Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Governor Pawlenty: Taking the trust out of trustee

Sadly enough, most college students across the state do not understand what the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System really is. I remember conversations I have had with random students at campus fairs all across the state. Despite a lacking notoriety in the eyes of students, the system is vital to the success of our students across the state.

To ensure that the voice of the students are heard, the MnSCU Board of Trustee's has three student positions. By statute, a student must be appointed to represent students at two year community colleges, two year technical colleges, and the 4 year state universities. These positions are amongst the most prestigious positions a student can receive during their collegiate career. The responsibility for advocating for 70,000 4 year students or 110,000 2 year college students is an enormous task.

The selection of these students is a serious matter for both the Minnesota State University Student Association (MSUSA) and the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA). Typically, the process to select new trustee's begins more than 6 months from the statute imposed deadline of April 15th.

Students go through a detailed process, being vetted by their own respective governing board and oftentimes a spirited group of delegates. I went through this process back in 2004 for MSUSA. Myself and another student from Bemidji State were recommended by our Board for appointment by the Governor.

This past year MSUSA has engaged in the process of selecting member(s) for appointment to the MnSCU Board as their seat is being vacated on June 30th by Michael Boulton. I have known Michael for a few years now, having served on the MSUSA Board with him and having worked with him on the MnSCU Board as well. He has been a strong advocate for our students and his service to 4 year students is deeply appreciated.

Two students have been recommended by the student association and I know both of these individuals well. Ezra Kazee is a student at Winona State University. He has served in a myriad of positions at both the statewide student association and at Winona. I would argue that this man knows more about MnSCU policy than any other student in the state, having served for many years now on a student disability services panel at MnSCU. Ezra is highly qualified for a position on the board and I have a great deal of respect for him.

The other student is Adam Weigold. Adam is a current student at Metropolitan State University in St Paul and has been active in both the statewide student association and at Mankato and Metropolitan. Adam has been equally as busy in student organizations as well, working with the MSU-Mankato College Republicans and student media outlets. I may not always agree with Mr. Weigold's stances on various issues, I do know that he is a student oriented leader and would serve our students well.

Both are highly qualified to serve on the MnSCU Board.

Recent discussions I have had with colleagues in St Cloud and Mankato have produced a third candidate for the Board, a candidate who has been supposedly recruited by someone in Governor Pawlenty's office, in a blatant attempt to thwart the work of 4 year students across the state.

Luke Hellier's name has emerged as a candidate for the MnSCU Board of Trustee's, as the 4 year student representative.

A quick search produces a blog posting for Luke Hellier that publishes his resume.

The first eye catching tidbit is that Mr. Hellier is a graduate of the College of St Johns, a private college just north of St Cloud.

A private college student advocating for 4 year public college students in one of the most prestigious positions a student receive?

He must have some deep higher education qualifications then, right?

Mr. Hellier's resume indicates he will attend school in Mankato in the Master's in Public Administration program, and will attend on a part time basis.

His resume then becomes a virtual who's who of conservative politics in Minnesota. He served as the political director for Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's campaign. Which would explain my run in's with him in the past, which I will elaborate on later.

The resume continues with work as a research assistant for Young America’s Foundation, an intern for Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life and as a House of Representatives Intern.

Other items of note on the resume note that Mr Hellier was the President of Students Fostering Conservative Thought, Vice Chair of the Minnesota College Republican's in 2006, and a member for the Center for Public Policy. To be fair, Mr Hellier would also appear to have given some significant time to some great organizations in the local area as well, including being a Big Brother to the Boys and Girls Club.

The work at Students Fostering Conservative Thought really caught my eye.
SFCT is a non partisan campus organization at the College of St. Benedict
and St. John's University. SFCT's goal is to spark conversation about
conservative issues on our campus and across the state of Minnesota.
A "non partisan" campus group working to spark conservative issues? That's a partisan group!

This "non-partisan" group worked to bring controversial speakers to the St John's and St Ben's community.

Mr Hellier worked to bring conservative writer David Horowitz to the beautiful confines of the College of St Johns.

Some students were not impressed by the presentation.
St. Ben's senior Kirsten Flaten was not as pleased."He said a lot that wasn't
backed up. Some of his comments were intentionally offensive," she said.St.
John's senior Devin O'Brien also had qualms."Who's going to disagree with
freedom in the classroom?" O'Brien said. "He cites three examples and throws in
a few conservative one-liners to get the audience riled up."
Hellier remained supportive of Horowitz, even after Horowitz asserted that "peace studies programs are probably the leading example of campus support for terrorism."

