A wake up call for Minnesota? A wake up call for U.S. higher education?

After spending quite a bit of time in Chinese universities that are trying hard to become ‘like’ U.S. universities (read U.S. universities as sites where shared governance, dialogue, critical thinking, service, and discovery are valued), I find it ironic that we have political leadership in the U.S. trying to move universities TOWARD becoming what many Chinese universities are trying to AVOID: workforce factories managed by administrators who are not in the classroom, who have little time to spend understanding the complexity of today’s pedagogy or student developmental needs, and who give lip service to appreciating the work faculty and staff do while dictating and directing the educational enterprise to ‘turn a profit.’

Does this attempted transformation of higher education include the hiring of individuals charged with directing and dictating the educational enterprise as ‘state located institutions?’ What happens to individuals in universities who believe in democracy, try to live democratic principles, and attempt to engage students, staff and faculty in the community as a regional stewards when they are devalued by funding formulas, state statutes and policies, and disparaging voices that carry the day?

Do we still pride ourselves as a nation committed to an educational system accessible to all that values what money can’t buy? Do we still believe that an educated public is essential to the survival of a democracy?

Or are we pandering to what corporate American demands, part of which Eisenhower warned us about in his farewell speech in 1961: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”


July 13, 2015
The Withering of a Once-Great State University

By David J. Vanness

Among the dozens of policy changes embedded in the budget signed on Sunday by Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin were measures to strike the definition of tenure appointments; insert detailed termination procedures for tenured faculty members in the event of unspecified “budget or program decisions”; subordinate the faculty to chancellors and the largely governor-appointed Board of Regents; and strip from faculty members their “primary responsibility” for academic and educational activities and personnel matters.

Those radical provisions fundamentally change the structure and spirit of the University of Wisconsin system, and their impact will be far-reaching — with some changes being felt immediately and others taking years if not decades to play out.

When Walker introduced his budget, in February, he caught flak for redefining the system’s mission statement, making “training the workforce” ascendant and eliminating the “search for truth” as the institution’s guiding principle. Walker was rightfully accused of seeking to eliminate the “Wisconsin Idea” — the vision, traced back to the UW president John Bascom and the Wisconsin-born progressive movement of Sen. Robert La Follette, that the role of our great state university should be, above all, to seek the truth and apply the knowledge gained therein for the benefit of students, state, and society as a whole.

While Walker eventually retracted the proposed changes in the mission statement, blaming a simple “drafting error” (a statement later proved false), the impact of his budget may ultimately be the death of the Wisconsin Idea — perhaps the culmination of a plan set in motion decades before by his largest financial backers, the Bradley Foundation, whose chief executive, Michael W. Grebe, was named Walker’s campaign chair. Notably, Grebe’s son Michael M. Grebe was named to the UW Board of Regents this summer.

As regent, Michael M. Grebe has publicly commented that the UW system should be run like a business, eliminating duplicative degree programs (as companies might eliminate duplicative manufacturing locations) and empowering chancellors to function more like corporate CEOs. When pushing those changes through the State Legislature, the Assembly speaker, Robin Vos, echoed those goals. For those of us who believe a university should be run like a university for the benefit of all, and not as a publicly funded R&D unit or job-training center for the benefit of private industry, the changes are hard to take.

Some of my colleagues have predicted a mass exodus of faculty members. That is a serious and disastrous possibility. Stories have already emerged of faculty members’ leaving because they see no future here. The latest insult to tenure and shared governance is piled upon chronic, debilitating injury brought about by more than a decade of budget cuts, with no end in sight. Add to that a political culture that vilifies professors as elitist, entitled, and lazy, and for many of us who have made Wisconsin our professional and family home, it is difficult to envision a future in this new environment.

