Guest Post: The State Board Of Higher Education Should Apologize To Shirvani


When I read the Minot Daily News June 19th editorial “Shirvani Must Quit Right Now” and other newspaper editorials I find myself “laughing out loud” for the clear message it sends to any chancellor with a vision and an agenda different from the presidents. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised with the location of the paper.

However, when I reflect on the recent actions by the SBHE I find myself coming to an entirely different set of conclusions. Unlike the editorial board of a newspaper, the members of the State Board are appointed for the sole purpose of providing stewardship over the North Dakota system of public higher education. They are expected to honest, fair, and hold to high standards.

We expect them to advocate on behalf of higher education. We expect them to find talented and visionary leaders with the ability to bring about needed change. We expect them to hold everyone accountable for their respective roles and responsibilities. They are certainly not expected to be in anyone’s pocket or play politics with people’s lives.

The three self-important “problem” presidents (NDSU’s Dean Bresciani, UND’s Robert Kelly, MSU’s David Fuller) who, with their legislative allies, have almost single-handedly orchestrated the recent ousting of Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, are individuals who are used to blaming everyone else for their problems or shortsightedness. They operate with bloated administrative staffs, insist on having the prerogative to increase tuition and fees in spite of record high budgets, ignore data inconsistencies and routinely forget to disclose complete information about their institutions. At least two of them fly around like celebrities on private planes while the chancellor and his staff drive from campus to campus meeting the “real” people in higher education. Is it their leadership or their ability to bully the Board to do their bidding that earns them these benefits?

One of the main reasons I supported higher education last session was because of Chancellor Shirvani and his vision. He had a real vision for higher education and the right plan (Pathways) to bring us up in the national rankings. The reason some presidents strongly opposed this vision was in large part because of their blotted egos, self-centered attitudes and the fact they would be held accountable for once.

The Board’s decision to oust Chancellor Shirvani and submit once again to the dictates of the presidents is exemplary of the Board’s lack of leadership and absence of any backbone. By its action, this Board has proven to be an absolute disappointment to state tax payers and most importantly the students. In fact, I see no hope for this Board — now or in the future. Not only has it capitulated to the presidents in terms of their evaluations, they have also apologized to them for allowing a negative evaluation to be made by the outgoing chancellor, categorizing anything he might say as retaliatory on his part.

Actually, the language used in the evaluations was neither repugnant nor demeaning; neither was it immoral or unprofessional as certain board members quickly categorized them. If someone lacks vision, it is important to say so. And if someone is myopic (perfect word choice), that, too, needs to be said. The Board should apologize to Chancellor Shirvani for how they have treated him. Simply, we lost the only opportunity we had to have a real unified system.

Even more troubling, the Board appointed one of the presidents to be the fox guarding the hen house. They “own” this Board and they, along with their supportive legislators, will ensure that the future is theirs, not the citizens of North Dakota.

Rep. Roscoe Streyle

Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) represents North Dakota's 3rd district in the state assembly.

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  • Matthew Hawkins

    I think his golden parachute is thanks enough.

    • Rob

      You’ll get no argument from me that Shirvani’s pay, and pay in academia in general, is grossly inflated.

      But that’s not really the point of the post, I think.

      • Matthew Hawkins

        Pay in academia is not grossly inflated. Pay for University Presidents and Provosts is greatly inflated.

        • Rob

          I don’t think that’s true.

          Here in North Dakota, as one example, the pay for the average full professor is over $100,000/year for an average of 8 classroom hours per week.

          That’s overpaid.

          I read an article a while back too about the lavish development going on around college campuses, stemming directly from the inflated salaries there.

          It’s really like the housing bubble all over again, but the university types (including the sports coaches!) are the bankers.

          • Matthew Hawkins

            It depends on the discipline. I am biased towards the hard sciences but it is not too much money to pay a full professor physicist $200k to do research at a university even if they only teach 8 classroom hours a week. This goes for many other disciplines also. If you want qualified professors you can’t get them for nothing.

          • Jonesy

            If they spend 80% of their time doing research and 20% teaching, then only 20% of their pay should come from tuition, fees, or state appropriations. The research grant should be used to cover the research costs, including salary. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and the result is tuition inflation and ridiculous increases in state appropriations.

  • WOOF

    Is Shirvani being compensated for housing ?

    • Rob

      No, but he is getting his salary (complete with two raises) for two more years, plus contributions to his retirement account and health benefits.

  • Roy_Bean

    “Actually, the language used in the evaluations was neither repugnant nor demeaning; neither was it immoral or unprofessional as certain board members quickly categorized them. If someone lacks vision, it is important to say so. And if someone is myopic (perfect word choice), that, too, needs to be said.”

    You are missing the whole point. It is a fundamental truth in any kingdom that you can’t insult the king. Shirvani insulted 3 little kings in their own kingdoms and he had to pay the price. That’s the only way they can keep their power.

  • Ratbite

    AMEN!!! Sadlt the boards gort rid of the wrong “one” when it should have asked for the resignations of the “Three Kings.’ The problem lies with the “Three Kings” becasue they now know they are answerable tyo NO ONE!!! I klnow how I’m voting when the higher ed board comes up on the ballot.

  • Captjohn

    The only power the legislature has over higher ed is the tax payers checkbook. For way to long some in the legislature have advocated for exorbitant funding increases based on a promise. Putting the cart before the horse.
    I believe that whatever happens with the ballot measure the legislature should go back to demanding performance before they open the checkbook any further.
    We were getting there until 2001 when the Roundtable concept was adopted. From that time on it has all been downhill. Let’s get back to reality. When legislators see proven progress on accountability and performance then it will be time to access the real monetary needs of the system.

  • Bruce Wold

    The hits just keep coming from this higher Ed debacle. Would make a great reality show. Haven’t heard of any sex involved though so probably wouldn’t sell.

  • devilschild

    If they want the last word they should apologize.

  • awfulorv

    Might as well let the professors scam the system, everyone else is doing it.
    For instance the FBI, as well as hundreds of state, and local police,have thousands of Profilers, who are drawing handsome salaries by, occasionally, surmising that a suspected serial killer might be between 21-35 yrs of age, has a mother who smokes, a father who bow hunts, drives a car with an automatic tranny, lives in a house with a shingled roof, and uses his right hand to wipe his a$$. No really! This is happening as I write. Voodoo Detecting, it’s called…

  • awfulorv

    Well, at least he’s got the petulance bit down to a Tee. His squeeze, if that’s who she is, in the rear, would, gladly, trade a sharp stick in the eye for a drink about now…

  • Lucky Luke

    Shirvani should send a letters to apologized to all CSU Stanislaus staff and faculty! and the women he harrassed 7 years he was there!

  • PeterKenneth24

    Wow!! What an amazing post to read!! You made my day!! thanks for sharing!