If Hellier is appointed to the MnSCU Board, he will be dealing with numerous student and faculty policies alike.

Mr Hellier's work at the Young America's Foundation also caught my eye.

The conference highlighted conservative speakers like Governor Pawlenty, Katherine Kersten, Jason Lewis, John Ashcroft and Mr Heiller as well.
Luke Hellier, an activist from St. John’s University, encouraged students to
start several conservative groups on campus, echoing a tactic used by the Left.
Hellier also wrote a piece in the Young America's Foundation publication Libertas, check out page 11.
Thanks to Young America's Foundation, our event was a success, putting the
liberal students and professors on the defensive and introducing our classmates
to conservative ideas!
I find it very ironic that on page 10, they thank Ben Stein for coming to a campus to speak and for YAF arranging for Stein to speak. Stein recently donated to Al Franken's Senate campaign!

There is no mention of any work with student associations, public or private, or work on a student senate on his campus. However, a quick search produces numerous bits of info from when Hellier served on the St Johns Senate. Is he running from his St John's Senate record?

As a Student Senator, Hellier went after the Private College version of MSUSA and MSCSA, the Minnesota Association of Private College Students, in a story dated in March of 2005.
Luke Hellier, a St. John's senator and MAPCS representative said the SJS has
begun to, "reexamine our role in MAPCS, see if it's an organization we want to
be a part of." At issue, is the manner with which MAPCS handles its budget.MAPCS
receives funds through the dues that its member institutions pay; institutions
are required to pay dues to retain their status as a voting member. Hellier
said, the SJS is considering withholding future dues in protest unless MAPCS
makes changes in its fiscal policy.

No one stands for fiscal irresponsibility. Hellier cited expenses above budget for a banner and travel for executive officers. March of 2005 began a ramp up in discussions over the Federal Budget Reconciliation Act, furthermore, a greater lobby effort to Minnesota Representatives that had a history of failing to support college students, namely Mark Kennedy and Gil Gutenecht.

Hellier defended Congressman Kennedy's vote against college students when Kennedy voted for the Budget Reconciliation Act, a bill that cut $14.3 billion from the federal student loan programs, $7.8 billion taken from students through new charges and fees.

"Personally I don't have a problem with it," said Luke Hellier of the College Republicans. "We have to figure out a way to pay for the damage Katrina
caused. We had to do it some way."
Years later, Katrina relief is still needed. The Budget Reconciliation Act may go down as one of the most fiscally irresponsible pieces of legislation from the 109th Congress.

By the way, Hellier was co-director for Students for Kennedy and started a facebook group for Students for Bachmann.

A representative of students must be able to respond to the diverse nature of the MnSCU system. A community on-line publication at St. John's/St. Bens tells the story of a sad altercation a Senator from St Johns had at a Johnnie hockey game.
I, apparently, made the mistake of sitting a few rows behind what I refer to as
“the rowdy boy section”. While this group is fun to sit near, as they often will
start many a rousing chant of “Let's Go Johnnies”, I was disappointed in their
behavior at this particular game. A SJS Senator and his friends began yelling at
the Tommies such phrases as: “You're a fag, #24!”, “You still suck dick!”, “I'm
going to stab you in the heart!”, and “I'm going to kill your family!” This is
appalling to me, as was it to the people sitting around me. There were at least
two known members of the GLBT community within earshot of this Senator who were disappointed with his comments, especially his homophobic remarks.

Note that the letter writer did not name any specific names

Response from the Senator I refered to in my piece:
Lisa, I think we both deserve the opportunity to clear the air about Saturday's game.
I read your letter to the editor and was surprised about some of the remarks. At no time do I recall that myself or any other Senator made any homophobic remarks. I agree that language is completely unacceptable. I understand of the negativity language such as that is uncalled for and should never be used. Those comments could have been made, but never were directed towards anyone in the GLBT community. In the heat of the moment things are said and possibly the homophobic remarks came from them, I would hope that would never happen again. Again, I want to apologize to you or anyone else that might have been offended by any of the
remarks at the game. Please let me know if there is anything else on your mind.
Luke Hellier

The kicker: he's the Community Relations Chair.


Community Relations Chair? Really?

At one point Hellier states "At no time do I recall that myself or any other Senator made any homophobic remarks." Two sentences seperate his contradiction. "Those comments could have been made, but never were directed towards anyone in the GLBT community. In the heat of the moment things are said and possibly the homophobic remarks came from them, I would hope that would never happen again."

