My thoughts on the 2018 MinnState Board of Trustees Retreat

There is a special excitement about the start of an academic year on a university campus. I have enjoyed the opportunity to visit our campuses where I witnessed and heard many great things faculty do each and every day to educate our students.  In addition, I especially enjoyed the hospitality I received from IFO members around the state, so, thank you!

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Minnesota State Board of Trustees (BOT) annual retreat in Duluth, Minnesota. The primary focus of the retreat’s first day was the BOT’s new initiative entitled “Reimagining Minnesota State.” This Board owned, and Board led initiative promises to create a culture of innovation around three guiding principles; 1) student success, 2) diversity, equity, and inclusion, and 3) financial sustainability. The agenda was disrupted, however, when a trustee requested to hear input from the faculty bargaining units in attendance. With this opportunity, I shared my experiences on the Southwest campus and my attempts at innovation. I indicated that many times creative and good ideas are thwarted because of institutional limitations, lack of resources, or system structures. Therefore, I explained, a cultural change within MinnState is necessary, however, the approach with "reimagining" has some fundamental flaws. 

  1. The Forums are done in closed sessions without faculty input and the fact that there is no higher education presenter to the advisory group is problematic. 

  2. If "reimagining" does not ensure:

    1. Faculty control of the curriculum;

    2. the quality of the degrees, certificates, minors;

    3. the liberal arts as the foundation of both an Associate’s and Baccalaureate degree;

    4. the Academic Freedom of faculty

    5. and, the Intellectual Property of the faculty who creates the course material,

Then Faculty will not focus on innovative and creative ways to reach students. 

  1. Faculty also want to know “Innovation” for what outcome;

    1. If this about innovation for student success, faculty will innovate for student success.

    2. If this about innovation for diversity, equity, and inclusion, faculty will innovate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    3. If this is about enrollment, then faculty will innovate to increase enrollment.

Also, at the retreat, the System Office presented the initial draft of the MinnState 2020-20221 Biennial Legislative request.  This request seems to partly reflect the IFO recommendation to ask for what our campuses need rather than simply inflationary increases.

One important change to the BOT regular meeting schedule is to periodically meet on a campus in the System. The next BOT meeting will be held October 16 and 17 on the Winona State University campus. This provides an excellent opportunity for trustees to visit our campuses and observe the work of our faculty and students.  

In solidarity,
Brent Jeffers
IFO President