Growing Frustration About Lack of DSU Personnel Punishment
State lawmakers appear to be getting more frustrated by the day over a lack of punishment for Dickinson State University personnel involved in the school’s scandal. Tensions between higher ed officials and state lawmakers on the subject bubbled to the surface at the April 18, 2012 interim Higher Ed Committee meeting.
“Please…understand, when you’re dealing with an issue as monumental as this one and you’re dealing with a number of employees in key positions, yes, there is a sense of immediacy that needs to be undertaken but I would hope that you would understand also the challenges that President Coston faces in terms of the transition and change. When you’re dealing with top administrators who have directly or indirectly been involved, some of this is still being determined. We do need to make sure that we allow him (Coston) the opportunity to make the right decisions at the right time,” said NDUS Chancellor William Goetz at the April 2012 legislative committee meeting.
But repeated calls for patience from higher ed officials don’t seem to resonate with state lawmakers.
“President Coston deserves to have people whom he can trust to help him make these decisions…I don’t believe that he (Coston) can trust some of the people that are at this campus today. So I am saying that what you could have done and what you probably should do is suspend those people, bring in interim people to deal with the issues and give him the opportunity to clear the air because I really sincerely believe that until something like that happens this is going to continue to fester,” said Rep. Bob Skarphol (R-Tioga), Chairman of the interim Higher Ed Committee.
But higher ed officials said that the personnel situation is complicated.
“There are audit issues here and you’re well aware of those but there’s also legal issues involved. And that has been handled in other arenas and continues to be looked at. And so you have to understand that it’s not only the audit but also the legal implications need to be reviewed and understood. And from that, if there are findings, decisions made. So it’s not a matter of just instantaneously making these changes. We’re dealing with personnel issues that, some much more directly involved than others, we need to sift through that. President Coston is doing that in cooperation with, of course, the information from the (State) Auditor’s Office,” said Goetz.
Lawmakers aren’t convinced. “Chancellor Goetz, you know, I can agree with some of what you say but I can’t agree with everything you said. I really sincerely think that, and regardless of the legal issues, I think there’s ways to deal with this,” said Skarphol.
It’s been more than a year since the Dickinson State University scandal began unraveling. North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz called for DSU President Richard McCallum’s resignation, and subsequent termination, about 9 months ago.
McCallum was officially fired for inflating enrollment numbers 5 months ago. Many of the lower-level DSU staffers involved in wrong-doing at the school identified at McCallum’s termination hearing in the fall still work at the school.
About 3 months ago an internal NDUS audit revealed that a large number of international students at DSU were improperly enrolled and degrees were improperly awarded. Most of the DSU staffers identified with that situation still work at the school.
“This is an embarrassment to the North Dakota higher education system when it comes on the national news that we’re a diploma mill,” said House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) at an interim Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee meeting in March 2012.
And about a month and a half ago the State Auditor’s Office released an audit which found massive financial wrong-doing at DSU. Most of the staffers involved still work at the school.
“Should everybody that was involved, that knew about this, just walk to the side and say I guess it’s ok because we fired the president? I don’t think so,” said Carlson at the March 2012 interim legislative committee meeting when the State Auditor’s Office first went through the DSU performance audit findings with state lawmakers.
New DSU President D.C. Coston told lawmakers at the March 2012 legislative committee meeting that a number of changes had already occurred at the school. Lawmakers were upset at that March 2012 meeting that stricter punishments had not been handed down to those involved with the DSU scandal. Coston explained then that 3 department heads had already chosen to step-aside, some who had minimal involvement in the issues at DSU. Although some of the DSU personnel relinquished their positions, many of them still work at the school.
Coston told lawmakers in March 2012 that he would continue to have conversations and some of those may occur fairly soon. “We will, at an appropriate time, when changes are made, we’ll probably keep you (state lawmakers) up-to-date,” said Coston in March 2012.Tags: Chancellor William Goetz, D.C. Coston, dickinson state university, North Dakota News, State Auditor's Office