Did The State Board Of Higher Education Finally Get Something Right?


North Dakota’s university system is in crisis. It has been rocked by scandal, and it is being managed by people more prone to deception and arrogance than sound, ethical leadership. Reform of the way the university system is governed is badly needed. A new chancellor will not fix what ails the university system.

But setting that all aside for a moment, this evening the State Board of Higher Education picked a new chancellor to replace Bill Goetz, who had announced his retirement last year. The new candidate is Hamid Shirvani.

I know about as much about this gentleman, who is coming to North Dakota from Cal State University, but the 2009 Chronicle of Higher Education article below apparently written by him is promising.

An excerpt:

Colleges and universities should focus more on degree completion, not just on how many students enroll. That doesnot mean “teaching to the test,” but rather paying more attention to student success and seeking more and betterways that faculty members can support and guide students inside and outside the classroom.

That is a radical notion for the North Dakota university system – and indeed the higher ed industry as a whole – which has adopted an assembly line mentality that values bloated enrollment (event to the point of paying recruiters and using outright fraud to hustle students through their doors) over quality education.

Again, Mr. Shirvani cannot fix what’s wrong with higher education in North Dakota. We need reform. The independence, “fourth branch of government” status of higher education must be ended because it is the root cause our the university system’s problems. But this pick by the Board of Higher Education may indicate that even those blinkered bureaucrats are coming to realize that there is, actually, a problem.

Update: Of course, there’s also this from Mr. Shirvani’s Wikipedia page:

In April 2010, California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced an investigation to accusations that the university officials including Hamid Shirvani violated public records laws when they refused to reveal the financial details of a contract with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to speak at a university fundraiser, and allegedly shredded documents related to the agreement.[5]

The contract was reportedly found in a recycling bin along with other CSU documents. These were found by two unnamed CSUS students after a tip they received stating that there was documents being shredded at the CSU on a Furlough Day. In August 2010, the Attorney General concluded his investigation and found that there was no misappropriation of funds by the Foundation and no violation of law. [6]

In November 2009 the General Faculty of CSU Stanislaus voted for a measure of No Confidence in CSU Stanislaus President Hamid Shirvani. The motivation for the vote according to the Academic Senate was “Shirvani’s abandonment of the shared governance process, the deteriorating working relationship between Shirvani and faculty, and Shirvani’s seeming lack of understanding of the mission of the CSU system.” [7]

Violating open records laws? He’ll fit right in with the rest of the states higher education bureaucrats.


Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    We will know from the reaction of the tenured pointy heads and educrats in ND’s education cabal, whether he is a good choice or not.

  • RCND

    This just in…. a vote of no confidence was received by him from his last job.


    Of course reading between the lines, this could be a good thing too. By the way, I am trying to figure out in what other profession but higher ed can you have a formalized system set up where the employees get to publically say their boss sucks and get away with it.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Yeah, noted that in the post, though I’d need to know more about the circumstances.

      The apparent destroying of documents in the Sarah Palin incident is troubling, given our university system’s somewhat less-than-cooperative attitude about open records.

  • RCND

    I wonder why Flakoll, ND Higher Eds favorite legislator and Apologist in Chief, didn’t get the job. Or did I basically just answer my own question?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      My theory was that the SBHE couldn’t afford to lose a consistent vote in their favor in the legislature given the growing hostilities there.

    • Ctomrun

      Flakol will chair ND Senate EDucation committee is my bet.

  • Rick Olson

    Some people are bound to ask why the Board of Higher Education chose to hire someone from out of state to replace Bill Goetz.  I think the answer is pretty clear.  It’s because nobody in their right mind from North Dakota wants the job. Anyone who has any sort of political ambitions does not want to be the Chancellor of Higher Education.

    There needs to be reform in higher education.  I think that is plainly obvious for all to see.  In fact, I agree with Rob that the position of Chancellor of Higher Education as we know it may not exist in two years.  I also agree that there is reform coming.  No longer a question of if it’s coming, but when. 

    The more that gets peeled back about higher education and its dirty laundry that the state’s media conveniently glosses over, then the truth is going to come out and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

    I think I can understand the reasoning behind putting higher education up on its constitutionally protected pedestal that it now sits on, but even then I don’t think it was the intent of the people to make the higher education system completely unaccountable.

    The 11 higher education institutions in North Dakota still receive appropriations from the Legislature, so it seems to me that they aren’t completely independent, but the Legislature and governor have little “power of the pursestrings” over higher education, because of the constitutional mandate that higher education be adequately funded.

    I guess a lot will ride on what the ND Supreme Court decides on the Fighting Sioux nickname law.

  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    Big education’s sacred cow status in this state should have been revoked a long time ago!

  • ec99

    I’m frankly surprised the insider didn’t get hired.  Maybe the SBHE did learn something from the fact only 21 people applied for what would be a plum job for any senior administrator.  My bet is he lasts maybe 2 years, and then leaves in exasperation.  Each campus wants to be independent.  And each campus has legislators backing it, no matter how hopeless it is.  The NDSU/Potts fiasco is just an example of that.  If he thinks he will run a real system, he’s mistaken.