If there were just one story we could point to in showing how completely upside down priorities are in our university system, how utterly out of control our university leadership is absent any real oversight or transparency, let it be this report which begins with an anecdote about a group of researchers who have to lug water into their classrooms because the plumbing doesn’t work.
The larger story is about a new report which claims $808 million worth of deferred maintenance at North Dakota universities, but let’s focus on the anecdote for a moment.
When critics suggested that North Dakota State President Dean Bresciani flying back and forth to Bismarck to tell legislators how poor his university is was a bit, you know, hypocritical the university sycophants at the Fargo Forum defended the practice. “It seems a few noisy and chronic faultfinders really don’t understand that NDSU and UND have evolved from good regional campuses to world-class research/teaching universities,” the paper scolded in a 2011 editorial.
But here’s reality: NDSU is a world-class research institution where the researchers don’t have working plumbing, but the university president has a private airplane. And a salary that’s multiples of what the governor of the state makes. And the most expensive private residence in the Fargo/Moorhead area. And a new contract extension. And a job that’s mostly escorting rich alumni to luxury boxes at sporting and entertainment events, apparently.
During the airplane controversy, we learned that NDSU was leasing an airplane for $300,000 per year pretty much so that Bresciani wouldn’t have to drive from Fargo to Bismarck during the legislative session. But they can’t fix their plumbing.
Eyebrows were raised recently when we learned that high-ranking administrators at NDSU continue to get high-ranking administrators salaries even after they stop being high-ranking administrators. At NDSU, fixing the plumbing is apparently a lower priority than continuing to pay administrators for jobs they aren’t doing any more.
NDSU can give millions of tuition dollars away to out of state students in order to inflate enrollment numbers, but they can’t fix the plumbing for the researchers.
But let’s stop picking on the Fargo campus. NDSU and Bresciani are a big part of the problem – Bresciani but it is in fact a system-wide problem.
But it isn’t just NDSU. The deferred maintenance report is for the entire university system, but then the problems with administrative bloat aren’t unique to NDSU either. Across the university system, non-teaching employment has boomed:
So when I hear that the North Dakota University System has over $800 million in deferred maintenance, I know that the narrative from the universities will be “the legislators aren’t giving us enough money” (despite a 150 percent increase over the last decade). But the problem isn’t one of funding.
It’s one of priorities.
When the news broke of the deferred maintenance report, a legislator emailed me and said, “Instead of building new buildings they should’ve been maintaining the old ones.”