Due Process for Me but Not for Thee Says the State Board of Higher Education

State Board of Higher Education Chair Don Morton, left, board member Greg Stemen and North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott listen during a meeting of the SBHE in Bismarck on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. Andrew Haffner / Forum News Service

I recently published a statement here on SAB from Don Morton and Greg Stemen, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education respectively.

While they don’t mention Chancellor Mark Hagerott and the scandal around him specifically, they’re clearly writing about it, and in their minds Hagerott has been treated unfairly. He has been judged in the media before he has been afforded due process.

This is hypocritical on two fronts.

It’s a bit rich to hear people who have already rejected the complaints against Hagerott to turn around and demand that we let the process addressing those complaints play out.

First, it wasn’t all that long ago that the North Dakota University System was lobbying against legislation granting some degree or due process to students accused of serious misconduct on campus. The university big wigs, who opposed due process for students, want due process for one of their own.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Second, Morton and Stemen only seem to want due process for Hagerott. They don’t seem interested in due process for the university system employee, Lisa Feldner, who was fired by Hagerott and has now filed a complaint full of serious accusations against him (see it below). At least some of which, the Grand Forks Herald points out in an editorial today, have been substantiated.

The State Board of Higher Education leaders have been dismissive of Feldner’s claims in past comments to the media. “We strongly disagree with her allegations and will present our case at the appropriate time and in the appropriate venue, with that being a legal setting,” Morton told the press of Feldner’s accusations back in November.

But in their missive griping about “due process” Morton and Stemen claim that the process must be allowed to play out. “Due process may seem outdated and too slow in today’s gigabyte world, but it is still the most reliable and necessary manner in which these types of situations must be handled,” they write.

It’s a bit rich to hear people who have already rejected the complaints against Hagerott to turn around and demand due process.

They want to let the process play out when they’ve already decided what the outcome of that process should be.

“[O]ur chief concern still lies with the leaders of the board itself,” the Herald continues in their editorial.

I agree with that. Whatever has gone on with Hagerott, the State Board of Education has exacerbated the issue with a tone deaf and at times entirely hypocritical response.

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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