Thursday, September 10, 2015

For the Record: U of M Alum Marshall Tanick on the U's Penchant for Secrecy

Marshall Tannick earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School with top honors in the Order of the Coif. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Minnesota.

Marshall, a prominent local attorney, writes in the Pioneer Press:

As the turmoil continues and gets worse at the University of Minnesota regarding former Athletics Director Norwood Teague, one feature that has been overlooked is the faulty manner in which the university selected him. He was chosen in 2012 by President Eric Kaler as the only "finalist" for the $400,000 position. 
The university customarily uses this one-finalist-only process as a means of circumventing public scrutiny under the Minnesota "sunshine" laws, the data practices and open meeting statutes. The institution speciously justifies this opaque practice by citing fears that high-quality candidates will be deterred from applying if their identities are publicly revealed. So, the school shrouds the process in an unnecessary veil of secrecy akin to picking a pope.
But the concern that "sunshine" will repel candidates, as if they were vampires, is an illusion. Many other educational systems around the country -- and in Minnesota, as well -- reveal the names of multiple candidates for major positions, which allow the public to examine their qualifications, rather than disclosing only the sole "finalist" as a fait accompli. Had the university done so with Teague, it may have provided input from those with greater knowledge of his activities and behavior at his prior job in Virginia than the now-discredited search committee was able to discover for more than $100,000 in fees. 
By the way, the man who selected Teague for the position got his job this same way.
President Kaler, like his recent predecessors, also was chosen by the Board of Regents as the only "finalist," as a means of limiting oversight of the selection process.
In addition to improving background checks and other hiring features, the "U" ought to take a look at its penchant for secrecy and the resulting defective process for picking top-level administrators. The institution should fix it with a strong dose of transparency before the next selection proceeds, including Teague's replacement and, perhaps, Kaler's, too.

Marshall H. Tanick, Minneapolis

 The Open Meeting Law is violated on a regular basis at the U of M.  Here are just a few examples:

April 2, 2015 Faculty Consultative Committee closes its meeting for a legislative session update. (The law does not permit closing a meeting of a committee of one public institution to discuss the actions of that public institution with another public institution.)

February 18, 2014 Senate Committee on Finance & Planning closes its meeting to discuss problems with funding for UMD. (The law does not permit closing meetings to discuss the use of public funds and tuition at a public institution.)

December 5, 2013 FCC closes its meeting to discuss the Academic Health Center.

September 21, 2013 FCC conducts its entire annual retreat off the record.

For an analysis of the application of the Open Meeting Law to the U of M see the Postscript on FCC & The Open Meeting Law at the end of New Year's Resolutions for New President (originally posted on the University of Minnesota blogging system UThink, on December 19, 2010. This system is now defunct.)


The memorandum of the U of M general counsel on the Open Meeting Law is included in the September 16, 2010 report of the FCC. The general counsel declares (emphasis added):

A plain reading of the statutory text could indicate an exceptionally broad interpretation of the phrase 'committee . . . of a public body.' However, Minnesota courts, the Commissioner of Administration, and practical constraints functionally limit the reach of the statute to include only committees that have the capacity to transact public business on the part of the public body by making final policy decisions. The committees considered by the courts to be transacting public business are committees of the governing bodies of the public body at the University of Minnesota, this means
committees of the Board of Regents. We are aware of no Minnesota court opinion stating or suggesting that the Open Meeting Law applies to a committee such as the FCC, which is not a committee or subcommittee of the Board of Regents and does not transact business on behalf of the Board.

The general counsel needs to review the statute.

Here is Minn. Stat. 13D.01:

Subdivision 1. In executive branch, local government.

All meetings, including executive sessions, must be open to the public
(a) of a state . . .
(b) of the governing body of a . . . or
(6) other public body;
(c) of any
(1) committee,
(2) subcommittee . . .
of a public body

It is true that the scope of paragraph (b) of Minn. Stat. 13D.01 subd. 1 is limited to meetings of the governing body of a public body. However, paragraph (c) requires that meetings of ANY COMMITTEE of a public body must be open to the public. Unlike paragraph (b), paragraph (c) does NOT limit its scope to a "governing" body.

