Guest Post: Higher Ed Board Should Resign Along With Chancellor Shirvani

With the late breaking news this afternoon that the North Dakota Board of Higher Education has voted unanimously to buy-out Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s contract, less than a year after hiring him, board members themselves should now question why they would continue serving on the board.

This on-going saga is the result of a power play made during the 2013 legislative session where some opponents of Shirvani tried to insert a provision into the higher education budget to give the Board the money needed to buy-out Shirvani.

Those efforts were made on behalf of campus presidents, primarily Dean Bresciani at NDSU and Robert Kelley at UND.

This has all be somewhat of a “civil war” within the university system, and with the factions of the legislature throwing some weigh around because they did not like Shirvani.

In the last month, we have seen the Board of Higher Ed approve tuition increases as high as 6.6%, then Chancellor Shirvani publicly criticized the increase, and the Board came back and revised its decision so that the most tuition would increase is 4.76%

Is the Board upset that Shirvani publicly criticized them and pushed them for smaller tuition increases?  We can only speculate.

It is very clear that Shirvani has a different way of going about things that isn’t the norm for someone in his position.  It is probably fair to say that he isn’t as diplomatic as some would like.

But there are very few, outside of the university campus leadership roles, that disagreed with his proposed reforms.

And the fact that he criticized his bosses and forced them to reduce the tuition increase shows that he’s willing to go out on a limb – but in the case of the tuition increases, it was a good thing for the students!

What can the Board do now?

It has shown itself to be at the whims of college presidents and pushy legislators.

Clearly the current members of the the Board of Higher are not no longer in charge – if they were, they would have stood behind their Chancellor.

Maybe it is time for the members of the Board of Higher Education to resign, en mass, and let Governor Dalrymple show some leadership and figure out how to put the system back together.

The voters of North Dakota will get a chance to abolish the current board and replace it with a new 3-member board in November 2014 appointed by the governor.

Perhaps now is the time for the governor to start figuring out who he wants in charge – because passage of that constitution measure just became all but a certainty – unless the voters like having this soap opera continue.

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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