St. Cloud Times, Oct. 30
Chancellor, re-engage your faculty in reforms
Chancellor Steven Rosenstone and key leaders of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system need to quickly convince a growing number of faculty members to rejoin MnSCU's ambitious "Charting the Future" plan.
The plan, more than two years in the making, is at a critical juncture. Two faculty unions last week voted to withdraw from the statewide effort, and faculty senates at Winona State University and St. Cloud State University issued votes of "no confidence" in Rosenstone.
Charting the Future is MnSCU administration's vision of how to improve efficiencies and control costs of the entire MnSCU system mainly through more collaboration.
Knowing MnSCU has 430,000 students, 54 campuses and a large administrative network, it's reasonable to question whether the system's operating model is sustainable for the long term without major reforms. And that's clearly a driving force behind Charting the Future.
However, to develop and apply potential solutions to such a broad system simply cannot be done effectively without faculty support, which appears to be eroding.
In addition, Rosenstone and Charting the Future supporters have made a big deal about how "5,000 students, faculty and staff" have contributed to the plan so far. Plus, proponents continue to state they want input to help shape details.
To be true to those words means convincing faculty members to rejoin the effort.
The good news is initial statements from the two unions indicated their withdrawal is more about frustration with the process than rejecting recommendations.
News reports noted union leaders believe outcomes were predetermined. They also wanted more representation and possibly more power moving forward. Finally, they are upset with limited transparency, most evident in a $2 million contract Rosenstone signed with a consulting company that initially volunteered to help.
Unfortunately, Rosenstone has yet to indicate he is willing to talk about these issues in an effort to get these faculty unions and senates re-engaged in Charting the Future.
MnSCU issued a statement after St. Cloud State's vote that said it was "disappointed that the faculty union leaders are employing this tactic to further their goal of stopping the critical conversations that make up Charting the Future." In response to early votes, supporters said Charting the Future would move forward by continuing to meet with faculty, students and staff.
Again, there is merit in Charting the Future's goals. However, a system as large as MnSCU will never reach them when key players such as faculty are not engaged. It's the chancellor's job to bring them back.
Minnesota Daily, Oct. 30
Minneapolis schools must do more than marketing
In protest of unstable leadership and constantly shifting educational goals, the parents of students at Hmong International Academy marched to the Minneapolis School District's headquarters last week.
The academy has been unable to retain a principal for more than a year over the past several years. Parents said at a meeting with school officials that the district is ignoring the cultural and educational needs of Hmong students.
The protest is one of many problems in the Minneapolis School District this year. Dropping enrollment numbers — only two new students enrolled for the 2014-15 school year — and a large achievement gap have the district facing budget cuts and questions about the future of its schools and students.
The district has tried to address these problems, in part by rolling out a new strategic plan to help close achievement gaps and ensure "college and career ready" students. District officials are also planning to "market" their schools to parents to improve enrollment. But it's too soon to judge how effective the plan will be at improving education for Minneapolis students.
Regardless of enrollment or budgeting problems, the educational instability faced by thousands of students in Minneapolis schools is a more serious issue. We hope the new strategic plan will be effective in improving student performance and educational experiences for current students, not just future ones. The district must make sure that the focus remains on helping students learn, not merely on bolstering the image of Minneapolis schools through marketing or other means.
The Daily Journal of Fergus Falls, Oct. 20
Minnesota should allow cameras in courtrooms
The recent trial in Otter Tail County involving the murder of Scott Burris demonstrated the need for a change in state law to allow cameras in the courtroom.
The fact is, criminal court cases involving adults are open to the public. Yet, at a time where virtually every part of society is available to the public via the Internet and other means, the courtroom is still off-limits in Minnesota.
Those opposed to having cameras in the courtroom would point out that they can be a distraction, particularly to the victims. But no one is suggesting unfettered access and a paparazzi atmosphere. A pool of small videocameras, located in non-threatening positions similar to surveillance cameras, would allow for video of courtroom proceedings without distractions. And no one would suggest that rape victims or minors should be in video recordings.
Those who have committed crimes have done so against the people of Minnesota. The people deserve to have access to those proceedings.