentious, disinclined to conduct any independent fact-finding, and in pursuit of a single agenda. Some members quit the committee in frustration; others simply stopped attending. The Times has been aware of this for awhile, but has ignored that thought now. The Times now calls for Saigo to "craft" a diversity plan from the ashes of IRC, but it seems quite unlikely that the committee has generated anything new. If Saigo wants to adopt parts of the four reports he's already received -- most of which were crap, as regular readers of this blog are no doubt aware -- he's had at least six months to do so.
This committee was a golden opportunity for those directly involved at the university to offer solutions. For whatever reasons, that didn't happen despite two deadline extensions.
As to our dean's situation, the Times writes:
University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials provided no details for the move, noting personnel data for public employees is not public under the state's data practices act.I am still wondering if the Times is making the link to the discrimination suit themselves or if it's being fed to them. (Our "internal communications" person in the communications office is a former employee of the paper.)
Such responses highlight another disturbing -- and very daunting -- aspect of the university's challenges with diversity. Laws might require silence and secrecy, yet resolving claims of discrimination takes openness.
So what is the public to make of the Lewis reassignment? It's no secret he was named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit that accused the university of anti-Semitism and retaliation. Yet that suit was settled with the university making no admission of wrongdoing.
We have some facts to rely on, dear editors at the Times. You would have a hard time knowing it, as the official memo reads thus:
In keeping with provisions 1.02 and 1.03 of the Personnel Plan for MnSCU Administrators, Dr. Richard Lewis has been reassigned to coordinate special projects for Provost Michael Spitzer. Beginning spring semester, Dr. Lewis will return to the faculty to teach in the Department of History.But a set of minutes of the college meeting with the Provost Spitzer notes some facts.
- Provost Spitzer took responsibility for the decision; Saigo didn't have the courage to show up, though his underlings (not members of the college) were arrayed in the back. This is called "leadership style".
- Dick's office "will be relocated from Whitney House to the Alumni House." Well, he's still in Whitney as of last weekend, a week later. He still does not have a phone. I wonder if the vaunted data privacy acts will not permit us to hear what special projects he and Spitzer are coordinating by carrier pigeon.
- "One faculty member stated there could be good reasons for this action being taken and that there are different perspectives on this." Since I was there to hear that, and she said it right after I asked why he didn't just send a memo (answer: guilt), don't think for a moment that this person will not be identified. Note that this refers to her former affiliation in HURL (not a member of this college). She is now here.
Overall, in his three-plus years as university president, Saigo has consistently said combatting discrimination is an ongoing challenge. And it's developments like these that make his words ring true.And the developments are all the result of Saigo's own actions. Stay on this story, SCTimes!!
UPDATE: The University Chronicle (links more permanent, thank you) offers a full rundown.