Emails Show Controversial Evaluations Of University Presidents Were Actually Ordered By State Board


The last controversy of former Chancellor Hamid Shivani’s time at the head of the North Dakota University System were evaluations of the university presidents which were quite critical of some of the presidents. When those evaluations were released publicly, the campus political machines went into spin mode painting the evaluations as a vindictive, on-the-way-out jab from Shirvani at his enemies.

Certainly that’s what some board members claimed. “I was appalled, offended and mildly upset that, for the first time, I saw these evaluations on an Internet blog,” said State Board of Higher Education member Terry Hjelmstad referring to this June 17th SAB post. “They’re unfounded, they’re unethical, vindictive.”

But what if those evaluations were ordered by the State Board of Higher Education itself, and even reviewed by at least two of its members before being made public?

That’s what some emails from one of the many batches requested from the university system by Legislative Council seem to indicate. If you want to understand why the university system is griping about having to turn over these emails, revelations like this might be the reason why.

The emails paint an interesting picture. The evaluations were requested of Shirvani by his bosses on the SBHE, but when some of the university presidents didn’t like their evaluations, the SBHE threw Shirvani under the bus.

Here’s a couple of questions stemming from these emails:

1) Did other members of the SBHE other than Espegard and Diedrich know about the evaluations?

2) Despite the temper tantrum thrown by the university presidents, particularly Minot State’s David Fuller, were the evaluations really unfair? Remember, UND Student Body President Nick Creamer agreed with much of Shivani’s evaluation of UND President Robert Kelly and refused to sign a letter backing Kelly.

3) Does Shirvani have standing for legal action against the NDUS given that he was professionally embarrassed for creating evaluations requested of him?

Here’s at timeline, the emails themselves are embedded below:

June 3rd Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s contract is bought out by the State Board of Higher Education.

June 7th, 6:18am – Then-president of the SBHE Duaine Espegard emailed Shirvani and then-Vice President Kirsten Diedrich (now the board’s president) requesting that Shirvani “finish the performance reviews of this Presidents this coming week,” also indicating that “any wage adjustments for the coming year should tie to this evaluation.”

June 12th, 5:15am – Espegard again emails Shirvani and Diedrich erquesting that Shirvani “finish the Presidents evaluations and submit them” to Espegard and Diedich prior to sending them to the university presidents. “I would like them by the end of the week,” Espegard writes while reiterating that the evaluations should also include Shirvani’s recommendations for salary adjustments.

June 12th, 6:06am – Espegard sends a second email to Shivani and Diedrich requesting that Shirvani include with the evaluations “your recommendations on contract extensions for the Presidents to myself and the Vice President [Diedrich].”

June 13th, 11:58am – Shirvani emails Espegard and Diedrich the evaluations. “Per your request, enclosed please find the presidents evaluations,” he writes. “I am planning to send these evaluations to the presidents before the end of the day.”

June 13th, 2:58pm – Shirvani emails revised evaluations to Espegard and Diedrich. “Following our conversation, I am resending you all presidents evaluations,” he writes. “Per your request I have revised the evaluations of [NDSU President Dean] Bresciani, [ND State College of Sciences President John] Richman, and [Williston State College President Ray] Nadolny.” At 3:38pm Diedrich responds thanking Shirvani for receiving the revisions.

June 17th, 9:58am – Shirvani emails Espegard indicating that the NDUS office has “received more calls and emails from the Fargo Forum asking for copies of the presidents evaluations.” He indicates that he “can not hold Fuller’s evaluations any longer.”

June 17th, 12:27pm – I published the presidents evaluations in this post after receiving them from NDUS spokeswoman Linda Donlin as a part of an open records request.

June 17th, 3:07pm – Minot State University President David Fuller sends an angry, intemperate email to Shirvani, Espegard, Diedrich and SBHE board member Terry Hjelmstad expressing anger that his evaluation had been made public. “I was told that my evaluation was posted on the ‘say anything’ blog before I even had the opportunity to read it,” Fuller wrote. “Many of the points you make…deserve responses and corrections of fact. I will offer those responses to President Espegard to defend myself in the face of these libelous statements and actions.”

June 20th – The State Board of Higher Education rejects Shirvani’s evaluations after a “visibly shaking” Fuller angrily demands that the evaluation be “expunged” from his record.

June 21st – Despite the terms of his buyout, and the fact that the evaluations had been equested by the board President and Vice Persident, the State Board of Higher Education places Shirvani on immediate administrative leave. A source at the state capitol tells me Shirvani was escorted out of his office by guards.

July 29th – Acting Chancellor Larry Skogen, also the President of Bismarck State College, creates new evaluations for the presidents Shirvani was critical of that don’t contain any criticism at all. Presidents who received no criticism from Shirvani accept their previous evaluations.

Nd Us Emails 001

Rob Port

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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