Today while hosting the Hot Seat program on WDAY I interviewed North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.
Just the fact that Hagerott would agree to an interview with me is something of a sea change for the university system. Their typical position is to treat me, outside of their legally required responses to open records requests, as someone who simply doesn’t exist. I had to book Hagerott a month ahead of time for the interview – for what it’s worth, I can usually get a Senator or a Congressman or a state lawmaker on with about a day’s notice – but he came on and I feel like he was candid in answering my questions.
Heck, Hagerott even admitted that some people in the system office read the blog, which is a bit of an understatement. I can tell you that according to my site analytics, the North Dakota University System network is my third largest source of visitors (behind the State of North Dakota network and Midcontinent, for what it’s worth).
My questions for Hagerott, as you might guess, revolved around the lack of trust between lawmakers and the university system and the abysmal track record on open records/open meetings issues. Hagerott’s answers mostly relied on the fact that he’s only been chancellor for a couple of months.
The whole “I’m the new guy” thing is still a crutch for him, allowing him to avoid taking positions on sticky issues. Like, say, the fact that some lawmakers feel a certain university president deletes public records rather than turning them over.
It’s easy to understand Hagerott’s reticence. His predecessors who have tried to implement policy over the complaints of the university presidents – specifically former chancellors Robert Potts and Hamid Shirvani – were ultimately pushed out.
For now Hagerott can keep saying “I’m the new guy.” Eventually, though, he’s going to have to choose one of two paths. He can either pretend as though all is well, and end up nothing more than a rubber stamp for the university presidents as former chancellors Larry Skogen and Bill Goetz. Or he can admit that there are problems, and try to implement real change, and hope that his career doesn’t follow the same course as Potts and Shirvani.