The State Board Of Higher Education Has Lost Control Of The University System

New Chancellor

Adding to the clamor for removing controversial North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, today, was a vote of no confidence from the the North Dakota Student Association.

The student governments at the various universities are usually little more than a rubber stamp for whatever the university administrations want, so there was no surprise that these students would be adding their voices to the push back against Shirvani, and the State Board of Higher Education which is standing behind him, from the university presidents.

At this point, it’s hard to imagine how Shirvani can continue in his post.

To me, it’s a moot point. The way the university system is currently governed is bringing us nothing but controversy, scandal and turmoil. A change of staffing isn’t going to change anything. The problems with the university system predate Mr. Shirvani’s arrival, though I think we can admit that in picking him the SBHE made a less than inspired choice.

What the university system needs is someone who is of the state of North Dakota, who has a mandate from the people of North Dakota, to be in charge. We need to eliminate the State Board of Higher Education, and replace it with someone who is either elected by the people or someone who serves at the pleasure of the governor.

There is a food fight developing in the state legislature over controversy surrounding Shirvani, with some legislators backing Shirvani and others backing the universities (the anti-Shirvani contingent seems intent on landing the chancellorship for state Senator Tim Flakoll). I don’t think this fight is productive for the future of higher education in North Dakota.

Get rid of Shirvani, yes, but don’t replace him with another chancellor. Replace him with a new way of governing the system.

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

  • ec99

    Your headline presupposes the SBHE ever HAD control of the system. It didn’t. Back when Clifford was president of UND he was running the place independently. It was he who invented phantom enrollments…it was Baker who got nailed for continuing them.

    • Rob

      A fair point.

      • thetruth

        “Clifford invented phantom enrollments ” Port: “A fair point.” Port Credibility.

        • Rob

          I don’t know much about the Clifford era. I was saying the SBHE control as an illusion is a fair point.

          • ec99

            Two ND institutions that you never care criticize are UND hockey and Saint Thomas of Clifford. To even imply his excrement emitted an odor is heresy. Nonetheless, it was during his administration that students who were admitted but never attended were counted in enrollment began. But because he was an ND good ole boy, no one cared. Whan Baker, the outsider, continued the policy, he got murdered.

          • Enough with the Corruption

            Sounds similar to McCallum and Vickers at Dickinson State

          • thetruth

            So because you say it, it is a fact?

          • Say what?

            So then because he said it, it is not a fact?

          • ec99

            Believe it or not, doesn’t matter to me. It so happens that it was a fact.

  • Nelly

    A big part of the problem with higher education governance now is the behind the scene efforts of the Governor’s office to prevent any changes in oversight for Minot, NDSU and UND.

    Rob is correct that those same institutions wanted Flakoll as Chancellor because he would simply be a caretaker and the institutions would not be challenged on addmissions, graduation rates, waivers, and cooked data.

    • Enough with the Corruption

      Agree. Anyone who thinks Governor Dalrymple is not involved in this mess is fooling themselves. That’s why I’d prefer SBHE abolishment and replace it with a board directly elected by the citizens with legislative oversight of funding. I’d be concerned about giving the Governor more direct control over higher education because he already has much indirect control. We should want to reduce political interference in higher education not expand it. We should want more direct accountability to the public, not to politicians eager to use higher education to advance their political agendas.

      • Nelly

        I agree that an elected Board that did not have to depend on Governor appointment or legislative approval would work better. However, until certain institutions are reigned in there will be no progress in this state. Allowing them to “win” this fight is the worst that could ahappen.

        • Enough with the Corruption

          I agree. If Shirvani is ousted and replaced with a worthless hack like Flakoll, it’s back to the old days with Bill Goetz. God help us if that happens.

        • Rob

          I honestly think letting other side win is a loss for the students and the taxpayers.

        • camsaure

          I agree, if they are going to be spending(and wasting) OUR TAX DOLLARS, then they should certainly be elected and not appointed or under the control of any corrupt or potentially corrupt Governor.

    • RCND

      Flakoll is a Republican Only to Get Elected (ROGE…. RINO is overused). He is the biggest Higher Ed apologist of them all and would be a fine fit in the current structure of governance (or lack of one).

  • Camburn

    We need wholesale change….period.
    The Higher Ed System has resulted in a high priced education. Huge subsidies with very little return.

    • JoeMN

      The problem with higher ed is that thanks to generous state funding and federal grants, it has become completely detached from the market.

      It is a vicious cycle of higher ed demanding more funding to keep tuition rates down, followed by the funding, and then tuition / activity fee increases all around.
      Since 1985, the overall consumer price index has risen 115% while the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500%.
      But administration expenses rose a whopping 61% and instruction expenses rose 39%. In fact, as a 2010 Goldwater Institute study finds,
      “universities have in recent years vastly expanded their administrative
      bureaucracies, while in some cases actually shrinking the numbers of
      professors.” While enrollment rose between 1993 and 2007 by 14.5%,
      administrators employed per 100 students rose nearly 40% and spending on
      administration per student rose by 66%.

  • Roger

    Interesting fact I heard this afternoon. Apparently the NDSA blocks non-students from attending any committee meetings or meetings nont deemed public. why are they not subject to Open meetings laws. The meet in public facilities, collect fee money from every student(citizen). And yet hold themselves unaccountable in the public.

    • Rob

      Good questions.

