Legislator Offers Amendment Buying Out North Dakota Higher Ed Chancellor Because Of "Questionable" Leadership



Yesterday we broke the news here on Say Anything that legislators were considering some sort of a “vote of no confidence” in North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani which might take the form of a buyout of Shirvani’s contract. Today state Senator Tony Grindberg has announced that he’ll be offering an amendment to the higher education budget to do just that:

“In my opinion, Chancellor Shirvani’s leadership style is in serious question and his methods of campus communication have created an environment of fear and retaliation,” Grindberg said. “In my 20 years of legislative service, I have never experienced such strong widespread opinions of questionable leadership and mistrust.” …

“North Dakotan’s and our students deserves better,” Grindberg said. “We must ensure that our higher education institutions are the best in the country, and that starts with respected leadership.”

The buy out would cost taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of $660,000. Or about two-years worth of Shirvani’s salary. And it wouldn’t be the first vote of no confidence in Chancellor Shirvani’s career. Nor did the State Board of Higher Education do a thorough job of vetting Shirvani for this job. After Shirvani was hired I did some research on him and found that one of his previous employers had to buyout a secretary who was accusing Shirvani of unprofessional behavior. Grant Shaft, who was SBHE President at the time, admitted to me in an email that the board wasn’t aware of the incident when they hired Shirvani despite having spent money on a background check.

For what it’s worth, I had found the incident on the sixth page of results from a Google search.

This current matter came to a head last week when legislature got wind of changes to plans for an IT building on the University of North Dakota campus to include a large, lavish office for Chancellor Shirvani. Shirvani, and State Board of Higher Education President Duaine Espegard, tried to strong-arm University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley into approving the changes, but he wouldn’t go along.

But Shirvani has been in the cross hairs of the state’s university presidents almost from the first day he got his job (it’s worth remembering that Grindberg’s boss until recently was NDSU President Dean Bresciani who is also well-known to be no fan of Shrivani’s). The IT building fiasco may be the proverbial back-breaking straw, but this revolt has been in the works for some time now.

Which should have taxpayers worried. Was Shirvani good for North Dakota? On the whole, I don’t believe so, but we’ve got what amounts to anarchy in the university system. After years of scandals involving fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars, the State Board of Higher Education is so impotent in their oversight that they can’t even keep a chancellor in place to govern the system.

Shirvani going, which it’s almost certainly he will now, won’t fix what ails the university system. We need fundamental reforms that end the independence of the university system and bring it under the direct oversight of elected officials. Buying out this chancellor without reforms to the system does North Dakota no good.