North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani has said of his job in the past that he spends just about one third of his time on “the mechanical running of the university.” He spends the rest of his time “talking about and representing the school – up to and including fundraising,” according to a 2013 profile by Forum reporter Kyle Potter.
For a man making $344,241 this year, spending just a third of your time on the thing you were hired to do – administering the largest university in the state – seems like not a lot. And now Bresciani apparently wants to hire a “chief of staff” to “relieve the president from administrative duties so he can focus on other priorities,” according to NDSU spokeswoman Sadie Rudolph.
You have to wonder what, exactly, Bresciani will be doing with his time once this new position is filled. Probably being driven about Fargo by his chauffeur or something. Keep in mind that there is already a lot of suspicion regarding how Bresciani spends his time. “When a president says he spends a third of his time working for the foundation, who is he really working for?” Rep. Bob Skarphol, a Republican from Tioga, said in support of legislation ordering the audits of the state’s university foundations. “And is that appropriate? I think there’s a lot of members at least in the House that would think that’s not appropriate.”
The buzz from lawmakers, who were pretty tough on the universities this year in terms of appropriated dollars, is that this move by Bresciani is a way to keep attorney Christopher Wilson employed.
Wilson is ostensibly an attorney for the North Dakota University System, but he works in Fargo and does Bresciani’s dirty work when it comes to things like committing open records violations and fighting legislation giving students due process rights. But legislation passed earlier this year cost Wilson his job.
Lawmakers have required that all of the university system’s auditors and lawyers be moved under the purview of the State Auditor’s office and Attorney General’s office, respectively. What’s more, the people filling those positions must reapply for their jobs. Given how many times the Attorney General’s office has smacked Wilson and North Dakota State for open records violations it seems unlikely that he’d get hired there.
So many in Bismarck see Bresciani creating the chief of staff job as a way to keep Wilson around. A way for Bresciani to keep his personal legal counsel despite the wishes of the Legislature.
Clearly, that’s another thumb in the eye for lawmakers at a time when the relationship between the universities and Bismarck couldn’t be worse. If the State Board of Higher Education had any backbone they’d take Bresciani to task for this maneuver, but they won’t.
Because they don’t.