Nothing In Higher Ed Will Change Under The Status Quo

New Chancellor

“The absurdity of students in the North Dakota University System voting ‘no confidence’ in the chancellor regarding the State Board of Higher Education’s new policies and practices is beyond ridiculous and is totally inappropriate,” writes state Rep. Bob Skarphol in the Grand Forks Herald today.

Rep. Skarphol has been a strong proponent of Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, and suggests the push back against the chancellor has been coordinated by the university presidents, directing the students, and some legislators.

“I submit that there has been an organized behind-the-scenes effort to discredit and destroy the very individual who can give North Dakota taxpayers exactly what they want from our university system,” writes Skarphol. “I find the actions of those individuals perpetrating this fraud absolutely reprehensible. Shirvani is a highly qualified and honorable man who deserves the chance to implement the policies that his experience has taught him will achieve what we want for our university system.”

And today we get news that the student representative on the State Board of Higher Education, Sydney Hull, will be backing Shirvani’s buy out as well (which is no doubt why the expression of support from the SBHE from a few days ago was signed by only a few members of the board and not the full board).

I’m not nearly as convinced of Chancellor Shirvani’s qualification, and honor, as Rep. Skarphol is, but at this point I think Shirvani has become irrelevant in this higher education civil war. I’m not sure it matters who we put in charge of the university system at this point. We could appoint Jesus to be chancellor, and his disciples to the Board of Higher Education, and I suspect they’d face the same sort of push back from the university presidents and their legislative allies if any reforms they found distasteful were proposed.

Were Shirvani’s reforms for higher education good reforms? I’m not sure that matters any more. What matters is that the university presidents refuse to be governed by anyone intent on actually governing.

That has to change. The manner in which the university system is governed must be changed. Either the system chancellor serves at the pleasure of the governor, using the governor’s political mandate from the voters as a platform from which reforms are pushed, or we elect the chancellor of the university system and give him/her a direct mandate from the voters.

But I don’t think Shirvani, or anyone else who isn’t merely a stoolie for the university presidents, can govern the university system as it is composed now.

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.

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  • Falmke

    If the chancellor is so honorable, why are staff treated one way and politicians or anyone who has power over him treated respectfully? Honor is defined as “strong moral character or strength, and adherence to ethical principles.” Something very much lacking when describing him!!!

    • Nelly

      I would argue it would depend upon who the person is responding. If you were one of the people that were asked to leave or who had their power diminished I am sure they will be unhappy. If you speak with an employee who is new my guess is they support for Shirvani.

      Is that any different than most CEO transitions.

      • Falmke

        I am not a staff member with diminished power and this is not a private industry CEO transition. Staffing cuts were and are made with little distinction for experience or ethics!

  • Roy_Bean

    They just need to keep this chancellor in the news until May. By then the legislature will be gone for another 2 years and it will be business as usual.

  • camsaure

    Us, The taxpayers should be governing higher education, not a bunch of appointed cronies.

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

    ND’s sacred cow is safe from the slaughter it’s long overdue; good luck.

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