No More Second Chances For The North Dakota University System

New Chancellor

In declaring the controversy over an office in the new North Dakota University System IT building over, the Grand Forks Herald’s editorial board hopes the NDUS “makes the most of its second chance.”

Here’s a question: How many second chances are we going to give the university system?

They got a second chance after ordering the faculty at Dickinson State University to stay silent about diploma fraud and other problems on the campus during the 2011 legislative session. They got a second chance after rampant diploma fraud was uncovered at the university. They got a second chance after former chancellor Bill Goetz lied to legislators about attempting to limit the scope of the audit which uncovered the problems. They got a second chance after NDSU President Dean Bresciani and State Board of Higher Ed officials defied legislators and increased tuition at NDSU by 8.8%. They got a second chance after NDSU officials told legislators they were going to sell a controversial airplane and then didn’t.

We can talk about cost overruns, poor academic performance and outright abuse of taxpayer dollars, but I think you see my point.

It seems the only time university system officials are contrite about the problems in the university system is short window when the legislature is in session and can exercise oversight. Outside of that window, there is no check on the university system’s arrogance and abuses.

That needs to end. No more second chances. The gauntlet was, surprisingly, thrown down by a legislator (state Senator Tony Grindberg) siding with the university presidents against NDUS Chancellor Hamid Shirvani in intra-system squabbling, but this issue is larger than that. This issue is about whether or not the university system serves the State of North Dakota, or whether it’s an independent beast which serves itself at the expense of the state’s taxpayers and students.

For years now, with tuition and taxpayer expenditures soaring even as academic outcomes stagnate, the latter has been more true than the former. And it’s getting worse. The way to reverse that trend is to end the independence of the university system.

This legislature will have an opportunity to vote for major reforms this session. If they don’t avail themselves of that opportunity, we’re doomed to at least another two years of turmoil and abuses.

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. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

Related posts

  • RobertD

    Another misleading article from this blog regarding higher education and especially the system operation.

    Lets deal with facts.

    “They got a second chance after ordering the faculty at Dickinson State University to stay silent about diploma fraud and other problems on the campus during the 2011 legislative session.”

    This is absolutely false. The fraud was uncovered by the system auditor, hired over the objections of the institutions, and the case was methodically followed up on by the auditor, the state auditors, the Chancellor and the SBHE leading to the ouster of the President. Investigations were continued internally by the Dept of Education, accreditation organizations. A good solid case often means working slowly and not sharing information with the public until the case is solid. As the writer knows from having his own investigative agency not everything that is know is written in the paper until a case is complete.”

    They got a second chance after NDSU President Dean Bresciani and State Board of Higher Ed officials defied legislators and increased tuition at NDSU by 9.8%.

    This was a travesty and never should have occurred. By the way the amount was 8.8% not 9.8% so again a little bit of factual research would be welcomed. The vote of the board was split with former board members from Fargo Mr. Smith, Mr. Haugen, the student board member from Fargo joining a current board member Ms. Dietrich from Fargo and Mr. Backes from Minot voting in favor. Mr. Shaft, Mr. Espegard and Mr. Lemke voted opposed. This vote occurred after opposition from the Chancellor but the student government at NDSU voted in favor and pressed hard for the increase as a result of misinformation given them by President Bresciani and VP Bollinger.

    “They got a second chance after NDSU officials told legislators they were going to sell a controversial airplane and then didn’t.”

    The plane is owned by the NDSU foundation and the SBHE has no authority to act in forcing them to sell it. NDSU could stop using the plane but resist any push from the system office or the SBHE in doing so. Again we have a lack of authority at the Chancellor’s level to enforce action at an institution. As long as this institution and other presidents are directly supported and covered for by the Governor’s office this type of action with continue.

    Grindberg is one of those manipulating this situation and I am beginning to wonder if this blog is not part of that manipulation given the writers links to NDSU.

    Perhaps the BBB, Facebook, MySpace, and past new articles could give one a better insight into one’s credibility. Maybe readers should begin to do their own research.

    • Guest Observer

      RobertD, when you speak, you are full of feces. You wouldn’t know the facts if they bitch slapped you across your head. Apparently another apologist for the corruption other wise known as the NDSB of Higher Ed.
      Fraud, deceit and coverups seems to be the M.O. of your friends in higher ed. I know the truth hurts but you will be a better man coming clean instead of posting bunk.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      The plane is owned by the NDSU foundation and the SBHE has no authority to act in forcing them to sell it.

      Actually, the plane is not owned by the NDSU foundation. The plane is registered to NDSU under a government license, and it’s actually a federal crime to register a plane to anyone other than its owner.

      What’s more, according to an open records request fulfilled by NDSU general counsel craig wilson, the funding for the airplane comes from Bank of North Dakota interest accrued by NDSU deposits as well as federal grant monies (the latter of which is totally objectionable).

      http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/ndsu-uses-funds-from-research-grants-for-private-airplane/

      Lets deal with facts.

