Why Didn’t The Full State Board Of Higher Education Officially Back Shirvani?

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Over the weekend the North Dakota Student Association, claiming to represent the state’s 48,000 or so college students but really representing a vocal faction that is little more than a rubber stamp for the university presidents, cast a vote of no confidence for embattled Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.

In response, members of the State Board of Higher Education sent out a response expressing their disappointment in the students.

But here’s something interesting to note: The statement in question didn’t come from the full State Board of Higher Education. It came from current President Duaine Espegard, current Vice President Kirsten Diederich and past President Grant Shaft.

Here’s the statement that was emailed out:

For Immediate Release

As the current president, vice president and immediate past president of the State Board of Higher Education, we are disappointed in the recent resolutions of the North Dakota Student Association. The Board remains in full support of the policies adopted by the Board and implemented by Chancellor Shirvani. The Board hired Chancellor Shirvani to assist the Board in implementing reforms to the University System with the intent of elevating the quality of the overall system while focusing on greater accountability and efficiencies. Chancellor Shirvani has worked tirelessly to engage all of our constituencies with a passion that has been absent for some time. In a very short period of time, Chancellor Shirvani’s leadership and knowledge have aided the Board in addressing problems that have plagued the Board for many years. In carrying out our overall policies, directions, and agenda he has worked arduously and with dedication to make North Dakota’s colleges and universities into a student-centered and mission-driven system.

Duaine Espegard, Kirsten Diederich, Grant Shaft

The statement says the board is in full support of Shirvani, but you’ll note that not all members of the board signed on to this expression of dismay. It might make sense that the faculty and student representatives on the board didn’t sign the letter, but seeing just three members of the board (even if they’re leadership) sign a letter backing Chancellor Shirvani is…telling.

There is dissension in the ranks, I think.

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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  • Roy_Bean

    I think that these people want the discussion to continue to be about the chancellor and not about the fact that the board just doesn’t work.

  • RCND

    This is less about standing behind the Chancellor and more about covering themselves for the bad decision they made in picking him

  • ec99

    One more blatant aspect of the great North Dakota hypocrisy: talk about change; but when the rubber hits the road, dig in your heels to keep the same failed policies. Shirvani was hired on the pretext of major changes. Establish a central authority. He presented a reasonable program whereby the realities of the institutions were taken into account. The small high school level places would be remedial. The mediocre schools would take care of the mediocre students. And UND and NDSU would become what they have never been: prestigious institutes of higher ed. Then tradition came in, in the form of legislators, presidents, and their quislings. When Shirvani leaves, no qualified person from outside the state will apply. You’ll get the same incompetent insiders you got with Isaak and Goetz. The status quo will live on. And Nodakers will continue to grouse about a system they don’t want to see changed.

  • awfulorv

    You know if he were to fuss his hair just so, and he developed a proper sucker punch, he’d bear a close resemblance to Herschel Lashkowitz, the former Fargo Mayor, and Hooligan.

  • RandyBoBandy

    NDSA does actually represent the 48,000 students until there is an alternative. If there are only a few vocal students who are willing to step up, then so be it. No one is stopping the other students from trying to take the places of these, “rubber stamps,” that you so falsely call them. Please keep sharpening that axe you have to grind with higher education.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I don’t think most students see their colleges as a city state for which they need representation in student government. I think only a small minority of students see it that way, which are mostly those in student government.

      They’re irrelevant. I don’t disagree with these resolutions on Shirvani, but student government doesn’t really represent the attitudes of students.

      • ec99

        Next to no one runs, next to no one votes, next to one attends meetings. Most students recognize student govt as a farce, instituted by administrations to give the semblence that a student voice exists. Problem is, they are allowed to waste student fees on ridiculous things like buses to bars.

  • ND Observer

    According to today’s Grand Forks Herald story by Chuck Haga, “Sydney Hull, the student voting member of the board, took issue with the board leaders’ statement. “It’s disappointing that three members are talking for the entire board,” said Hull, a senior at NDSU. “They say the chancellor has full board support. Unfortunately, they forget that I am a board member and I have come out in support of the students.

    “They say they want to create a student-centered system, but in the same breath they dismiss the feelings of students. … It should be pretty telling if the same students who a year ago almost unanimously recommended (appointment of) Shirvani to the state board are now clamoring to get rid of him.”

    That is very telling. There is no Senator – Rep or Dem – who has come out in support of Shirvani. That is also very telling.

    • Roger

      Mr. Hull, as I understand it, went to the student meeting but never presented the board’s position to the students. In other words he really was not there as a Board member but as a student. One cannot be surprised at where he stood before the vote. NDSU all the way just like his buddy and ex-student board member Robert Valley. Valley opposed the selection of this Chancellor and has attacked him ever since the vote last year.

      I have reviewed the public minutes at are on the SBHE website and I did not see any mention of Mr. Hull or anyone bringing issues to the SBHE of concern about the Chancellor until this orchestrated action.

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