MnSCU boss gets new contract — last year
ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities said Monday that its chancellor has a new three-year contract — almost eight months after the pact was signed.
In October, Clarence Hightower, the Board of Trustees chairman, reached the agreement with Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, who will make $387,250 in base salary in the coming school year.
The contract never went before the full board for approval — a step MnSCU said was not necessary because trustees had delegated the task to Hightower. Some trustees did not learn of the deal until Sunday.
Now, state legislative leaders and MnSCU’s university faculty union are questioning the lack of full board approval and its delayed public announcement.
“I believe a contract of this size and magnitude should have the full blessing of the board and public disclosure,” said Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, chairwoman of the Senate higher education committee. “This is not right.”
MnSCU put out a news release about the agreement after a faculty member sent a copy to the media this weekend.
“We didn’t make an announcement because it’s not standard practice,” said MnSCU spokesman Doug Anderson. “We only made the announcement now because we received requests from the media.”
Rosenstone’s current three-year contract, which expires July 31, says his appointment can be extended “only by a majority vote” of the trustees.
His new contract increase his base salary by 1.8 percent and raises various allowances by a total of $43,160 a year.
Under the contract, Rosenstone will get $43,200 a year for housing, $15,000 for transportation, $7,800 for professional development, $7,200 for travel and $3,960 for communication.
Hightower said the increased allowances help to make up for the elimination of up to $50,000 in performance pay. State lawmakers directed MnSCU to do away with administrator bonuses last year.
The new contract also removes a guaranteed two-year appointment as a distinguished senior fellow for academic affairs after Rosenstone ends his tenure as chancellor. Rosenstone has to resign from the University of Minnesota, where he is on an unpaid leave of absence as tenured faculty.
Anderson did not respond to a request for comment from Rosenstone.
According to an annual ranking by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rosenstone’s total current pay ranks 23rd among 65 heads of higher education systems nationwide.
Hightower said there had been “no need” for a public announcement last fall. He said a board resolution last summer authorizing him to negotiate a contract allowed him to firm up the agreement. At the time, trustees also granted Rosenstone the full $50,000 bonus for the past year.
On Monday, more than half a dozen trustees did not respond to requests for comment or deferred to Hightower. Trustee Phil Krinkie said he doesn’t completely fault the chairman for not informing trustees of the agreement sooner.
“The chair should have probably come back and briefed the board on what he negotiated,” Krinkie said. “But we never asked.”
He said the contract, which he deemed “a very reasonable agreement,” doesn’t take effect until August.
“Would legislators have looked at our budget request differently? Would negotiations with our unions been affected? One can only speculate,” he said.
Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr., DFL-Winona, chairman of the House higher education committee, said that technically, MnSCU could bypass a public announcement and full board approval. But, he said, “As far as passing the smell test for openness in government, this stinks.”
Pelowski criticized MnSCU for quietly settling the chancellor’s contract while contentious negotiations with its faculty union continue. The two sides, which have negotiated for more than a year, brought in a state mediator to help this spring.
Pelowski and Bonoff said they want their committees to review the handling of the contract during the next Legislature.
The Inter Faculty Organization, the union representing university professors, also criticized MnSCU’s handling of the agreement.
Nancy Black, outgoing union president, said she kept waiting to see the approval of Rosenstone’s contract on a Board of Trustees meeting agenda.
“I always assumed it was coming back to the full board of trustees,” she said. “It would have been so much better if the process had been more transparent.”
Monte Bute, a sociology professor at Metropolitan State University, who provided a copy of the contract, condemned MnSCU’s Monday news release announcing the new contract without mentioning it was signed almost eight months ago.
Don Gemberling, a former head of the Minnesota Department of Administration and an expert on government data practices, said trustees certainly can delegate the negotiating and signing of a contract to one or more of its members.
He noted the resolution the MnSCU trustees passed only spells out an authority to negotiate with the chancellor: “That’s not an authority to cut a deal at the end,” he said.
MnSCU is the state’s largest higher education system and one of the nation’s largest. Seven universities and 24 community and technical colleges serve more than 400,000 students annually, including almost 60 percent of the state’s undergraduates.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.