Chris Berg interviewed outgoing Chancellor Hamid Shirvani last night. Shirvani said that he’s resigning because of a barrage of “unpleasant, unprofessional personal attacks” on himself, and also because it wasn’t clear he’d be allowed to pursue a mandate to what he described as a “federated network” of universities into a true university system.
“I don’t mind push back or criticism,” said Shirvani, “but I do have a problem with these sort of attacks.”
“I was tired of it. This is good for me and for my family.”
So what sort of attacks was Shirvani under? Berg asked him to confirm whether or not someone had defecated on his driveway and on his garage at his personal home in Bismarck.
“Yes sir, it’s true,” responded Shirvani.
Berg asked Shirvani if racism was a part of some of the opposition to his policies. Shirvani said it did.
“I’m not sure it has played or hasn’t played, but what I can tell you is that we’ve gone through a great deal of these personal attacks including notes and emails that have quite a lot of profanity and racial slurs,” he said. “But also, in a more…subtextual way, this notion that ‘he doesn’t understand North Dakota culture’ or ‘he’s not the right fit for North Dakota’…these are all code words.”
“Sometimes they even mixed up my religious beliefs,” said Shirvani apparently referring to people describing him as a Muslim (he’s Catholic).
Shirvani didn’t mention it, but I should also point out that Shirvani’s political enemies were also shopping around a rumor that he’d been unfaithful to his wife. They approached me with it, among others.
“Do you regret coming to North Dakota,” Berg asked Shirvani.
“Honestly, I have to say yes,” he responded.
Shirvani described his opposition as a “vocal but minority few” who “created” the controversy around him.
“With all the money the taxpayers are placing in higher education, we should be serving the students,” he said before alluding to his disappointment in student groups opposing him as Chancellor. “It was unheard of…of students taking a vote of no confidence.”
“All I wanted to do was improve the system. And the system needed reform. But I’m glad I had the opportunity to serve for at least one year. A lot of the things I’ve done here are going to have a lasting impact on the quality of higher education.”