Recently U.S. News & World Report did a story about state spending on higher education which featured North Dakota. Because while 48 other states have been shrinking spending on higher education in recent years, North Daktoa has gone the other way increasing spending by 38.6 percent from 2008 to 2014 (even though enrollment has increased less than 9 percent during that time).
You’d think that level of “investment” by the taxpayers would have reduced the cost of attending our universities for students. Especially in-state students. But it hasn’t. Tuition costs and other fees associated with attending North Dakota universities has gone up.
But what it has created is a sort of bureaucratic decadence. Case in point, North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani (who was quoted in the U.S. News report) has himself a personal drive who makes more $80,000 per year:
NDSU employs a security liaison to the president, who often serves as the president’s driver – a job and a role that doesn’t exist at other universities in the region.
The Forum requested copies of Bresciani’s calendar from February 2013 to August 2014 using an open records request. In that time period, Scott Magnuson, whose job title is captain of special project operations, is listed as driving him 112 times.
Magnuson has driven Bresciani to and from the airport, to meetings in Wahpeton and Bismarck, and to local functions, such as Sanford Health board meetings and NDSU baseball games.
He has driven Bresciani to commencement at the Bison Sports Arena and the Fargodome, and to business lunches at Juano’s and the Hilton Garden Inn. When ESPN’s “College GameDay” first came to Fargo, Magnuson drove Bresciani to the downtown festivities at 7 a.m.
Magnuson drives the president on weekdays as well as weekends, as early as 5:15 a.m. and into the early evening.
Of course, because this is the North Dakota University System generally and NDSU in particular, they can’t just admit that Bresciani’s driver is his driver. That level of candid honesty would be unprecedented from the university system.
Instead, they describe the driver as a “security liaison.” Because apparently being the President of NDSU is just like being the real president, and this guy is carrying the nuclear football or something. You know, in case there’s need of a nuclear response to an attack from the University of Minnesota.
In a recent interview, Bresciani said Magnuson drives him “occasionally,” and campus police make those decisions.
“I get to meetings and events in a variety of different ways and, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure what the magic to that is,” he said. “I leave that to the campus security department. Why, when, I don’t book my transportation.”
Ray Boyer, director of the University Police and Safety Office, said when Magnuson drives the president, it’s so police can contact Bresciani in the event of an emergency.
“His purpose is not a driver,” Boyer said. “His purpose is a strategic security purpose that we use at NDSU to ensure our campus is safe.”
I guess these people have never heard of a cell phone. It’s understandable that the head of an institution like NDSU would need to be reachable at all times by security personnel, especially with “gun free zones” like college campuses being targeted by shooters over and over again, but c’mon.
Surely there’s a better way to accomplish that goal than a private chauffeur.
By the way, did I mention that Magnuson is the same guy who was previous NDSU President Joe Chapman’s body guard? The fact that Chapman, who ultimately resigned from his job at NDSU under fire for lavish spending on perks for himself (among other problems), had a personal body guard rankled feathers across the state. I’m not sure why we should feel any differently about Bresciani’s personal drive/security agent.
Why doe this matter? Here’s why.
Back in 2011 Bresciani was threatening cuts to core academic programs if he didn’t get approval from the State Board of Higher Education for a massive tuition hike. During the legislative session that same year Bresciani his school to starving children.
““It is like a starving child,” he said at the time. “If you give them dinner it doesn’t mean that they won’t be hungry at breakfast time.”
Yet, Bresciani was getting to the legislative session that year using a private airplane funded by university dollars, which the Forum article also mentions despite the paper previously chastising me in an editorial (it was the Forum’s opinion that critics of NDSU don’t know how to think) for digging that information up:
In 2011, some legislators criticized the use of a private plane, which a state study found cost more than $5,600 an hour to operate for 69 flight hours in that fiscal year. NDSU officials at the time defended the airplane as time-saving and cost-efficient. The NDSU Foundation no longer owns the plane.
Doing the math on those flight hours, that works out to more than $386,000 in flight expenses. For a university Bresciani claimed was a starving child.
You can’t make this stuff up.