Earlier this week I had a post about draft legislation from state Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) which would ban remuneration and reimbursement from the university foundations to university presidents.
In that post I wrote that the big issue with those sort of financial relationships are the potential for conflicts of interest between foundation donors and the university. When the donors are covering lavish personal expenses for the university president – NDUS’ Dean Bresciani gets his $11,000 per-year country club membership paid for, among other things – you have to wonder if they might have business with NDSU.
Business that Bresciani could help influence.
I had asked NDSU Development Foundation CEO John Glover about how they guard against this potential for quid pro quo, and he didn’t bother to respond to me. Today the Fargo Forum picked up my story, and it seems the foundation didn’t want to talk to them about it either.
Foundation directors and trustees declined to comment on Streyle’s proposal after their meeting Wednesday afternoon. Foundation President and CEO John Glover released a statement noting the long history of philanthropic support for higher education, including university leaders.
“The leaders of today’s institutions are critical in sharing the vision, a story of impact and a future of hope,” he said in an email. “We need their involvement in fostering public-private partnerships that make a difference to support the university’s mission.”
After The Forum requested an interview with Bresciani, university spokeswoman Sadie Rudolph released this statement: “We look forward to the discussions around important issues for higher education in the upcoming legislative session.”
I think the public deserves clarity on this issue.
Our university presidents are some of the highest paid public officials in the state. They hold positions of enormous influence over millions upon millions of tax dollars. These cozy relationships between someone like Bresciani and anonymous donors should either be prohibited or disclosed entirely.
Nobody would be happy with, say, our governor getting his country club membership paid for by anonymous donors who may or may not have business the governor could influence. So why on earth would we accept it for our university presidents?
UPDATE: Speaking of conflicts of interest, I missed this related article from earlier today:
The North Dakota State University Foundation’s first meeting to plan a controversial student housing complex east of campus focused on avoiding potential conflicts of interest.
Jeff Volk, chairman of the property management committee, urged members to recuse themselves if they decide they would like to be considered as developers for a project along the 1600 block of University Drive and 12th Street North.
“I caution those of you that want to be on the other side of the table at the end to figure out where the conflict starts,” Volk said. “It hasn’t started yet, but as we move through the process, there’s going to be a point in time where a conflict will be created.”
As I noted in a previous post, one outspoken supporter of this development has been NDSU President Dean Bresciani.
It seems the foundation knows they have a problem, even if they won’t directly acknowledge it.