The general counsel also needs to review the opinion of the Minnesota Supreme Court in Star Tribune Company v.University of Minnesota Board of Regents, 683 N.W.2d 274 (Minn. 2004):

Although we have not used the precise term 'public body' to describe the University, we have used terms that convey the same meaning. . . . 
In fact, the Regents do not contend that the University is not a public body. Rather they argue that the Open Meeting Law does not appy to the Regents because the legislature did not expressly name the Regents as an entity subject to the
requirements of the law. . . . 
Because the 'public body' language of the Open Meeting Law is certainly broad enough to encompass the University, the Regents are in essence arguing there should be an exception to the stated scope of the Open Meeting Law for theUniversity. However, as the court of appeals pointed out, the Open Meeting Law contains express exceptions for meetingsof the commissioner of corrections, state agencies exercising quasijudicial functions involving disciplinary proceedings and'as otherwise expressly provided by statute.' Minn. Stat. 13D.01 subd. 2. The University is not included among those express exceptions. . . . 
Given the broadly inclusive language of the Open Meeting Law, our numerous opinions recognizing the University as a public institution, the failure of the legislature to include the University among other expressly stated exceptions, and our principle of construing the Open Meeting law to favor public access, we hold that the University is subject to the terms of the Open Meeting Law.
Star Tribune Company v. University of Minnesota Board of Regents,
683 N.W.2d at 281(Minn. 2004).

So the University is a "public body" (as that statutory term is applied by the Minnesota Supreme Court), and the FCC as a committee of a public body is subject to paragraph (c) of subdivision 1 of Minn. Stat. 13D.01.

It appears that the FCC needs independent counsel on this point of law.

Michael W. McNabb
University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

For the Record: Why did Studham leave?

An article has appeared on the Wall Street Journal site about the recent departure of our CIO (Chief Information Officer.)

Comments so far on this article are below with emphasis added. A transparent explanation of what happened is due from the University of Minnesota administration.  

Ex-Studham Employee wrote: 
What a crock. This man is a sociopath was run out on a rail by his own senior leadership after increasingly sporadic temper tantrums and abuses of power. If he ever crosses the threshold of a college or university again, it will be too soon.

Good Riddance wrote:  
One should know that the attempts to "boost employee engagement through surveys and feedback on IT issues" amount to reeducation programs and constant gaming of the survey to boost OIT ratings after scoring below almost every department on campus. Those who would not (or could not) comply were forced out. 

University of Minnesota employee wrote:
No one quits a $250k+ a year job to go running, this might as well say he resigned to "focus on his family." The reality is he was the subject of an internal investigation regarding the misappropriation of University funds and other questionable practices. He burned bridges with senior leadership and most everyone he worked with. In the shadow of recent scandals involving other senior University of Minnesota staff the institution’s tolerance for high risk behaviors evaporated. Simply put he was forced out. What happened to reporting WSJ? You might as well just republish the press release.

Huh... wrote: 
Other people hold down full-time jobs and train for triathlons and marathons. Quitting your job to do suggests time management issues. If my husband quit his job to train, he had better come home with a first place trophy. Just saying.

Studham fails wrote: 

Ditto to all of the comments above. Studham was a cancer on the university and the poster child for unethical behavior and wasting university resources for personal benefit. Seeing him in action was like watching a child stuck in puberty - embarrassing for an "executive" at his level. Goodbye and good riddance.

Fork and Spoon operator from sector 7-G wrote:

Some of the vitriol here is a little over the top but he was a bully who claimed to not know why every little request resulted in a five alarm fire on down the line. The Abilene Paradox comes to mind for most of the decision making going on the last few years. 
"In an Abilene paradox a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of many (or all) of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene Paradox is a desire not to "rock the boat." "

Brand mismanagement wrote:

Far more interesting in promoting the "Scott Studham" brand than accomplishing his job. An earlier poster was correct -- he was about to undergo an investigation into misappropriation of funds related to expanding his empire. He got out before anything became public.

