Last week, MnSCU officials announced that the search for a new president for Rochester Community and Technical College has not gone well.
P-B reporter Taylor Nachtigal had that story Wednesday. Finalists were to be announced this week and a new president approved and announced by May 18. That was the plan as recently as a few weeks ago. But we received a tip early last week that things were changing fast, and according to a public statement from MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, "Despite best efforts, the search process has not yet identified a pool of candidates of sufficient quality from which to forward to the campus and eventually to recommend to the board for appointment."
Then Rosenstone, whose retirement effective next year was announced just a few weeks ago, went on to make this astounding and outrageous comment, which is as revealing as it is insulting:
"We have learned from the search firm that last fall's high profile Internet and media campaign to oust the president deterred many prospective candidates."
With one sentence, the chancellor offended just about everyone on the RCTC campus who had concerns about how the college was being led by former President Leslie McClellon, as well as local media, led by the Post-Bulletin, which accurately and aggressively reported on those concerns.
I would call it an insult to all on campus and to the community, in part because it was so gratuitous. (Though the statement attributes the information to the search firm, I'll let you parse it yourself and draw your own conclusion.) It also appears to pass the buck and assign a scapegoat for a process that so far has failed.
Here's the document: Download SJR - RCTC re presidential search 04-12-2016 FINAL
RCTC student, faculty and staff organizations all expressed deep, well-documented concerns about McClellon's leadership last year. They expressed those concerns in various public ways and directly with MnSCU. With one stroke, Rosenstone's statement diminishes the value and validity of those concerns.
What happened was just a "high profile Internet and media campaign" -- nothing more than that, apparently.
For reporters and editors at the Post-Bulletin, this seems like an especially personal and gratuitous whack. Our reporting had nothing to do with a campaign to "oust" McClellon. It was good, factual, enterprise reporting. The more we reported, the more people called or emailed with more tips. We checked those out and investigated the most relevant angles.
We did our job.
Did some people who contacted us have an agenda? Probably -- most people do when they call the news media, and we're well-aware of that. Reporters are skeptical by nature. We do our best to question everything, including motives and personal agendas. But Rosenstone's characterization of what happened as a "high profile Internet and media campaign to oust" McClellon imputes only the worst motives to a lot of people of good faith who had real concerns.
It can only complicate the process of hiring a new president and healing wounds on campus. Those wounds are most likely deeper now. It also complicates the job of Interim President Joyce Helens, Rosenstone's chosen leader on campus, and the job of the next interim president, who will be hired for as long as two years.
Among the questions I have about Rosenstone's statement: Do Helens and others at MnSCU share his point of view about what happened last year? If so, we may be in for an even bumpier ride than expected.
I also wonder how Rosenstone's experience as the target of vehement opposition during his own tenure may have influenced his comments about RCTC.