Thursday, January 29, 2004

As for MnSCU - Let them eat cake 

Are you interested in reading about a comprehensive regional university that:

- is located in smaller city of a Midwestern state,
- is a short freeway-drive to a major metropolitan area,
- enrolls somewhat more than 15,000 students,
- is scheduled to play the Minnesota Gophers in a major sport, and
- was started as a teachers� college in the mid 19th century?

No, although the campus to which I�m referring looks like that of SCSU, I�m now reading about a different university. Before drafting a resolution to take to my precinct caucus in a few weeks, I�m checking out the web pages of Illinois State University.

Why does its master plan now use �QUANTITATIVE goals and action outcomes,� rather than �qualitative key performance indicators?� Why, it even has a quantitative objective to raise the salaries of its faculty! Check out ISU�s 7 goals and 16 Actions.

Why do the levels of Illinois State�s endowment and annual-giving now dwarf those of SCSU?

Perhaps the answer to these questions and ISU�s remarkable turnaround over the past seven years can be found here:

�in the fall of 1995, the 89th General Assembly of the State of Illinois passed Senate Bill 241 which was sent to and signed by the Governor to become Public Act 89-0004. This new legislation established autonomous governing boards for seven state universities as part of a continuing reform of the state's higher education system. With the reorganization of Illinois' higher education system, state universities will be governed by boards whose duty is to assure their students are receiving the highest quality education possible and that tax and tuition dollars are being used wisely. The [independent] Board of Trustees of Illinois State University began operation on January 1, 1996.�

Some Minnesota legislators are now proposing that we need to take a critical look at the burgeoning bureaucracy that is comprised of MnSCU�s minions, who today apparently seek to micromanage everything � even down to the layout of the transcript to be used by our once great and distinctive university. Others advocate our secession from MnSCU as essential for SCSU to return to its �tradition of excellence and opportunity� for individuals. They say that we must turn away from MnSCU�s alternative vision of �mediocrity and equality of programs.� They espouse a competitive, rather than collectivist model under which excelling campuses and programs should be rewarded, while failing campuses should be closed, believing that not all of us deserve a 3.7 GPA.

As we eat cold ice cream tomorrow (following a night of 20 below-zero temperatures) on �Minnesota state-employee appreciation day,� let�s dream of a warmer climate � not necessarily that of the tropics, but of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. There at ISU, independent trustees, administrators, faculty, and staff have worked together to craft a truly remarkable �action plan for distinctiveness and excellence.� As for those at MnSCU, maybe some of us in our various political caucuses around the state this winter will have the courage to draft resolutions that state, �let them eat cake.