      “They got a second chance after ordering the faculty at Dickinson State University to stay silent about diploma fraud and other problems on the campus during the 2011 legislative session.”

      This is absolutely false.

      Actually, it’s 100% true. A spokesman from the North Dakota Public Employees Association (hardly a friend to conservative critics of higher education) said that faculty had scheduled a vote of no confidence for then-President Richard McCallum and were ordered to postpone it by Chancellor Bill Goetz because the legislature was in session. This was well-documented int he media at the time.

      Faculty Senate President Steven Doherty was on the record about it:

      http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/goetz-to-faculty-senate-prez-back-off-mccallum-no-confidence-vote/

      This was a travesty and never should have occurred. By the way the amount was 8.8% not 9.8% so again a little bit of factual research would be welcomed.

      That’s accurate. A typo on my part. I’ll fix.

      Grindberg is one of those manipulating this situation and I am beginning to wonder if this blog is not part of that manipulation given the writers links to NDSU.

      Ha, this may well be the first time I’ve ever been accused of having a pro-NDSU bias. Normally the story goes that I’ve got a secret affinity for UND and that i’m out to destroy NDSU.

      Honestly, despite the cloud of smug condescension surrounding your comment, you didn’t get much of anything right.

      Pay closer attention.

      • RobertD

        From the Blog post written by Brian Howell.

        “Former Dickinson State University Faculty Senate President Steven Doherty was at home when he received an unexpected phone call from North Dakota University System Chancellor William Goetz on a Thursday morning in March 2011. “He (Goetz) identified himself and just wanted to talk about the prospect of a (DSU Faculty Senate) vote of no confidence (against DSU President Richard McCallum). I had no previous relationship with (Goetz). He was, of course, the chancellor of the university system I worked in. I never had any previous conversations with (Goetz) so I guess I wasn’t anticipating talking to (Goetz)…(Goetz said) that he did not think at this point it would be good for DSU to have a vote of no confidence…I didn’t really say much…I said thank you for the input. And the vote never came up,” said Doherty, who was quick to point out that he did not feel any pressure, stress or any sort of intimidation factor from Goetz during the brief conversation. Doherty is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at DSU.”

        I repeat..

        said Doherty, who was quick to point out that he did not feel any pressure, stress or any sort of intimidation factor from Goetz during the brief conversation. Doherty is currently an Associate Professor of Political Science at DSU.”

        That does not appear to validate your claim that he was ordered to postpone a vote. Sounds like a call was made to see what was occurring Goetz commented and that was it.

        More sensationalizing a situation.

        • Enough with the Corruption

          You might be cherry picking words and using them to mislead. This article on the subject makes me wonder why Mr. Doherty who wished Mr. mcCallum gone from DSU wouldn’t have pursued the No confidence vote after conversing with Mr. Goetz. http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/how-mccallum-vote-of-no-confidence-effort-evolved-and-stalled/

        • Poor Argument

          This 3rd article about the Steve Doherty subject pokes more holes in your flawed argument http://sayanythingblog.com/entry/more-events-leading-up-to-mccallum-pay-raise-and-contract-extension/

          • RobertD

            Okay I reread the third article. There was nothing in it about Steve Doherty being pressured to withhold a vote of no confidence.

            Professor Doherty was disappointed that McCallum’s contract was renewed, so was I!! That does not mean that he was pressured on the vote of no confidence.

            BTW I was no fan of the previous Chancellor as he was just placed in the job by the Governor to let UND and NDSU do what they wanted without interference. That worked well for Chapman and Kelley. The excesses occurred because they believe they had neutered the Chancellor’s office with the forced departure of Potts.

            if Shirvani is forced out we will be at the same point again. Amazing how history repeats itself.

          • Circumstantial Evidence

            I watched an episode of 60 Minutes on cbs the other night about a son convicted of murdering his parents. Circumstantial evidence is what landed him in prison. The man was in dire financial trouble. He lied to police about forging his father’s signature on a blank check and he lied about sending a threatening note in the mail to himself. There was no clear definitive evidence that he murdered his parents but motive was established and his numerous lies are what landed him in jail.

            Point is Mr. Doherty received a telephone call from his big boss chancellor Goetz early in the morning at his home the day DSU faculty senate was to act on a vote of no confidence against Mr. McCalum. I find that strange. Why didn’t Mr. Goetz wait to call Mr. Doherty at the school during work hours?
            Mr. Doherty did not have a relationship with Mr. Goetz. They never spoke before that day. Mr. Goetz proceeded to tell Mr. Doherty that he didn’t think a vote of no confidence would be a good thing at the time. From what Mr. Doherty’s said in the articles it seems Mr. Goetz did much of the talking. So I must ask was Mr. Goetz attempting to gather information about what was happening or subtly bullying Mr. Doherty into halting the no confidence vote.
            Based on Mr. Goetz’s past efforts to hide the DSU problems from legislators last session and bully the media out of covering the scandal I would conclude Mr. Goetz was subtly sending Mr. Doherty a message to stop the no confidence vote. Mr. Goetz had motive and his past bullying actions lead me to believe it.

