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MNSCU head’s $50,000 bonus a problem

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opinion Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

It was recently reported the erstwhile Minnesota State College and University System chancellor was receiving a $50,000 bonus for work he did in his final year as the head of the system. That was the maximum that could be given under his contract.

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We certainly have taken issue with the lavish bonuses MNSCU has felt it needed to award leaders of the system previously. And, we also can’t argue that former chancellor James McCormick’s deal was illegal. There was a clause that allowed for a bonus.

But even the chairman of the Board of Trustees admitted awarding bonuses is a discretionary thing, not required.

It’s easy to give bonus money to others, especially when that money is not yours. Instead, it’s the tax dollars of Minnesota citizens and the always rising tuition from the pockets of students that support the discretionary gift, which is a lot more than some hard-working Minnesota families make in a year.

The issue isn’t that McCormick’s contract called for a bonus. It wasn’t that he was given the bonus, amid cries of protest from union employees. The problem is that MNSCU doesn’t realize there’s a problem.

McCormick was the same leader who advocated — some might even say encouraged — lawmakers to enact the largest MNSCU funding cuts in the state’s history. While students struggle to keep up with rising costs and the individual campuses scramble to make do, the trustees of MNSCU continue to hand out bonuses like parade candy.

This is another one of many reasons the work of the Legislature remains largely unfinished after the special session. Until the largest university system in the state understands it needs to make radical and meaningful changes to an otherwise bloated and distracted system, MNSCU will continue to do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

It’s called accountability.

Someone needs to stop the bonus plan. You can’t convince us that in these spartan times for administrators that bonuses are the deal breakers. You can’t convince us the only way to attract a superior candidate to run a campus is through the bonus system. Moreover, the longer MNSCU trustees spend working on matters that cost students money rather than save it, the further behind the campuses might fall.

McCormick’s folly isn’t some kind of cautionary tale about doling out bonuses.

Instead, it just shows that from the trustees on down, the central office believes the students and taxpayers are there to serve them, rather than the system serving the students.

If MNSCU can’t order its own house, can the Legislature?

Now there’s a scary thought.

— Winona Daily News

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