I have been to my share of Johnnie/Tommie games, as well as Gopher/Husky and Gopher/North Dakota games. Heat of the moment? I have not heard those phrases uttered at these games before.

This conduct is not befitting of any sentient being, much less a student leader on the MnSCU Board of Trustee's.
Which leads me to my run in with Mr Hellier. I worked a few parades this summer above and beyond my own, walking for Amy Klobuchar and Patty Wetterling.
I believe we were in Monticello for a parade, having a great time when I confronted a Mr Hellier as his group, including himself was walking through the Wetterling group on a parade route putting Bachmann stickers on Wetterling signs and the 8 foot banner.

Hellier, holding a video camera, filmed me "asking him" what he was doing and that what he was doing had crossed a line and that they needed to stop. It was an interesting confrontation to say the least.

Governor Pawlenty has a choice to make soon. He campaigned on higher education issues and working with the powerful student associations in choosing who represents them would be a great start. History is against the students though. Governor Pawlenty is the only Governor to ever appoint a student who did not recieve the support of the student associations. While the statute provides the Governor with that choice, Pawlenty has made these appointments political in nature, at times putting the concerns of college students on the back burner for political gain.

It could be happening again.

Minnesota Statutes are clear as to the higher education goals for the MnSCU system.
(1) to ensure quality - to provide a level of excellence that is competitive on a national and international level, through high quality teaching, scholarship, and learning in a broad range of arts and sciences, technical education, and professional fields;
(2) to foster student success - to enable and encourage students to choose
institutions and programs that are best suited for their talents and abilities, and to provide an educational climate that supports students in pursuing their goals and aspirations;
(3) to promote democratic values - to enhance Minnesota's quality of life by developing understanding and appreciation of a free and diverse society;
(4) to maintain access - to provide an opportunity for all Minnesotans, regardless of personal circumstances, to participate in higher education; and
(5) to enhance the economy - to assist the state in being competitive in the world market, and to prepare a highly skilled and adaptable workforce that meets Minnesota's opportunities and needs.

History of the three candidates indicates that Weigold and Kazee can remain consistent with those objectives as laid out in statute. Either would serve the system extremely well.

Hellier's history shows his desire for political gain and advancing a conservative agenda.
Unfortunately, it also shows that he was willing to sacrifice the good of students to achieve that agenda, which makes him a bad choice for the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Beyond the blatant political agenda, is the fact that Hellier has very limited experience on issues of student governance and the intricacies of a complicated system that provides high quality and affordable education in 46 communities across the State of Minnesota.

With national aspirations surrounding Governor Pawlenty, I wonder if he is viewing this appointment as yet another opportunity to show his handlers the conservative nature of his appointments, and his time as Governor.
He is following the trend of the issues behind the US Attorney scandal, Wolofwitz paying his girlfriend at the World Bank more than what the work was worth. Tenets of the neo-conservative ideology are putting their unqualified people in places of political importance, sacrificing democracy.
Hellier is just another example of the neo-conservative methods for organizing. He could be at the forefront for destroying public higher education in the State of Minnesota.
If this happens, look for a big fight in the legislature next Winter...


Andy Birkey said...

everything on his site seems to have disappeared. Convenient.

Prendergast said...

You do all this work, and where does it go, besides your blog?

We cited it on DumpBachmann, along with pictures of Hellier taping people who protested the appearance of Karl Rove at a fundraiser in Stillwater during Bachmann's congressonal campaign.

But that's not going to stop this guy from becoming a trustee. Take the same information, tighten it up into a briefer article, and get it out as a press release to student newspapers/publications, to the teachers unions, to AFSCME (the public employees union), to the other trustees. Let them know who this candidate is and what he stands for.

Bill Prendergast

Random Blogger said...

Yes, well, good work digging as deep as you could to find what could only be almost entirely circumstancial dirt and quite literally spun out of control. I honestly don't know Hellier, but after reading your post it gives me more contempt for your ranting than for him.

P.S. You clearly have not been to enough Tommie/Jonny or college hockey games, or at least you were sitting in the wrong section, because you don't know what you're talking about when it comes to an utter lack of offensive comments at those games. That's just plain asinine.

BlueWoman said...

random blogger...
You clearly have not read the blog entry closely. The story about the Tommie/Johnnie (not Jonny) hockey game was third person, taken from "A community on-line publication at St. John's/St. Bens"

Before claiming something is asinine, double check your facts.