Last night North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott appeared on Chris Berg’s show on Valley News Live, and as is often the case when it comes to public officials and touchy situations what he didn’t say spoke volumes.
And what Hagerott didn’t say is that he’d renew North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani’s contract.
As SAB readers are aware of, Hagerott and Bresciani have been in the midst of something of a food fight. First over Bresciani’s unilateral announcement that he’s taking NDSU’s enrollment to 18,000 in the next five years, then over Bresciani’s controversial decision to give himself a nearly $7,000 first class seat upgrade on a trip to India. Hagerott had called the latter decision an “embarrassment.”
Berg started out asking Hagerott about the ticket. Hagerott said that he’d addressed the issue recently in a cabinet meeting with the presidents and that the policy on travel had changed going forward. When Berg asked if it was ever determined who had paid for the seat upgrade, Hagerott declined to answer and said he wouldn’t talk about the issue any further.
So Berg switched and asked Hagerott directly about Bresciani’s employment status. As you readers know, I’ve been outspoken in saying that Bresciani’s current contract ought not be renewed.
“Would you renew President Dean Bresciani’s contract, yes or no,” Berg asked Hagerott.
“There’s much bigger questions at play beyond any one person,” Hagerott replied. “We are talking about a critical time in the history of our state. Just look at the cost of energy. Look at technology changing. I respect that you’re a direct person, but this is bigger than anyone’s personality. This is bigger than my personality.”
Hagerott then went on to talk about an upcoming meeting in May where “all the stakeholders” in the NDUS would be meeting before adding this: “In the Navy, in my background, is’t not about the person it’s about the team. We’re all in this together including Dean Bresciani who has done great work on a lot of different issues.”
None of that was really an answer to Berg’s question, so Berg went there again.
“Dr. Hagerott you’ve told me several times you’re a direct person. I asked you yes or no will you renew his contract. You alluded to yes, I’m going to take it as a yes, but just to hear it from the horse’s mouth yes or no would you renew his contract today,” he asked.
“Well again I’m talking about the team and not the particular personalities,” Hagerott responded. “And you know it wouldn’t be the appropriate place to talk about anybody’s contract on television.”
Keep in mind, we’re talking about one of the state’s highest-paid employees who runs one of the state’s largest and most expensive institutions in the state’s largest city. If there were no problems with Bresciani, if Bresiciani wasn’t on thin ice with Hagerott and the State Board of Higher Education, you would expect the answer to Berg’s question to be a direct and unequivocal, “Yes.”
That wasn’t what Hagerott said, though. And that speaks volumes.