Former Chancellor Robert Potts Says He Withdrew Application Because University System Is In Flux

Former North Dakota University System Chancellor Robert Potts, who resigned from that position amid controversy over a conflict with then-NDSU President Joe Chapman, raised a lot of eyebrows when he applied to be chancellor again earlier this month. Then he caused some head scratching when, last week, he withdrew from consideration.

I spoke with Potts this morning, and he said that after applying he came to realize that the position might not be what he’s looking for at this stage in his career.

“I’m 71 years old,” he told me. “I kind of wanted to know what the job entails going in.”

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]”The House bill 1003, if it survives in the Senate, fundamentally changes the role of the chancellor and the board,” he said. Though he’s not necessarily critical of those changes.[/mks_pullquote]

Potts is referring to the effort by some lawmakers to enact major reforms to the way the university system is run. Potts specifically referenced the reforms in the university system budget, HB1003, and HCR3046 which would initiate a study into changing the governance structure for the universities. He said he learned of the reform efforts after he submitted his application and begin researching the state of affairs in higher education policy in the state.

“The House bill 1003, if it survives in the Senate, fundamentally changes the role of the chancellor and the board,” he said. Though he’s not necessarily critical of those changes, despite the legislation setting off a five hour rant session among university presidents when it passed the House.

“I don’t disagree with what the Legislature is doing. They have the power of the purse,” he said. He is particularly enthusiastic about the changes to higher education leadership which could result from HCR3046, but the reforms represent a level of uncertainty he wasn’t comfortable with.

“They placed in there an obligation for comprehensive evaluations of each president in the system,” Potts said. “That’s a huge amount of work and of course those are public documents.”

Potts also said the “stir” his candidacy caused in the state “was disconcerting” noting that the media in the state, particularly the Fargo-based media, put a lot of scrutiny on him during his last term as chancellor.

Still, he said his departure shouldn’t influence the other candidates for the position.

“It’s still a fine position,” he said. “I don’t feel the other candidates should follow my lead at all.”

“I love the state,” Potts added. “I love the people. Second acts are difficult. Very few presidents go back to a place they resigned from. I still have a great desire to be of assistance to the state.”

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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