Ed Schafer Is 100% Wrong About Open Records And Presidential Candidates

ed schafer

Given the North Dakota University System’s long history of repeated and egregious violations of our state’s open records and open meetings laws I think it’s safe to say that there’s a tradition there of wanting to avoid transparency.

Which is why it’s such a terrible idea to make the hiring of new campus administrators less transparent.

“I do think right now because of our totally open system, we put barriers in front of attracting some high-quality candidates,” Ed Schafer  yesterday as he was on campus preparing to take over as the University of North Dakota interim president.

Schafer continued saying that because applications for open positions in the university system are an open record it has prevented the state from recruiting “the upper echelon people.”

If Schafer wants to contend that we’ve made some bad hires in recent years when it comes to university presidents he’ll get no argument from me. President Robert Kelley, who Schafer is replacing at UND is one example. President Dean Bresciani at North Dakota State is another.

If Schafer wants to contend that we’ve made some bad hires in recent years when it comes to university presidents he’ll get no argument from me. President Robert Kelley, who Schafer is replacing at UND is one example. President Dean Bresciani at North Dakota State is another.

Clearly, we can do better. But blaming North Dakota’s institutional preference for transparency for a subpar pool of candidates?

That’s off base, for two reasons.

First, let’s not signal to incoming administrators that transparency is something to be avoided. We’d be much better off telling them that North Dakotans will expect them to go about their business in an out-front, above-board manner.

Second, we need to end this obsession (not necessarily Schafer’s) with hiring out of state for our top university positions. We shouldn’t be hostile to out of state candidates, but there seems to be an attitude which permeates the university system which holds that the best, top-echelon candidates can only come from outside of the state.

That’s about as ridiculous as thinking that a university president is only qualified if he or she has a doctorate degree.

We need to focus the university system on promoting from within.

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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