University Presidents Declining Their Pay Raises Is Pointless Symbolism


I do not like North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani.

He is the embodiment of a sort of metastasized administrative avarice which is at the heart of what’s wrong with higher education in America today.

I think he serves his institution poorly, embroiling it in one public scandal and pointless squabble with elected leaders after another, often in service of his own ponderous ego.

I think he serves North Dakota poorly, ranking the needs of students behind the prerequisites of his quantity-over-quality approach to leading the university, something which produces enormous inefficiency and poor academic outcomes.

I am on the record saying that the man should be fired, and I mean it. In fact, I mean it so much that I’m not so sure it wouldn’t be a good investment if state lawmakers appropriated some money to buy the guy off as soon as possible so he can go be a bleeding cancer in some other state’s education system.

We would be well rid of him.

So suffice it to say that we have reached an unusual crossroads when I find myself in the position of needing to defend Bresciani from some unfair criticism.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…we have reached an unusual crossroads when I find myself in the position of needing to defend Bresciani from some unfair criticism.[/mks_pullquote]

According to this news report eight of the presidents in North Dakota’s university system have decided to forgo their pay increases as state revenues fall, but Bresciani is not one of them.

“At a meeting of the State Board of Higher Education on Thursday, April 28, Chairwoman Kathleen Neset commended the presidents for taking ownership’ of their budget cuts by declining a raise,” reports Grace Lyden. “NDSU President Dean Bresciani said at the meeting that he does not determine his salary, so it will be up to the board to decide whether he gets a raise.”

Bresciani’s right. It’s not his job to determine whether or not he gets a raise. I’m not sure why he or any president in the university system should forgo one if their bosses on the SBHE offer.

The universities have been taking it on the chin – rightly, I think – for profligate spending and bloated administrative pay. But if anyone deserves blame for the pay university presidents get it’s the state leaders – the SBHE, specifically – who hire the presidents and approve their pay.

The presidents holding off on their pay raises will solve very little when it comes to the budget shortfalls. As exorbitant as some of these salaries are, they amount to a figurative rounding error in the overall university budgets.

I’d rather the university presidents forgo the pointless symbolism of declining their pay raises and instead focused on meaningful, long-term reforms to the way their institutions are managed.