Morton and Stemen: Get Both Sides of the Story on the Chancellor


FILE PHOTO: Chancellor Mark Hagerott of the North Dakota University System. ( Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

– Oscar Wilde

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

– attributed to both Winston Churchill and/or Mark Twain

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of the story.”

– Walter Cronkite

What do these quotes have in common? Correct; the value of seeking the truth. Seeking the truth in the midst of numerous people telling many others what they think the truth should be. As Wilde states, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

As members of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, it is troubling, but unfortunately not surprising, to find ourselves in the midst of a process that will eventually be settled in the proper manner through due process. To the dismay of some, the matter will not be settled before all parties have actually had an opportunity to speak to the questions and accusations at hand. Due process may seem outdated and too slow in today’s gigabyte world, but it is still the most reliable and necessary manner in which these types of situations must be handled. We all want results yesterday, but as we are disagreeing, projecting personal agendas, and taking sides, we all also must have the decency to appreciate the fact that the truth is the truth and it is timeless.

The unfortunate aspect of having to wait for due process to run its course is the impatience of many who need someone to blame, criticize, attack or malign. The collateral damage ends up being completely innocent parties having their integrity and professionalism questioned. The author nailed it when he said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Especially when it comes to those who are paid to express partisan opinions at the expense of people who are simply doing their job in a professional manner. If these people with personal agendas want to use the board as target practice, that’s perfectly fine; it is expected and it comes with the territory. To publicly attack employees who are doing their best to work behind the scenes to serve a university system, our institutions, and most importantly, our students, is honestly beneath even the worst of us.

Personally, we have communicated with numerous members of the university system office, many of whom will be placed in difficult and uncomfortable situations as this process plays out. They all agree that doing their jobs for the students, faculty, and system members as public servants is their number one priority, even in the midst of distractions. We admire their professionalism, their commitment to serving the system, and it is gratifying beyond belief to hear each and every one of them reference the fact that our students deserve their full attention and effort. They should be commended, period.

As Cronkite says, “In seeking truth, you have to get both sides of the story.” Maybe this a good lesson for all of us.

Don Morton is the Chairman of the State Board of Higher Education. Greg Stemen is the Vice Chairman.