            Also the faculty union representative said publicly that Mr. Goetz stopped the no confidence vote from proceeding because higher education’s budget was in jeopardy at the legislature.

            Mr. Doherty and many DSU people were stunned when the SBHE renewed Mr. McCallum’s contract at the June meeting and he said SBHE messed up by doing such. That tells me DSU people must have expected SBHE not to renew Mr. McCallum’s contract. Why would they have expected Mr. McCallum to leave and be surprised when he was renewed?

            Bottom line, SBHE led by Mr. Shaft, Mr. Espegard and Mr. Goetz repeatedly manipulated and mislead state officials, the media & much worse the public. Now SBHE led by Mr. Espeagard and Mr. Shaft want to pretend it’s a new board and all is fine and well! I wasn’t born yesterday.

    • Roy_Bean

      “The plane is owned by the NDSU foundation and the SBHE has no authority to act in forcing them to sell it.”

      I wish someone would request an Attorney General’s opinion on the plane. If the Legislature orders them not to spend state funds on the plane but they juggle the books to find a half million a year to keep it going it seems to me that they have severely bent, if not broken, the law.

      If the NDSU Foundation would like to run the university then we should discuss a plan to turn it over to them and remove the entire financial burden from the rest of the state.

      • RCND

        No opinion is needed. The aircraft is registered to NDSU not the Foundation. That makes them the legal owner.

    • whowon

      guessing you are a teacher…facts mean nothing, opinion is all that matters.

      • RobertD

        I agree facts are important. Cherry picking words and using them to mislead is what I would more expect from a left-wing site. I have watched and read this site for some time. I believe it does a lot of good and raises many excellent points. However, Rob seems to be more about an agenda on this matter than with factual reporting.

  • Ladd Erickson

    How can anyone not see the need for major Higher Ed reforms? They are long overdue. Last year there was some talk of making a PSC style system where the “commissioners” were elected. Sign me up for that……Airplanes, president house mansions, uncontrolled student fees and tuition increases, fake degrees for foreign students, ignoring the governors budget and publicly asking for more, more, more, every session and in the process bullying their local legislators who are then pitted against legislators for other districts with higher ed institutions for more, more, more, more…….It’s measure time……..

  • RobertD

    The politics and issues involving the institutions, legislative interference, Governor’s office interference, and big donor interference will continue regardless of what happens to the SBHE, the Chancellor, or the Presidents. The current system is set up to fail. Most states are able to manage higher education through a strong system with an appointed head (Chancellor or Presidents but it seems that we cannot support such a system here.

    Alternative: Combine all institutions into one with branches, have an elected board directly from the people (at least eleven elected for five year terms.) No Governor appointments, no legislative review and approval just election direct from the people. The budget for the new institution is given directly to the board with no earmarks by the legislature. One Football program, one hockey program, one basketball program in the same institution. Better governance, more efficient, more accountability to the people.

    • Ladd Erickson

      Legislative and governor’s office interference? Perhaps we should just give the SBHE its own taxing power so no appropriations need come before the people’s representatives, and also eliminate the governor’s veto power over the SBHE budget? In doing so, let’s make sure the state auditor’s office is powerless to looking at anything going on with higher ed. Since hgher ed has seemingly become this all knowing de facto separate branch of government anyway, why not cut those final inconveniences of having to fly to Bismarck to get money and answer questions? We could make a monarchy system where the SBHE members are the knights of the round table advising their Chancellor –King on what us little people need and should be taxed for our own good. Wait, I think we already have a system close to that.

      The major spending problems with higher ed are really masked by our current
      state revenue picture. But wait until the worm turns, and the history of North Dakota shows that it will turn. Every session higher ed demands and gets more and more hard, fixed, budget increases. When the music stops or even slows down the higher ed budget will be like an embedded tick on the state’s overall budget. So what will get cut most when the worm turns? Discretionary spending on roads and state aid for other local costs. Then the good citizens will ask “Why did we ever create the Kingdom of Canterbury that has its own air force and castle like presidents mansions….”

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      No legislative review? Have you lost your mind?

      The university system will get nearly $1 billion in the next biennium from the taxpayers, appropriated by the legislature, but you don’t think the legislature should have any oversight?

      The problem with the NDUS is too little oversight, not too much.

      • RobertD

        Once again you miss the point. The council would be elected directly by the people. They would not be subject to legislative review and approval just as current PSC is elected and not subject to Governor or legislative approval.

        The Governor should recommend a budget and the legislature adds, subtracts as they choose. Then the funding goes to the council to be distributed to the institutions. No further political influence! Political interference is what is wrong with governance now.

  • devilschild

    This would have been a great article to discuss on the Herald site before Mike Jacobs elininated the comment section. Some people can’t take a little bit of ribbing and apparently he is one of them.

Top