Univ of Tennessee employee wrote:

Practically everything said above could have been and was said of Studham's tenure at UT. Until he learns to work with his peers rather than against them, and work for the good of the institution in which he is employed, he will never rise to the level of responsibility he so desperately craves.

Yet another Univ. of TN employee wrote:

He drove morale into the ground while he was here. He tried to replace managers with "service owners" until no one knew who was responsible for purchasing or hiring. It was total chaos. When he left people were cheering throughout our IT department. How does this type of person who gets chased out of every job they've held keep getting hired? When he came to UT, people from ORNL called to ask us that same question. He was forced out there too.

Get Real, WSJ wrote:

No mention that he resigned "effective immediately", with the news released after-hours on the Friday leading into a long weekend? Nobody at that executive level *ever* resigns "effective immediately" unless they're trying to get out ahead of a scandal. Ever. Try doing some real reporting.

Studham's Research "Expertise" wrote:

Studham claims to have a strong background in research computing. While at The University of Tennessee, he proposed replacing Linux on our supercomputer with Windows. He said he had done that at ORNL and that it had made supercomputing easy to use. We called ORNL and could find no such system. In fact, their IT people found the idea quite amusing. He also tried to replace SAS and MATLAB with Excel. He claimed to be customer driven so when we asked what customer had asked for these changes, he said that he was a customer too.

UofM wrote:

It is mind boggling that if what was said above about being "forced" out of previous positions, how the UofM could not have known...

UofMN wrote:

What makes you think the U didn't know? They conduct major searches for any "leadership" position and then pick the person who promises to "fix" whatever quagmire needs attention. My experience - the U couldn't care less about the quality of a candidate as long as h/she knows how to play the role of a vapid talking head who blames staff for everything.

Celebration Time C'mon! Let's Celebrate! IT Employee wrote:

The guy was a bully. Unethical and led by fear. He is paranoid and calculating. Everyone's ideas (including that of his boss and other VPs) were 'cute'. He believed he was the smartest guy in the room. Possible. Horrible all the same. Kudos to the U for finally realizing it and doing something about it. It took too long.

UMN employee again. wrote:

Doesn't anyone see that these series of firings are a distraction from the real skeletons in the University's closet? Faculty with tenure get away with horrible offenses of sexual harassment against students (minors, even), workplace bullying, embezzlement, religious persecution, blatant racism, and far far worse. On a daily basis. Ask any staff member (who are not to be confused with administrators). This is all a charade. If Studham and Teague were tenured faculty and not P&A annually renewable employees, NONE of this would have made the news. The staff brave enough to speak up against this behavior would have been sent to EOAA where all claims go to die.

ConcernedUofMAlum wrote:

What is going on at the U? Seems like there is no sense of how important upfront and credible public and media relations are for a major public research university that touches so many people, institutions and communities. Sad.

He pulled that "service owner" s*** at UT, too? wrote: 

The mother of all cluster**** reorgs in the history of cluster**** reorgs. You ******** at UT should've warned us about that crap! Although, to be fair, you were probably keeping that to yourselves to get rid of him.

It is about time wrote: 

Scott Studham was complicit in the move to make sure the majority of his employees did not have Civil Service protections in their jobs. He was proud of the fact that he purged most Civil Service employees from his ranks. Over half were moved from Civil Service to renewable contract positions.

Bedside manner... wrote:

...of a serial rapist.

For the Love of the UofMN wrote: 

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Now U of MN step up your game, bring in good leadership and to be honest kick the Studham backers to the curb... they are just as bad as him for riding the coattails and getting financial as well as job gain from him. ACIO's .... really??? Service Owners... blah. He pulled the wool over peoples eyes like a hat trick and people bought into his garbage.

Quiting to run a marathon? Ummm no asked to leave and about time.

University leaders, Regents etc.... let's wipe this egg off our faces. The University is a great school, I am a former employee and Alum, Go Gophers!!!!

UM concerned citizen wrote: 

I think this is happening / has happened everywhere, but the UMN is no longer a safe place to challenge authority unless you have tenure or civil service protections. Even then, there are ways to remove the whistle-blower. And with the threat of lawsuits arising from negative reference checks, is it any wonder that problem leaders are tolerated or shared with the next institution?