There will most likely be an open season on our current best and brightest faculty members. However, the more devastating effects will play out over time, resulting in a steady decline more than a precipitous fall. In our highest-demand fields, our ability to recruit junior and midcareer faculty members will be severely hampered. In an academic culture focused on the coasts, it was already a challenge to get top talent to consider launching (or further building) their careers in “flyover” country. When I served on recruitment committees, I often pointed out that our state was so committed to the importance of scholarship that the Wisconsin Idea and protecting principles of tenure and shared governance were enshrined in state statute. No more.

It is possible that a combination of private money and public funds allocated for merit pay could be used to retain (or attract) some star faculty members, but it will come at a substantial financial and social cost. Even at UW, where our mission and system of shared governance has promoted a relative sense of equanimity and shared purpose, we already work in a caste system separating non-tenure-track instructors and research staff members from tenured or tenure-track faculty members. We, like all academia, have substantial variations in pay between faculty members in the humanities and in the STEM fields. But the future at Wisconsin will probably usher in a new class system among professors within fields, with privately sponsored elite faculty members sitting atop the hierarchy.

I grew up on the South Side of Milwaukee as the child of parents who did not finish college, but who saw that higher education was a worthy investment in a bright future. Though I did not know it at the time, they were instilling in me the Wisconsin Idea — the expectation that I would use my knowledge and skills not just for my own benefit but for the benefit of others. I have always felt loyal to my home state, so much so that I accepted a substantial reduction in pay to leave the private sector for a tenure-track position here, with the promise that I would have the academic freedom — my own tools and flexibility — to ask difficult questions and give answers that challenge the status quo to make a better world. It makes me physically sick to think that, due to one man’s presidential ambitions, so many of my colleagues and I will probably leave our once-great University of Wisconsin and so many brilliant minds will never come.

As for the impact of Scott Walker’s changes in the UW system on the rest of higher education, remember: The past is prologue. As he has said, repeatedly, “If we can do it in Wisconsin, we can do it everywhere.”

David J. Vanness is an associate professor of population health sciences in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Reorganization recommendations process for fall 2015

Bemidji State University Reorganization of Academic Affairs

In considering the Master Academic Plan, the University Strategic Plan, recent changes in configuration of the BSU/NTC alignment/NTC reinvention, and the Haag-Sauer removal, it is time to examine the organizational structure of academic affairs at Bemidji State University. The Bemidji State University Master Academic Plan exists as our guiding document and identifies four goal areas for our consideration:

• Becoming financially sustainable
• Becoming distinctively BSU
• Becoming internationally competitive
• Designing organizational support for 1-3

We need an organizational structure that provides new opportunities for faculty to participate in leadership roles, promotes collegiality within and across disciplines, reduces administrative costs in order to preserve faculty lines, and keeps student success and learning at the core of our value system.

Therefore, I am asking that an academic affairs reorganization task force be created by September 1, 2015. The task force should include representatives from all bargaining units within academic affairs and co-chaired by a senior faculty member and the interim assistant vice president for academic affairs. Some considerations for the task force are:

1. Creatively consider all possibilities that would serve to

a. Enhance shared decision making across academic affairs’ areas: colleges, schools, departments, programs
b. Reduce faculty release time by 6-8 FTE equivalent (we have 18 FTE equivalent release time currently)
c. Consider consolidation of departments to reduce administrative costs
d. Consider alignment of departments across existing colleges/schools
e. Provide a rotation of leadership opportunities for faculty
f. Take into consideration the physical plant changes underway at BSU, but do not let those changes drive the recommended organizational structure

2. Recommend to the provost/vpaa by December 1, 2015 an organizational structure or set of structures for academic affairs that can be brought forward to the campus community for consideration

3. Constantly communicate and engage as many faculty and staff and students as possible throughout the process

The proposed task force membership would be:

1. 5 IFO

2. 2 ASF


4. 2 BSUSA

5. 1 Admin/excluded

Graduate Education at BSU Reorganizational Considerations

Joan Miller retires in January of 2016. Based upon graduate enrollments over the past few years and the reduction in GA’ships during recalibration, we are proposing the following, which will need to go to the graduate council in the fall for consideration/recommendation:

1. Suspend the following graduate programs

a. Elementary and Middle School Mathematics
b. Science Education
c. MS Education

2. Keep the following graduate programs
a. MBA online
b. MSpEd. online
c. MA Teaching online
d. English
e. Biology
f. Environmental Studies

3. Continue to have deans provide academic oversight to graduate programs in their college

4. Reorganize School of Graduate Studies

a. Change Director position from Director, School of Graduate Studies to Coordinator of Graduate Studies
b. Move Coordinator position to CEL, with joint reporting to CEL Director and Provost, with responsibility for
i. Recruitment and enrollment of graduate students
ii. Student service oversight and support for graduate students
iii. Working with Deans and Graduate Council regarding all aspects of graduate education at BSU
iv. Support for CEL as assigned
c. Move current OAS from .75 to 1.0 FTE Intermediate OAS with responsibility for
i. Clerical oversight of graduate programming
ii. Support for individual graduate students as needed
iii. Support for CEL as assigned
Proposed Center for Community Partnerships

To create a collaborative and unified approach to BSU outreach in the region and state, we may wish to consider the following organizational structure.

1. Create a Center for Community Partnerships that is the umbrella organization for the following
a. 360 Center of Excellence
b. Optivation
c. Marketing and Research Solutions
d. Small Business Development Center (in the future if financially feasible)
e. Office of Adult Education (in the future if financially feasible)
f. CEL as ad hoc member
g. Intern Bemidji as ad hoc member

2. Modify Karen White’s position to include Executive Directorship of the CCP
a. 1 a-e report to Karen White
b. Karen reports to Dean, CBTC

3. Form a CCP council
a. Include Intern Bemidji as ad hoc council member
b. Include CEL Director as ad hoc council member

Reorganization of Academic Affairs and Student Development and Enrollment


Attached is an organizational chart showing changes made in the divisions of academic affairs and student development and enrollment.

Org Charts — VP Academic Affairs 071415 (Word Doc)

We plan to talk a bit more with everyone about the purposes of the reorganization at fall start-up, but I wanted to give you a brief follow-up to the open forum last week.

In short, we are adjusting the organizational structure to place student success squarely in the middle of everything we do at BSU and NTC and make it our priority. As you can read below, the two-year old Master Academic Plan and our new Institutional Strategic Plan stated that was our priority, yet our organizational structure, many of our current practices, and possibly even our institutional culture didn’t seem to align well with those beliefs.

With this change in organizational structure, we are attempting to walk our talk: students come first; supporting faculty and staff so that they can excel at what they do comes second; and administration’s job is to provide that support and engage everyone in sustaining, invigorating, and advancing the institution. We hope you see the possibilities as we try to be a flatter organization and remove the institutional ‘towers’ and divisional lines that typically create, rather than remove, obstacles to success.

As always, we appreciate the outstanding people who work here to engage students in learning; we invite everyone to actively participate in planning and decision making; and we ask that you join us in making this an exceptional place to work. We welcome and value your thoughts and ideas on how we may continue to improve the learning/living community that is Bemidji State University.

Enjoy your day and the wonderful summer in Bemidji!

Master Academic Plan FY 2013-2016

We believe that Bemidji State University is:

Academic Beliefs

1. A living/learning environment where teaching and student learning is at the heart of everything we say and everything we do.
2. An institution where learning best occurs when students engage their ‘mind, heart and hands’ in addressing personal and social concerns relevant to them and to their world.
3. A university where students, staff, faculty and administrators are teachers and everyone is a learner.
4. An environment where creative and critical thinkers engage in service as part of our obligation as a regional steward of place where we advance the ‘common good’ (see definitions page).

Therefore, we believe that teaching, learning and the needs of students are considered first in all university planning, in all assessment and evaluation activities (including the evaluation of students, faculty, staff, and administration), and in all decisions regarding resource allocation.

