Embattled Chancellor Hamid Shirvani seemed to have a majority of the State Board of Higher Education behind him on at least a couple of issues.
First, the board voted 7-1 to scale back previously-approved tuition increases to something more on par with what Shirvani had requested (only board member Kari Reichert voted no):
North Dakota’s Board of Higher Education decided Thursday to change tuition guidelines that the board approved earlier this month.
It means smaller possible tuition increases this fall at North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota.
The maximum tuition increase at NDSU was trimmed from 4.23 percent to 3.28 percent. At UND, the top increase has been reduced from 4.9 percent to 3.72 percent.
At North Dakota’s nine other public colleges, the tuition increase limits were set between 2.18 percent and 4.76 percent.
Also, while Forum Communications did their best to make this sound like bad news for Chancellor Shirvani with the headline “ND higher ed board rejects report clearing Shirvani of fraud,” in reality what the board did was cast a vote in favor of findings from University system Chief Information Officer Randall Thursby which illustrated problems in the report in question. While former auditor Bill Eggert’s report did clear Shirvani of fraud, it also accused him of being misleading to the legislature.
Thursby’s report indicated a worrisome level of collusion between Eggert, “whistle blower” Linda Porter and certain members of the SBHE:
Thursby said he looked into that report because of questions he had about how Eggert portrayed a March 20 email from Laura Glatt, vice chancellor for administrative affairs.
“The context in Mr. Eggert’s report leaves one with the impression that only Chancellor Shirvani’s slide was in question, when actually both Ms. Porter’s document and the slide were in question,” he said.
Thursby also questioned a sharing of information between Porter and board member Kari Reichert, staff adviser Janice Hoffarth and now-President Kirsten Diederich in the days before Porter testified to legislators on March 27 regarding the fraud allegation. He said they never shared that material with the rest of the board or appropriate university system staff.
Thursby also questioned why Eggert sent Porter a copy of his report on April 23 — a day before its release — with the statement, “Verify for accuracy. If you want to change or add use track changes.”
Neither Reichert nor Diederich were happy about Thursby’s report:
After the meeting, Reichert told Forum News Service she was frustrated that she had “basically been accused” of improper behavior. She said if the board questioned Eggert’s integrity, they should launch a proper investigation through an independent auditor instead of using Thursby’s claims “as a platform to accuse board members of participating in undermining our auditor’s report.”
She also said she, Diederich and Hoffarth “never once” accused Shirvani of fraud or misleading legislators.
“What difference is it to me if this chancellor goes or stays, as long as he’s effective?” she said. “That’s all I care about, is that we have an effective chancellor.”
Diederich, who was elected at the start of the meeting to be the board’s new president beginning July 1, said what happened Thursday can’t happen again and that she would work to “mend” the board.
“I don’t want any more secret talk going on,” she said. “If we’re going to be an open board, open records, open meetings, this has to stop.”
Here’s Thursby’s full report which, frankly, doesn’t reflect well on Eggert, Porter, Hoffarth, Diederich or Reichert and is quite exculpatory as far as Chancellor Shirvani is concerned.