Lencioni wrote:
 Five Dysfunctions of a team:
Absense of trust. Check.
Fear of conflict. Check.
Lack of committment. Check.
Avoidance of accountability. Check.
Inattention to results. Check.

By his own measure Studham was wildly successful at creating a highly dysfunctional team. Time to start the next chapter. Ironically, this is a really exciting time to work in IT at the U.

Angry too! wrote: 

To UMN employee again -- I agree - there is no safe place to report offenses of harassment. Tenure and bad leadership is keeping sexual harassers and mean SOBs in their positions. I would never send my child to the University of Minnesota.

Relieved wrote: 

Seriously - quitting to ride his bike and swim laps? Story telling is one of Studhams few strengths and I would have expected more from him than a newfound love for fitness and homeschooling. The reality is that Studham is neither a technologist nor a leader. He's his own chief marketing officer and campaign manager. Peel back the shiny marketing glitz and chrome plated facade and you'll find an empty suit and a failed attempt at leadership. His sole interest is the pursuit of self gratification and those with the misfortune of working with him are just pawns in the game. Fortunately, the match is over. Checkmate.

Gopherlady wrote: 

Is there a thumbs up button for all of these comments?

Not Trending Positively wrote:

What we want is Studham's $80+ million "Upgrade" disaster to be fixed so that we can all do our jobs again.

IT Employee wrote:

The comments above have just barely touched the surface. He was verbally abusive towards his employees on a daily basis.

It looks like wrote: 
This "report" is a Studham publicity stunt that backfired spectacularly. 

I Can See Russia From My House wrote:
Seriously, WSJ? A well-paid university exec resigns "effective immediately," just as the school year is starting, in order to GET IN SHAPE, and that sounds credible to you? 

To Review.... wrote: 
So, to review, former Studham employees at Oakridge, U Tennesee, and U Minnesota all found him to be arrogant, a bully, and not smart. That he says he quit so he could run a marathon and then to work with his wife (because they home school their own kids) suggests his arrogance that people would believe it, especially when his “resignation” was accepted immediately the weekend before school hits. The weekend before his lauded work (maybe deservedly?) on the enterprise system would be tested at full load. President Kaler is not an idiot here. He got rid of an erupting problem because he already had too many scandals he had to manage (Norwood Teague, Psychiatry). What did Studham do that the top executives would force him out? That’s a journalistic question, and I hope the WSJ or one of the local outlets would investigate that. 

The list of comments continues to grow.  I will stop here, but readers may click the link for additional comments.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Question of Priorities Part III

A Question of Priorities Part III 

The U of M administration has offered a salary increase of less than 1% to the University employees represented by Teamsters Local 320. These food service, custodial, and clerical workers provide services each day for all the students, professors, staff, and administrators. The recent $400,000 raise for basketball coach Richard Pitino is more than the total salary increase offered to all these University employees. See the September 1, 2015 Star Tribune on U Employees Protest Salary Negotiations.

The offer to these University employees in comparison to the raise for the coach demonstrates the priorities of the U of M administration.  And demonstrates (once again) how out of touch the highly paid senior administrators are with the daily economic lives of workers and students and parents.

But the senior administrators and the Regents do not make any connections between these actions and do not understand how their actions adversely affect the relationship of the University with these groups (and other groups, such as the state legislators who are watching all this).

Then the U of M president tells us that these same senior administrators must be paid very well to recruit and retain them.  The compensation for senior administrators places the University at risk of losing the continuing goodwill and financial support of donors, state legislators, and the general public.  See The Cost of "Top Talent" Part I and Part III.

Michael W. McNabb

University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974

University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

Editor's Note: 
What does this say about us at the University of Minnesota when we offer a salary increase of less than one percent to our lowest paid employees? It says that we will take advantage of anyone we think we can.
I am ashamed.
May I never hear the words "social justice" out of this administration.
William B. Gleason, U of M prof (retired)
U of M alumnus, 1973