Dean Bresciani Moving to Ohio Would Be Great for Him and Great for North Dakota

NDSU President Dean Bresciani announces a $4.5 million endowment during a 1 Million Cups talk at the Stage at Island Park on June 8, 2016. File photo. Matt Hellman / The Forum

I hope North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani gets this job in Ohio.

I say that with all sincerity.

Because I have been an outspoken critic of Bresciani’s for years now I can understand if people think I just want to be rid of the guy. To have him be Ohio’s problem and not North Dakota’s any more.

I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t an element of that behind my motivations for this post. I don’t think Bresciani has served NDSU or the State of North Dakota well. That university in Fargo is one of our state’s most important institutions, but the man in charge of it isn’t trusted or liked by a very large faction of the public or their representatives in the Legislature. He’s compiled a lengthy track record of profligacy and poor priorities during his tenure, and the recent debacle over restrictive rules for sports media covering NDSU events proved that Bresciani is anything but loyal to his subordinates.

Bresciani has worked to deceive lawmakers. He’s clashed with his superiors in the North Dakota University System, including past Chancellor Hamid Shirvani and current Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

Under Bresciani the university has compiled a truly abysmal track record for transparency. According to a recent article by Tu-Uyen Tran, with seven open records law violations over the last ten years the North Dakota University System is tied for the City of Mandan for the state’s worst record on transparency, and of those seven violations six involved NDSU.

…out of the public eye there are even many Bresciani supporters who think the man’s time in Fargo should end soon.

There are certainly people who love Bresciani. When the State Board of Higher Education was considering last year whether to renew his contract after the media rules controversy they were swamped by fierce lobbying campaign from the Fargo-area business community (Bresciani’s stubborn push for enrollment growth is good for bars and restaurants, etc., etc.).

NDSU also has a rabid football following, and for whatever reason Bresciani is closely associated with the football team’s recent successes.

Go figure.

But out of the public eye there are even some Bresciani supporters who think the man’s time in Fargo should end soon. One argument some board members heard when the aforementioned contract renewal talks were under way was that he’d probably be leaving Fargo soon anyway.

It’s long been an open secret that Bresciani was looking for jobs elsewhere. The argument, I’m told, was if Bresciani is going to leave why pick a fight?

Even if Bresciani doesn’t get the Ohio job, the cat’s out of the bag now. That he wants to leave Fargo is in the public record. It’s no longer a question of if he’ll leave but when and to where.

I would have voted against a new contract where I on the board, but perhaps letting Bresciani leave of his own volition was sound advice.

Bresciani leaving Fargo would probably be good for him, too. He could start fresh on a new campus in a new state, perhaps taking with him some of the lessons he (hopefully) learned from the acrimonious relationships he built with the public, state leaders, and the media here in North Dakota.

It would also give the SBHE an opportunity to hire a new president in Fargo. One who prioritizes education over enrollment growth. One who sees his job as serving the whole state of North Dakota and its students rather than a narrow group of alumni donors, sports fanatics, and business big wigs.

Bresciani moving to Ohio – or, really, anywhere – would be a win for everyone involved.

I hope it happens, and that Bresciani finds success and peace in a new endeavor.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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