Trouble Brewing Between Chancellor And Legislature Over Office Suite In UND Technology Building

New Chancellor

In the 2011 session North Dakota legislators approved $15.5 million to be spent on a new internet technology building on the University of North Dakota campus. The building is to provide 36,000 square feet for offices and a data center which, in turn, is to provide IT services to all 11 institutions in the university system.

But there’s big trouble brewing among legislators over changes Chancellor Hamid Shirvani made to the plans sources tell me.

Chancellor Shirvani changed the plans for the building to provide for what legislative sources are calling an “office suite” for himself and his staff including a conference room, a private restroom, a kitchenette and a private entrance.

Shirvani’s suite wouldn’t be small, according to my sources. It would displace 24 office cubicles intended for IT workers, according to the plan revisions.

“There will be a real effort to change that back and not allow that to happen,” a legislative source told me this morning.

I spoke with Grand Forks Senator Ray Holmberg this morning, who confirmed the rumors to me. “Whoever your leakers are, they’re knowledgeable,” he said.

Senator Holmberg stressed to me that the University of North Dakota wasn’t part of the plan changes. “[UND President] Bob Kelley refused to sign the change order to approve the offices, but he was overridden by the board,” Holmberg told me.

“It displaces 24 cubicles that would have been IT workers and replaces it with a chancellor’s office,” Holmberg said. I also spoke with NDUS spokesperson Linda Donlin this morning who also confirmed the plan changes to me, but she used the term “multiple use space.” Yet Senator Holmberg characterized the space differently.

“On the floor plans it says ‘Chancellor’s Office,’” he said. Another legislator, speaking off the record, told me the term “mulitple use” is “BS.”

“That’s not what the blueprints show,” my source said.

“The legislature should never be in the position where we are approving floor plans, but we approved the building to consolidate IT workers,” Holmberg told me noting that the changes are “controversial” in that the space wasn’t intended to provide an office for Chancellor Shirvani. Holmberg also noted that the university system had originally argued that the space was too small to consolidate all of their IT workers, but is now using up a large portion of that space for this office suite.

Holmberg said the issue of this building will be re-opened during a Senate committee hearing scheduled for Thursday next week at 10am. “We’re focusing on three building issues two of which won’t be controversial but this one will be,” he told me.

“They’re really flying in the face of what the legislature approved” Holmberg said.

Shirvani seems to have an increasingly uneasy relationship with the legislature. During a committee hearing earlier this session the Chancellor was called out on rumors of plans to dismiss certain university presidents, though the rumors were denied.

Update: Here is a scan of the revised blueprints including the new office suite for the chancellor:

Blue Prints For NDUS IT Building by

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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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