Hamid Shirvani Isn't The Only Higher Ed Administrator With A "Golden Parachute" Contract


There’s been much griping of late about the nearly million-dollar “golden parachute” buy out embattled Chancellor Hamid Shirvani received earlier this week.

“I’m writing with what some consider the eighth deadly sin, anger, at the North Dakota Higher Board of Education who hired Shirvani and agreed to pay him more than $1 million for a job left undone,” wrote Dickinson Press publisher Harvey Brock about the buyout.

“Not a bad deal for a guy who did nothing but irritate most everyone he worked with while proposing and trying to implement sweeping and unnecessary changes to the system in less than a year,” griped the Minot Daily News in an editorial.

“The North Dakota Board of Higher Education is going to have a tough time explaining the astonishingly generous severance package granted departing university system Chancellor Hamid Shirvani,” complained the Fargo Forum editorial board. “While it appears the board is bound by the chancellor’s contract, reaction among most North Dakotans will be, understandably, outrage.”

Of course, none of the gripers made a peep about Shirvani’s contract when he signed it. And if excessively lavish contracts are worthy of criticism, it would be nice to hear some pointed remarks about what the state’s university presidents are getting. I obtained a copy of the contract for every university president in the North Dakota system, and should any one of them be let go from the system as Shirvani was they’d be entitled to a buyout not all that different from what Shirvani got, especially at the state’s two largest universities.

Hamid Shirvani was earning, and will earn for two more years (with raises!), roughly $350,000 per year. At UND, Robert Kelley is pulling down over $340,000 per year and NDSU’s Dean Bresciani gets over $321,000.

To buy them out with two years left on their contracts, as Shirvani was bought out, would cost taxpayers $680,000 and $642,000 respectively plus whatever retirement contributions, health care and raises their contracts entitled them to. Their buyouts wouldn’t quite reach Shirvani’s level, but then they were Shirvani’s subordinates (not that they ever acted like it) and thus were paid less.

Are these contracts, Shirvani’s included, excessively rich? Absolutely. But these sort of lavish contracts, coming at a time when tuition and student loan debt have grown to crisis levels, are part and parcel to North Dakota, and the nation’s, higher education dilemma.

A dilemma North Dakota’s media has largely been ignoring.

Should we be outraged about Shirvani’s overly rich contract? Sure. But let’s not have selective outrage. Overpaid bureaucrats are endemic to both North Dakota’s university system and the higher education industry in general.

NDUS University President Contracts