SBHE Is Standing Behind Shirvani

New Chancellor

Legislators may be considering a “vote of no confidence” in Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, but State Board of Higher Education President Duaine Espegard is standing behind him accusing the legislature of “personal attacks” and claiming they don’t have authority to make hiring and firing decisions.

Espegard said the issue seems to come down to “personal attacks” on Shirvani. He said the board fully supports his work so far and the sweeping reforms he’s already overseen. Legislators need to “give him a chance,” he said.

“We’re doing exactly what the Legislature and the people of North Dakota asked us to do, which is to move up the quality of higher education in North Dakota,” he said. “We’re not going to tolerate any tactics that take us back to the old model, and maybe some want the old model, but that’s not the model we follow.”

Espegard said this isn’t the first time North Dakota’s higher education leader wasn’t given a fair chance – in 2006, then-Chancellor Robert Potts resigned, accusing former NDSU President Joseph Chapman of engaging in “a calculated effort to undermine the effectiveness” of the university system and his role as chancellor.

“They let him run him out, didn’t they?” he said. “This is the same thing, but this time you have a board that’s 100 percent behind the chancellor.”

It may be the case that the legislature doesn’t have the direct authority to hire and fire chancellors, but I think that’s a major problem with the way we’re governing higher education right now. The university system doesn’t feel as though they need to be accountable to legislators.

That lack of accountability is at play in every single higher education problem we have in this state.

The question is, how far is the legislature willing to push this? If the NDUS won’t back Shirvani, will they hold up Governor Jack Dalrymple’s three appointments to the Board of Higher Education who haven’t been confirmed yet? Will they be willing to cut budgets to show their displeasure with higher education?

Frankly, the university system budgets are so bloated they should be cut anyway, forcing administrators to re-prioritize some of their spending (we might have fewer controversies over spending if the university system had less money to work with).

But, really, nothing is going to change unless the university system gets fundamental reform. Whether Shirvani goes or stays, something has got to give. We’ve had turmoil in the university system for some time now, long before Shirvani was hired. The problem doesn’t begin and end with him.

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

Related posts

  • RCND

    Not surprising. GM apparently was too big to fail, and Higher ed in ND is obviously too big to admit it’s mistakes. if the heat keeps up, I also predict the SBHE will play the race card. It has been a dependable play for higher ed as an institution to call.

  • whowon

    Of course they would, they hired the fool without vetting. Hope they are both gone soon.

  • Enough with the Corruption

    I love how Governor Dalrymple doesn’t have a “clear opinion” yet on the Shirvani issue and is “monitoring the situation.” Translation = The Gov is not a leader. He will not take a stand until it is politically safe or convenient.

    • opinion8ed

      It is still being poll tested. This guy has waited so long to be the big cheese with the fancy house and car and the POWER

  • Roy_Bean

    The time has come for this to be placed back on the ballot. The SBHE expierment didn’t work. Now its time to fix it.

  • reggy

    Just cause Espegard says he’s got the chancellor’s back, doesn’t mean the entire board does. From what I’ve heard it sounds like the chancellor’s support is only from Espegard and Shaft.

  • Big Problems

    North Dakota isn’t the only state with corrupt higher ed institutions. I don’t trust anything these higher ed cronies say or do.

    • VocalYokel

      Corruption came about when it ceased to be about education and became a government (read Taxpayer) funded free-for-all.

  • borborygmi

    turf war

  • Jacobs Fool’em again

    Mike Jacobs and the fools at Fool’em Communications have a lot of nerve giving us a “tutorial” on higher education’s problems.
    This idiot and his Forum friends have been complicit in covering up higher ed scandals year after year and now he has the nerve to preach to us high above from his self imposed intellectual perch of greatness? He conveniently forgot to mention his newspaper being one of the interests involved in this higher ed mess. These supposed journalists at Fool’em Communications have done nothing but carry water for the corrupt higher ed crew over the years. Now that this latest shoe to drop has crashed with thundering enormity, Jacobs thinks he can give us a tutorial! This guy is nothing but a glorified PR machine for the college presidents and their cronies who has made a career pretending to be a journalist.

    • Dave

      What did he say specifically in his “tutorial” that you found unnerving? I couldn’t tell from your post as it was so very general and broad brush. I didn’t see anything offensive in the link you provided. It was all pretty much bland re-hash from someone who has followed higher ed since the 1960s.


      • Jacobs Fool’em again

        Most offensive to me is Forum’s coverage of this latest unfolding scandal in comparison to its coverage of the previous scandals. Forum is pursuing this story more tenaciously than the other higher ed scandals because Robert Kelly and Dean Bresciani and their respective campuses are in a power struggle with the new chancellor and SBHE and are giving this story legs. Why didn’t Forum cover the performance audits at UND and NDSU more thoroughly? Why didn’t Forum cover the DSU scandal more thoroughly? Why does Forum attack those who ask legitimate questions and raise legitimate concerns about higher ed leadership? It is obvious that Forum has a history of giving higher ed scandals broad brush coverage while incuriously ignoring details and not pursuing followup stories. Basically ignoring what journalists are supposed to do. Rarely ever does Forum ask those in power the really hard questions that deserve to be asked, unless its an agenda seemingly being pushed, for example by Presidents Kelly and Bresciani. Why hasn’t Forum written any stories about Duaine Espegard and Grant Shaft’s involvement with the higher ed scandals and that they’re still leading the board and pretending everything is different when it’s more of the same?

        Regarding tutorial specifics, one example Jacobs wrote “Then, there are the ideologues. Among these are populist conservatives who argue that the system is out of control, irresponsible, unresponsive, not accountable and too expensive.” I read this blog regularly and I am not a populist conservative ideologue but I am disgusted by the rampant corruption within our educational system and I am tired of political hacks negatively affecting my family and friends future.

        • devilschild

          Because ….. Forum Communications, especially the GFH, covers the news the same way Marilyn Haggerty reviews restaurants.

  • Stuart

    91% Disapproval rating sounds like a good point in hiring someone doesn’t it?But the past can’t be taken with these guys because just like President Obama who refuses to open his records, neither does Shirvani have to open his. Nice choice ND Board Of Higher Eduction. Thank the good Lord he didn’t have a worse disapproval rating or he might not have been hired . I guess it depends on what Lord and who’s doing the vetting. We must diversify! It’s an absolute!