Byron Dorgan Blisters NDSU: "A Lack Of Leadership And Vision"


For years now I’ve been an outspoken critic of North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani, a man who has made plenty of enemies for himself among lawmakers and state government in general.

But some Bresciani apologists have tried to attribute this criticism to partisan politics. Just typical conservative anger over progressive campus leadership. At least, that’s what I take from the emails I get responding to my NDSU posts.

Lately, though, Bresciani has been taking some heat from the left as well. In a recent column Lloyd Omdahl, a left-wing commentator and former Lt. Governor under Democrat George Sinner, took Bresciani to task for picking a fight in the state’s newspapers with Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]While not mentioning Bresciani specifically, Dorgan does blast the school’s “lack of leadership and vision” after it announced the closure of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.[/mks_pullquote]

Bresciani wants to take NDSU’s enrollment to 18,000, a roughly 25 percent increase, in the next four years. When Hagerott expressed some caution about this goal, Bresciani wrote a column for the state’s newspapers saying the enrollment increase will be happening.

“To prove that he was a team player, Bresciani could have let the chancellor have the last public word and discussed their differences off-camera,” Omdahl wrote. “Instead, he chose to push back in the newspapers. Apparently, he doesn’t want to be a team player.”

“If the authority of Chancellor Hagerott is going to be preserved, he and the Board will have to assert some leadership by telling Bresciani — and every other college president — to get with the concept of a university system or get lost,” Omdahl continued.

My opinion is that Bresciani should get lost, but I digress.

Now former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan is taking aim at NDSU’s leadership in a letter to the Fargo Forum. While not mentioning Bresciani specifically, Dorgan does blast the school’s “lack of leadership and vision” after it announced the closure of the Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering.

This was a “magnet” for federal research dollars, Dorgan claims, and it was a mistake to close it.

We can have a debate over whether or not Dorgan is right about CNSE, but he does raise some valid questions about how the decision to nix it was made (these are Dorgan’s words not mine):

  • Who made the decision to close CNSE and how was it made?
  • Who was consulted prior to making that decision?
  • If the NDSU consultant said just last year that CNSE was an extremely important part of NDSU’s Research, what persuaded NDSU to close it down a year later?
  • Why did NDSU fail to create the type of nonprofit organization that would have allowed the commercialization of the work done at CNSE?

These are valid questions which, beyond the CNSE issue, illustrate the utter lack of transparency and integrity in NDSU’s leadership.

And the buck for that sort of thing stops at Bresciani’s desk.

It seems Bresciani is quickly losing friends in the state. Just a reminder, his contract is up on June 30 of 2016, and I think North Dakota could do a whole lot better when it comes to leadership for its largest university.

Rob Port is the editor of, 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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