  • Nelly

    There is an updated article in the forum that talks about the student vote. Robert Valley was a leader in the effort to pass the measures. He is a former student member of the Board who was a puppet of Brescani. He supported Tim Flakoll for Chancellor, backed Bresciani’s efforts to raise student tuition by 8.8% before getting on the board.

    Any doubt who was “really” behind these votes? Oh, and Sidney Hull who is the student member on the Board this year just also happens to come from, you guessed it, NDSU.

    • RandyBoBandy

      Wow your statements are false on so many different levels. The student representatives on the state board represent the students, not the university presidents.

      • Nelly

        You are obviously naive as to what really happens. The NDSA only represents a few active students and not even close to a majority or them. Most students do not bother to vote in NDSa elections. What percent voted in Minot State or NDSU studnt elections. Less than twn percent. Second the NDSa collects money from every student to pay salaries and travel every month. Why not video conference every other month. the NDSA are elitists who simply want to curry favor with their administrations. They are little more than tools.

        • RandyBoBandy

          Using your logic: since a lot of Americans do not vote, then that means the elected politicians do not speak for them. We all know that is false. Good job at trying to change the subject from my pointing out your rude attacks on two successful students. Back during my time as a student, the student governments served the students and not the administration.

          • Jonesy

            Don’t know when or where you served, but the current NDSU student government is nothing but a rubber stamp for Bresciani.

  • RandyBoBandy

    The student governments are not puppets of the administrations like you claim. Nearly every blog you post is rant about how terrible the high education system is, how bad of a job Shirvani is doing, or how the universities in this state are worthless. You clearly have an axe to grind with anything college related. Then a large organization of students agrees with your sentiments towards Shirvani, and you insult them.

    • Rob

      I’m not insulting them. I’m just pointing out that they’re not exactly independent.

      And the university system’s problems won’t be fixed with Shirvani’s departure.

      • RandyBoBandy

        By saying, “the student governments at the various universities are usually little more than a rubber stamp for whatever the university administrations want,” implies that they cannot think for themselves. That is a very broad generalization, and yes also insulting. Perhaps you should attend a student government meeting at Minot State and give them your two cents.

        • Say What?

          What evidence can you provide that proves student governments in ND are not merely more than a rubber stamp for university administrations? From what I’ve seen only a small handful of college students participate in student governments and those who do don’t seem to think for themselves much at all. They always promote and sell the administration narrative. There are plenty of examples where it appears college presidents use the student governments as pawns to achieve a desired political outcome. Are there examples where student governments deviated from administration narratives? Perhaps there are. I don’t know because I can’t recall one time when they had.

          • MiSU student

            If you are so intent on implying that students are unable to think for themselves maybe you should talk to some students. Have you been involved in any student government process? Have you spoken to students about these issues? Because of the high turn-over rate for students, and therefore student governments, you can not assume that a present-day government is the same as one which ran years ago.

            As a Minot State Student I encourage you to GET on a campus, TALK to students about this, maybe after that type of hands-on RESEARCH you all would be more apt to write a blog which has been vetted properly. Know about the subject you are writing about before running your mouth. Find out what STUDENTS really think, and I am sure you will see nothing on Minot’s campus is getting rubber stamped by our Student Government.

            I encourage anyone to attend the MSU’s SGA meeting tonight- starts at 7:30 in the Weslie room in our Student Center Building. All of our SGA meetings are open meetings. Come say to our faces that we don’t research during our open comments section, then we’ll be able to talk to you in person about what an ass-hat you are.

          • Rob

            Oh please, when the student governments stop rubber-stamping tuition increases i’ll believe you guys are independent.

          • 12345678

            Again, please feel free to attend our meetings. Spend some time seeing how we operate before you can assume you know everything. You seem to be making an ass out of yourself because you’re not taking the time to actually research what you’re saying.

            As a fellow writer, give it a try. Or you’ll get your ass burned every time.

          • Say What?

            You’re an immature fool.

          • Hal801

            Judging by the results, your meetings have been failures.

            What are you going to do now that you have delivered a vote of no confidence? Where have you been up to now? Why is the ND Student Association leading from the rear?

          • Rob

            My ass hasn’t been burned.

            The opinion that the student governments are little more than rubber stamps for the administrations is hardly unique to me.

          • RandyBoBandy

            I think you are a little confused again, Rob. The tuition increase you are speaking of took place at NDSU and he invited you to a meeting with the Minot State Student Government. Just another broad generalization about student governments on you behalf.

          • Say What?

            Notice you failed to provide one example where student government opposed presidents and or administrations. Instead you attack and spew a bunch of jibberish. A little maturity would do you some good. I hope for your sake you gain some. Perhaps by then you might learn to think for yourself instead of blindly following your administration.

  • Dustin Gawrylow

    NDSA has long been a puppet of the college presidents, it is comprised of the over-achieving types that are willing to brown-nose their way into an internship with a governor or senator. However, I don’t remember a time when they acted in direct opposition to the Board of Higher Ed. It shows there is a concerted effort by the university system bureaucracy to get rid of Shirvani. Which begs the question – if the people benefiting from the status quo are so opposed to the guy, might there be a chance he’s not actually the bad guy? It’s tough to figure out, especially with the SBHE’s blanket support of him. It’s hard to figure out what the real story is this time.

    • Rob

      Maybe they acted against the sbhe…because they’re puppets of the university presidents?

      You answered your own question.