No More Second Chances For The North Dakota University System


In declaring the controversy over an office in the new North Dakota University System IT building over, the Grand Forks Herald’s editorial board hopes the NDUS “makes the most of its second chance.”

Here’s a question: How many second chances are we going to give the university system?

They got a second chance after ordering the faculty at Dickinson State University to stay silent about diploma fraud and other problems on the campus during the 2011 legislative session. They got a second chance after rampant diploma fraud was uncovered at the university. They got a second chance after former chancellor Bill Goetz lied to legislators about attempting to limit the scope of the audit which uncovered the problems. They got a second chance after NDSU President Dean Bresciani and State Board of Higher Ed officials defied legislators and increased tuition at NDSU by 8.8%. They got a second chance after NDSU officials told legislators they were going to sell a controversial airplane and then didn’t.

We can talk about cost overruns, poor academic performance and outright abuse of taxpayer dollars, but I think you see my point.

It seems the only time university system officials are contrite about the problems in the university system is short window when the legislature is in session and can exercise oversight. Outside of that window, there is no check on the university system’s arrogance and abuses.

That needs to end. No more second chances. The gauntlet was, surprisingly, thrown down by a legislator (state Senator Tony Grindberg) siding with the university presidents against NDUS Chancellor Hamid Shirvani in intra-system squabbling, but this issue is larger than that. This issue is about whether or not the university system serves the State of North Dakota, or whether it’s an independent beast which serves itself at the expense of the state’s taxpayers and students.

For years now, with tuition and taxpayer expenditures soaring even as academic outcomes stagnate, the latter has been more true than the former. And it’s getting worse. The way to reverse that trend is to end the independence of the university system.

This legislature will have an opportunity to vote for major reforms this session. If they don’t avail themselves of that opportunity, we’re doomed to at least another two years of turmoil and abuses.