The Problem Is Both The Board And The Chancellor

New Chancellor

The Bismarck Tribune’s editorial board asks an important question today with regard to the controversy between the North Dakota University System and legislators loyal to the university system’s presidents: “Is the problem the board or the chancellor?”

One could also ask if the problem is the the university system or the university president.

The answer, of course, is all of the above.

It seems our choices are either between an overbearing chancellor who doesn’t like to take direction from the state’s elected leaders, or a group of university presidents who don’t want to take direction from the state’s elected leaders.

Both of those sides are the losing side for the taxpayers.

The outcome of this latest pie-throwing contest in the university system isn’t really all that important. What’s important is whether or not this latest turmoil will lead to real changes in the way the university system is governed.

What we need is someone in charge of the university system who is accountable to the taxpayers – neither the chancellor nor the State Board of Higher Education are – but also holds a mandate from the taxpayers to govern the university system.

That means an elected official. That means the so-called “independence” of the university system – which has resulted in run-away costs, fraud, abuse and bureaucratic anarchy – must be ended.

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.

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  • sbark

    hmmm…..Accountable to the taxpayor?
    Look at the growth in N.Dak state Govt, the Fed Govt, any level of govt………supposedly they are accountable already, it it doesnt seem to make a lick of diff……….
    We have supposed “conservatives” proposing spending and growth in spending just because the money is there…..we have the GOP Gov. pushing for ObamaCare Exchanges………The conservatives are just licking their chops as much as the Left, at ways to get at the Oil fund put away for a rainy day……
    I not sure making the SBHE or Educ in general being accountalbe to the taxpayors will go against the trend in Govt………….Its like everyone in Govt is accelerating the rate of growth, the rate of spending, is everyone grabbing everything they can suck out of the private sector while they can?

    • camsaure

      I agree except that I wish you would usr the term republicans in place of conservatives, there is a heck of a difference between the two especially in ND.

  • OldConserv2011

    I place more blame on the part of the board than on the Chancellor. Yes, it’s true that the Chancellor is overbearing, has over stepped his bounds, and has shown a great deal of disrespect for the legislature. But the same can be said of many of the university presidents. I would expect that any university president or chancellor should try to wield a certain amount of authoritarian influence. In a controlled and respectful manner of course. And when they do happen to overstep their bounds, slip out of control, or act in a disrespectful manner, then it’s up to the board and in particular the president of the board, to slap the presidents and chancellor down and put them in their place. The board needs to act as a mediator and make it known to university presidents and chancellor that it’s in their own best interests to collaborate and that any efforts to subvert one another or to play politics will not be tolerated. It’s clear that both Shaft and Espegaard are not competent enough or have enough backbone to play that role.

  • Captjohn

    Years ago I stated that the governance model for higher ed in North Dakota is flawed.
    SBHE is structured in such away as to preclude effective management of the system.
    A review of the their history is sufficient to point out the fact.
    I believe there are solutions that could be applied that would solve many of the issues.
    I don’t believe the board, chancellor, higher ed employees or the legislature will propose the reforms necessary. It would take a totally independent group of non stakeholders to sift through the mess.

  • RobertD

    The Chancellor has made some missteps. The Board is doing their best. There are a few presidents who refuse to accept chain of command and recognize the SBHE and the Chancellor as their boss. There is significant political interference. There are news outlets and blogs who inflame the situation and that are not interested in truth.

    Not a good mix.

  • rusty9

    Not all the blame should be on the Chancellor or the State Board….some of our college/university presidents have swept a lot under the rug to create the situaton where we are right now. Higher Education needs a lot of transparency and it is not forthcoming from some of our presidents.