The Core Elements of the Strategic Plan

Mission Statement

We create an innovative, interdisciplinary and highly accessible learning environment committed to student success and the betterment of our communities, state and planet. Through the transformative power of the liberal arts, education in the professions, and robust engagement of our students, we instill and promote service to others, preservation of the earth, and respect and appreciation for the diverse peoples of our region and world.

Master Academic Plan goal area outcomes Summary report – highlights Fall 2013 – July 2015

Becoming financially sustainable

1. All liberal education requirements are available online for distance students, although we could use additional sections

2. Off campus blended/hybrid cohort enrollments at distant sites (headcount/credits)

a. 2012-13: 151 and 1338 credits
b. 2013-14: 227 and 2227 credits
c. 2014-15: 261 and 2552 credits
d. New off campus cohorts

i. Nursing (3)
ii. Biology
iii. Business
iv. SOWK SWIM and LADC certificate
v. Mass Comm, Psychology, and Mathematics in planning
vi. Creation of BSU center Twin Cities in progress

3. Overall enrollment headcount:

a. 2012-2013: +1%
b. 2013-14: +2.5% (highest in history)
c. 2014-15: -.8% (third highest in history and down less than any other MnSCU university)
d. Fall 2015: projected flat (other MnSCU universities predict down)

4. New programs

a. Leadership Development minor
b. Project Management major
c. Wildlife Management major
d. Engineering Technology (name change/program revamp)
e. Jazz Emphasis
f. International Studies minor
g. MBA online
h. Accounting online
i. Social Work Integrated blended degree program
j. Chemical Dependency minor
k. SOWK LADC certificate blended delivery
l. Post-Bac FasTrac teacher licensure online/blended

5. Percentage of university funds allocated to Academic Affairs increased by 3%; reduced student FTE/faculty FTE ratio from 25:1 to 22:1

Becoming distinctively BSU:

1. Intern Bemidji program renewed with over 75 positions available each year

2. 12 international internships available to BSU students annually

3. 12 teaching slots available for new BSU graduates at Ameri-Can International Academy; expanding annually

4. 50 affordable (less than $1K above cost of staying at BSU) semester abroad slots available each semester

5. Growth in summer credit and non-credit offerings each of the last two years to move BSU to a ‘summer destination’

Becoming internationally competitive: 12 new international partnerships

1. Visiting professor program

a. 2012-13: International visiting professors at BSU: 1 ($32K cost to BSU)
b. 2013-14: 2 ($55K cost to BSU) Program revamped
c. 2014-15: 6 ($52K gross revenue to BSU)
d. 2015:16: 10 expected ($90K gross revenue to BSU)

2. BSU students working abroad

a. 2012-13: 0 BSU students working abroad
b. 2013-14: 6
c. 2014-15: 17
d. 2015-16: >25 expected to work abroad

3. BSU students education abroad (credit based; not including work abroad)

a. 2011-12: 43
b. 2012-13: 55
c. 2013-14: 90
d. 2014-15: >100 estimated by end of summer 15

4. International student applications for admission

a. 2012-13: 65 international applicants from 16 countries
b. 2013-14: 70 international applicants from 18 countries
c. 2014-15: 245 international applicants from 48 countries; (highest all time was 2005-06: 175)

5. New partnership with Ameri-Can International Academy in Weifang provides 12 teaching slots for new BSU graduates and is expanding annually

6. BSU faculty abroad

a. 2012-13: 3
b. 2013-14: 5
c. 2014-15: 8

Designing organizational support for MAP goal areas

1. New regional partnerships

a. Watermark Regional Art Center
b. Bemidji Community Theater on BSU campus
c. Bemidji Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center
d. Bemidji High School Academy partnership with NTC
e. Mechatronics programming with NTC

2. NTC organizational changes and accreditation process underway

3. Tribal Colleges/BSU Consortium with high definition audio/video connected classrooms and program planning in progress

4. Global Learning Center classroom and English Language Center partnership with Winona State in place

5. Expanded cabinet and academic affairs council membership; posting of meeting notes; blog and email updates; open forums; reorganization of administrative structure planning