Thursday afternoon, I appeared on KNSI’s Ox in the Afternoon to talk about Ashish Vaidya’s announcement that he’s leaving MnSCU (and Minnesota) to become the next president at Northern Kentucky University. Follow this link to listen to that interview. It’s the third interview on the page. But I digress.
During the interview, Ox brought up the subject of what’s next for the University. He mentioned this while questioning whether the University was beyond the point of saving. At that point, I said that, had someone told me 5 years ago that we’d be having this conversation, I likely would’ve taken that bet. The possibility of St. Cloud shutting its doors was unthinkable at that time. It isn’t unthinkable anymore.
To be substantive, though, what’s needed is a rethinking of the management style at SCSU. First, what’s required is a president who isn’t worried about whether his decisions will hurt his career. What’s needed is someone with the intelligence, and willingness, to trim the fat from the administration. Initially, those savings should go into rebuilding the faculty and into scholarships to get students interested in the University.
The other thing that’s needed is the rebuilding of the Aviation Department. Frankly, it was a major mistake to eliminate that program. Right now, there are major wildfires burning in the mountain west. There’s no reason why SCSU couldn’t have a program that trains students in firefighting and rescue operations. It isn’t like they’re getting trained at community colleges or trade schools. Another program that should fit into that Aviation Department is drone training.
With border security becoming a high priority with the federal government, new high-paying jobs are virtually guaranteed upon graduation. From what I’m told, those jobs come with $50,000-$75,000 a year starting pay and virtually 100% placement upon graduation. Call me crazy but a program like that sounds like an enrollment magnet.
Once the enrollment starts improving, there will be other issues that need addressing. A major review and overhaul of the University’s financial decisions is required. Systems need to be put in place to eliminate some of the past decisions and prevent them from happening again. There can’t be another contract signed with the Wedum Foundation. That contract hurt the University badly. I know the perfect person for that position.
We need a president that will instantly connect with area principals. What’s needed, too, is someone who will sell the University’s programs. It’s imperative to immediately create a positive buzz about the University. There isn’t time for a search committee. What’s needed is someone who’s already familiar with SCSU and someone who’s a no-nonsense person. That immediately eliminates Roland Specht-Jarvis from serious consideration. He knows the turf but he’s too into playing politics.
The next president needs to be given the authority to clean house. He needs to be able to pick his own team and the authority to make unpopular but needed decisions. Another thing that the next president will need is unwavering support from civic leaders and financial help from the legislature. I’m not proposing throwing good money after bad. I’m talking about the next president having a plan that they want to execute and the wherewithal to implement that plan.
That plan needs to return the University to the things that made it successful. Rebuild the School of Business. Restart the Aviation Program. Re-open other successful schools. Implementing that plan will create a positive buzz that turns the University around in a proverbial heartbeat.
The Chamber of Commerce needs to step forward and support the new president. A failing university isn’t helping St. Cloud’s economy. If they prefer playing both sides, the University loses. If the University loses, so does St. Cloud’s economy.
The reforms that St. Cloud State needs also are required at MnSCU. My hope is that GOP gubernatorial candidates take this opportunity to fix the disaster that was created in the 1990s. MnSCU has been a disaster from the day it was signed into law. It’s accountable to no one. It hasn’t done what it promised to do. MnSCU’s Board of Trustees is filled with ex-politicians who are essentially waiting for their next political campaign to happen. Universities need to be accountable to their communities, not to a bunch of career politicians 50+ miles away.
The presidential search committee, composed of NKU’s Board of Regents, faculty, staff, students and community members, recommended Vaidya after an eight-month process. The board of regents unanimously elected him Wednesday morning.
It isn’t that MnSCU needs a search committee to find the next president of St. Cloud State. It’s that the next president needs the support of “faculty, staff, students and community members.”