Legislator Offers Amendment Buying Out North Dakota Higher Ed Chancellor Because Of “Questionable” Leadership


Yesterday we broke the news here on Say Anything that legislators were considering some sort of a “vote of no confidence” in North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani which might take the form of a buyout of Shirvani’s contract. Today state Senator Tony Grindberg has announced that he’ll be offering an amendment to the higher education budget to do just that:

“In my opinion, Chancellor Shirvani’s leadership style is in serious question and his methods of campus communication have created an environment of fear and retaliation,” Grindberg said. “In my 20 years of legislative service, I have never experienced such strong widespread opinions of questionable leadership and mistrust.” …

“North Dakotan’s and our students deserves better,” Grindberg said. “We must ensure that our higher education institutions are the best in the country, and that starts with respected leadership.”

The buy out would cost taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $660,000. Or about two-years worth of Shirvani’s salary. And it wouldn’t be the first vote of no confidence in Chancellor Shirvani’s career. Nor did the State Board of Higher Education do a thorough job of vetting Shirvani for this job. After Shirvani was hired I did some research on him and found that one of his previous employers had to buyout a secretary who was accusing Shirvani of unprofessional behavior. Grant Shaft, who was SBHE President at the time, admitted to me in an email that the board wasn’t aware of the incident when they hired Shirvani despite having spent money on a background check.

For what it’s worth, I had found the incident on the sixth page of results from a Google search.

This current matter came to a head last week when legislature got wind of changes to plans for an IT building on the University of North Dakota campus to include a large, lavish office for Chancellor Shirvani. Shirvani, and State Board of Higher Education President Duaine Espegard, tried to strong-arm University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley into approving the changes, but he wouldn’t go along.

But Shirvani has been in the cross hairs of the state’s university presidents almost from the first day he got his job (it’s worth remembering that Grindberg’s boss until recently was NDSU President Dean Bresciani who is also well-known to be no fan of Shrivani’s). The IT building fiasco may be the proverbial back-breaking straw, but this revolt has been in the works for some time now.

Which should have taxpayers worried. Was Shirvani good for North Dakota? On the whole, I don’t believe so, but we’ve got what amounts to anarchy in the university system. After years of scandals involving fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars, the State Board of Higher Education is so impotent in their oversight that they can’t even keep a chancellor in place to govern the system.

Shirvani going, which it’s almost certainly he will now, won’t fix what ails the university system. We need fundamental reforms that end the independence of the university system and bring it under the direct oversight of elected officials. Buying out this chancellor without reforms to the system does North Dakota no good.

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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  • Alan

    Obviously Gridberg has ties to NDSU, Tim Flakoll, who Grindberg wanted as Chancellor, and Brescani having worked for NDSU and having the success of his present position outside the legislature closely tied to NDSU. Conflict of interest anyone?

    • Jonesy

      Flakoll is also an ndsu employee/toadie. Any guesses at where the $$ will/would start flowing if he was to be named chancellor??

    • Enough with the Corruption

      Flakoll and Grindberg are unsophisticated political hacks.

  • Game

    Here is my thing, with the amount of money this job pays, can we not find some very talented up and coming College person who can come in and take it as a challenge to fix the system and work within and from without the system to fix many of the problems that we all know exist? The person should not be a surrogate of NDSU/UND, and they should not be part of the current system. Come on, think outside of the box.

    • Enough with the Corruption

      It seems the SBHE used the same hiring-vetting process to hire Shirvani as they did Richard McCallum, Brescianni and all the rest of these fools. Instead of doing their job trying to fix higher ed’s problems, state leadership seems only interesting in trying to cover it all up.

    • Alan

      Anyone who comes in that is not a surrogate of NDSU/UND will have the same fate. Until the Governor, legislature, and we the people are willing to give REAL change a chance and reign in the institutions under strong governance the cycle will continue.

      They only want a lackey that will be a whipping boy when they screw up. The Chancellor and Board taking the heat while the institutions continue business as usual. Any leader who tries to establish governance and oversight, Potts and Shirvani, immediately come under attack. As long as the Bison win in football and the name that cannot be mentioned hockey team from UND win life is good.

    • opinion8ed

      Exactly and may there first name be Integrity

  • camsaure

    His sorry a$$ should just be fired, plain and simple. The legislature should grow a pair and deduct the amount of wasted dollars from the SBHE budget next go around. Or better yet get rid of the SBHE altogether. It is nothing but a crony good ol boys club.

  • Drain52

    >>For what it’s worth, I had found the incident on the sixth page of results from a Google search.<<
    Maybe you should apply for a job with the state to vet their higher ed candidates.

  • Dirty Harry

    Shirvani was quoted as being disappointed, and said “they don’t want a system,” whatever that means. Ham, Ham, Ham…learn to speak english so we can understand you better.

  • BHB

    Hey all you, wasn’t Grindberg a finalist for the job in question? Maybe he thinks he can do a better job and just intends on firing a guy to get the job. He is a grad of NDSCS per legislative profile.

    • BHB

      Sorry it was Flakol. Yes he voted for it. Maybe he can now get it.