This letter to the Fargo Forum from Mark Meister, the chairman of the Department of Communications at NDSU, accuses me of not supporting my criticism of NDSU and Dean Bresciani. It’s been getting a lot of play on social media from the usual crowd of football fans and NDSU loyalists, so I thought I’d address it.
His arguments aren’t terribly original (which is surprising coming from a communications professional). He deploys what have become almost cliched responses to criticism of NDSU and/or Bresciani:
- The criticism is motivated by some personal animus toward Bresciani or NDSU (in this instance, my supposed vendetta)
- The criticism is baseless because Bresciani has done wonderful (if nebulously defined) things at the school
To these tropes Meister adds another argument: The idea that I haven’t explained or substantiated my criticisms of Bresciani.
“NDSU is the target of choice for blogger and Forum columnist Rob Port’s tantrums,” Meister writes. “His negativity towards North Dakota State University is without warrant or explanation, and yet, The Forum publishes his outbursts.”
Here’s the problem: I’ve been explaining why Bresciani is a bad president for NDSU and the State of North Dakota for literally years now. In fact, I can provide a (not at all exhaustive) list of Bresciani’s problems right now:
- He worked to undermine former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani because he didn’t like the policies Shirvani sought to implement
- He has publicly and aggressively defied current Chancellor Mark Hagerott on enrollment growth
- During the 2011 legislative session he spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on travel by private airplane to testify before the Legislature that his university was underfunded
- Bresciani uses a member of the NDSU campus police force as his personal chauffeur
- Members of the Legislature feel Bresciani deleted tens of thousands of emails rather than turn them over to Legislative Council as part of an open records request
- Bresciani actively sought to exclude lawmakers from a decision to purchase the Sanford Nursing School
- Bresciani has used his girlfriend’s private email account to hide communications subject to open records laws
- Bresciani purchased a first class ticket for himself for a business trip to India, at a cost of thousands of dollars more than a coach class ticket, and when he got in hot water over it he had unnamed donors to the NDSU Development Foundation pay for the upgrade
- The NDSU Development Foundation has spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal luxuries for Bresciani, including paying for his country club membership
- Under Bresciani NDSU has repeatedly violated state open records laws
Add to this the fact that Bresciani embraces a quantity-over-quality approach to higher education, prioritizing rapid enrollment growth over improving completion rates for students, and you begin to see an ugly portrait of a public servant in charge of overseeing one of our state’s largest and most important institutions.
Out side of a faction of NDSU loyalists, Bresciani is very unpopular with the Legislature. Past and present members of the State Board of Higher Education, speaking off the record, have told me that Bresciani is often rude to them.
Now your mileage with this stuff may vary. Maybe you don’t find these complaints against Bresciani to be convincing. That’s fine! We can agree to disagree.
But it’s simply not accurate to accuse me of not backing my criticisms of Bresciani up with facts.
And to suggest that I’m some sort of lone crusader against NDSU and Bresciani is ludicrous. The Fargo Forum and the Bismarck Tribune have each called for Bresciani to resign. Former Grand Forks Herald publisher Mike Jacobs has called on Bresciani to resign. Long-time and widely respect former state lawmaker John Andrist has called on Bresciani to resign.
I realize that it’s easier for myopic NDSU loyalists to pretend as though criticism of Bresciani is motivated by something other than the things he’s actually done and said. I know it’s convenient to pretend as though it’s all the fault of this humble, lowly blogger.
But it’s simply not true.