Nothing In Higher Ed Will Change Under The Status Quo


“The absurdity of students in the North Dakota University System voting ‘no confidence’ in the chancellor regarding the State Board of Higher Education’s new policies and practices is beyond ridiculous and is totally inappropriate,” writes state Rep. Bob Skarphol in the Grand Forks Herald today.

Rep. Skarphol has been a strong proponent of Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, and suggests the push back against the chancellor has been coordinated by the university presidents, directing the students, and some legislators.

“I submit that there has been an organized behind-the-scenes effort to discredit and destroy the very individual who can give North Dakota taxpayers exactly what they want from our university system,” writes Skarphol. “I find the actions of those individuals perpetrating this fraud absolutely reprehensible. Shirvani is a highly qualified and honorable man who deserves the chance to implement the policies that his experience has taught him will achieve what we want for our university system.”

And today we get news that the student representative on the State Board of Higher Education, Sydney Hull, will be backing Shirvani’s buy out as well (which is no doubt why the expression of support from the SBHE from a few days ago was signed by only a few members of the board and not the full board).

I’m not nearly as convinced of Chancellor Shirvani’s qualification, and honor, as Rep. Skarphol is, but at this point I think Shirvani has become irrelevant in this higher education civil war. I’m not sure it matters who we put in charge of the university system at this point. We could appoint Jesus to be chancellor, and his disciples to the Board of Higher Education, and I suspect they’d face the same sort of push back from the university presidents and their legislative allies if any reforms they found distasteful were proposed.

Were Shirvani’s reforms for higher education good reforms? I’m not sure that matters any more. What matters is that the university presidents refuse to be governed by anyone intent on actually governing.

That has to change. The manner in which the university system is governed must be changed. Either the system chancellor serves at the pleasure of the governor, using the governor’s political mandate from the voters as a platform from which reforms are pushed, or we elect the chancellor of the university system and give him/her a direct mandate from the voters.

But I don’t think Shirvani, or anyone else who isn’t merely a stoolie for the university presidents, can govern the university system as it is composed now.