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MnSCU-Rosenstone negotiations, Part III

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When it was announced that Rev. Hightower, the chairman of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, had negotiated a contract extension with MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, it caught people by surprise. Rep. Gene Pelowski, the chairman of the House Higher Ed Committee, expressed outrage:

Rep. Gene Pelowski, chair of the House higher education committee, blasted MnSCU leaders for settling Rosenstone’s contract while testy negotiations with the universities’ faculty union drag on.

Those leaders promised lawmakers during the last legislative session that if they approved $17 million for the system, the contract for those 4,000 faculty members would be settled “within days,” said Pelowski, D-Winona.

“Well, it’s been a month or more,” he said. “Then the most expensive contract you have, you settled in October? And now we find out about it?”

A timeline is needed to put things in perspective. The first item in the timeline is the passage of the Higher Ed budget in 2013. According to this statement from Chairman Pelowski, the legislature increased state funding of Higher Ed:

The bill would increase funding for higher education by $150 million, using most of those resources to freeze in-state resident tuition over the next two years.

That's the first item in the timeline.That announcement happened in April, 2013. The next item is Chairman Hightower negotiating a contract extension with Chancellor Rosenstone. That contract was negotiated in September, 2013:

Monday’s announcement that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system gave its top executive a raise and a new, three-year contract, last October, drew criticism from a top lawmaker and the union that represents the faculty at seven state universities.

Chancellor Steven Rosenstone will make $387,250 in base salary for the coming school year, a 1.8 percent increase. He also will receive a $43,160 boost to allowances for transportation and other expenses, MnSCU said.

The extension included a massive raise for Chancellor Rosenstone. It raised Chancellor Rosenstone's salary by 27,250 over his first salary. It also include a "$43,160 boost to allowances for transportation and other expenses", too. That's an increase in compensation of over $70,000 per year.

Actually, it's more than that because the allowances are considered repayment for expenses incurred, which means that $43,160 increase isn't taxed.

The legislature passed legislation several years ago eliminating bonuses for the MnSCU chancellor. The max amount that a chancellor could receive in bonuses was $50,000. This "boost to allowances for transportation and other expenses" is just a different delivery method for the chancellor's bonus.

Here's the next item on the timeline:

Those leaders promised lawmakers during the last legislative session that if they approved $17 million for the system, the contract for those 4,000 faculty members would be settled “within days,” said Pelowski, D-Winona.

The contract with the IFO, aka the Inter Faculty Organization, still hasn't been settled. It's looking pretty unlikely that that negotiation will conclude anytime soon because several universities are struggling financially. For instance, St. Cloud State announced last week that it needed to cut their operating budget for FY2015 by $3,600,000. FY2015 starts July 1, 2014.

Their share of that $17,000,000 would reduce the amount of money they'd have to cut. There's no way they'd want that money going to a pay raise for professors when they're as strapped for cash as they are. While St. Cloud State is in the worst financial shape of the MnSCU universities, that doesn't mean they're the only university with financial problems.

For instance, Moorhead's president was allowed to retire because they just went through retrenchment. That's the euphemism for mass terminations at a university.

What this means is that Chairman Hightower put a higher priority of negotiating a contract extension with Chancellor Rosenstone than Chancellor Rosenstone put on negotiating with the IFO. In fact, MnSCU's lobbying for that additional $17,000,000 was to bail out the cash-strapped universities, not pay for pay raises for professors.

It's sad that MnSCU puts a higher priority on bailing out mismanaged universities than it puts on negotiating a contract with professors. It's worse that it hides its negotiations with a chancellor until a professor gets a copy of the contract. What's worst is that the legislature didn't put language in the supplemental bill that required negotiations with the IFO be completed before MnSCU got a penny of that supplemental appropriation.

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