Chancellor Hagerott Blames Republican Politics for His Problems, but That Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

Last week Chancellor Mark Hagerott was stung by the revelation of an unflattering performance review from 2016 – one alleging gender bias and inappropriate behavior – as well as an accusation claiming fired Vice Chancellor Lisa Feldner to make room in his budget to hire a former colleague of his from the Navy.

This week he’s demanding an independent investigation of what he describes as a campaign to defame him.

According to this report, Hagerott thinks the criticism stems from his decision not to take action against former Governor Ed Schafer when he, while serving as interim President at the University of North Dakota, endorsed Doug Burgum in a contentious Republican gubernatorial primary against Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem. Hagerott claims he was pressured by some lawmakers and others, presumably Stenehjem backers, to fire or otherwise sanction Schafer for the endorsement (which I was fine with, for the record) and further claims this same alleged cabal is causing him problems today.

That he didn’t call for an investigation back when he was allegedly pressured is rather damning for Hagerott, I think. If it was such a big deal, why didn’t he speak out when it happened?

That he didn’t call for an investigation back when he was allegedly pressured is rather damning for Hagerott, I think. If it was such a big deal, if he felt he was under inappropriate political pressure, why didn’t he speak out when it happened? Why did he wait until he came under criticism for his job performance and decision making?

That Hagerott is bringing this up today seems suspiciously like someone trying desperately to cover their ass through distraction.

Hagerott wants an independent investigator appointed (AG Stenehjem has an obvious conflict of interest, I suppose) and a review by the State Board of Higher Education. Which is all well and good – I hope it happens – but I’m not sure it’s going to end well for Hagerott.

Because the problems with his behavior and job performance pre-date the Schafer controversy, as I pointed out in a post on Friday.

Months before the Republican primary in June of 2016 Hagerott was undergoing “mentoring” per an email sent to then-SBHE Chair Kathy Neset (see below) which I obtained from a source reacting to my interview with Hagerott last week.

Among the points on which Hagerott was being mentored was his conduct in front of staff including “not referring to their age, gender, marital status, health, weight, political affiliation or personal life in your conversations with them”, not attending board subcommittee meanings, and frustrating lawmakers by focusing on his pet projects.

Hagerott’s problems with his behavior in front of staff started well before Schafer endorsed Burgum, which undermines his narrative about problems stemming political fallout from the Stenehjem/Burgum primary.

Here’s the email:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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