I see the Fargo Forum picked up on my story from yesterday about NDSU President Dean Bresciani traveling to India with a first class ticket which cost nearly $8,300 (no hat tip for me in the story though, unfortunately).
According to the Forum NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott is going to investigate whether Bresciani broke policy prohibiting the purchase of first class airline tickets. Apparently there’s some confusion because Bresciani’s ticket was “business class” and not “first class.”
But that seems like semantics, not substance. As the Forum notes, Bresciani was seated in the most expensive area of the plane, a ticket which cost thousands of dollars more than coach.
“On Wednesday, a person could buy a round-trip ticket similar to Bresciani’s for about $1,400 in coach, or about $12,100 in business class,” the Forum reports.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Bresciani picked a seating upgrade which inflated the cost of his travel by thousands and thousands of dollars. That seems to be a clear violation of NDUS policy which only authorizes “tourist or coach fare” which are “purchased at the lowest reasonable rate available.”[/mks_pullquote]
I went to Delta’s website (Bresciani flew Delta per the records I obtained and published yesterday), and did some searching. I found that a coach class ticket for a trip similar to Bresciani’s anywhere from about $1,400 to $1,900 depending on the dates.
A “business class” ticket cost anywhere from $7,344 to over $11,000. The actual cost of Bresciani’s ticket was $8,293 after taxes and fees per the records I obtained. Which means that “first class” or “business class”, Bresciani picked a seating upgrade which inflated the cost of his travel by thousands and thousands of dollars.
That seems to be a clear violation of NDUS policy which only authorizes “tourist or coach fare” which are “purchased at the lowest reasonable rate available.”
I hope that Bresciani faces disciplinary action, but more is needed. I hope that Hagerott investigates NDSU’s other travel expenses. Because I’m guessing this isn’t the first time Bresciani or others have gotten pricey travel upgrades.
I also hope that Hagerott begins exercising some oversight on this sort of travel. In the Forum report he seems awfully cavalier about it:
University presidents are not required to seek the approval of the chancellor before they take overseas trips, though North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said Wednesday that he knew about Bresciani’s trip a month ago.
“It’s just professional courtesy that you let your boss know that you’re going to be traveling out of the country,” Hagerott said.
It needs to be something more than “professional courtesy.”
Not so many years ago North Dakota had a university president who was involved in issuing phony diplomas to international students recruited in China. Hundreds upon hundreds of phony diplomas issued based on trumped up transcripts by Dickinson State University which was working in cahoots with recruiting firms overseas.
I think it is hard for most of us to imagine how fraud of that scope can happen without it being detected. I would argue that it happened because of the sort of lax attitude Hagerott expresses about Bresciani’s activities.
Which isn’t to suggest that Bresciani is trying to foment a deal for phony degrees or any other sort of fraud. He seems to only be guilty of billing his employer for unjustified luxury travel upgrades. But absent actual oversight from the university system administrators – from the Chancellor and the State Board of Higher Education – who knows what is going undetected?