The sale of a research building from now-closed down UND Research Foundation to the University of North Dakota itself has raised eyebrows. The legislature is currently investigating the matter (an interim committee is hearing it today), but at a meeting of the State Board of Higher Education a contrite Chancellor Larry Skogen apologized for the handling of the sale.
“I acknowledge that we should have handled this differently,” Skogen told board members. He said he did not intend to bring more controversy down on the university system, and said “I’m very sorry that I did.”
That’s quite the change a month ago when Skogen was telling the media that the university system had handled the sale appropriately. “The state Board of Higher Education had, in January 2013, delegated the authority to the Chancellor to approve the process and any agreement UND came up with,” said Skogen. “We have dotted all the ‘Is’ and crossed all the ‘Ts’ on that,” Skogen told Prairie Public.
I guess maybe t’s and i’s weren’t crossed and dotted after all.
The board then had a discussion about what can be done to fix the situation. “The issue is that the transaction has been completed,” board member Grant Shaft said. “I’d like to know what we do with this now.”
Skogen said the situation is a “Gordian knot made of titanium.”
The issue is far from over. Legislative sources tell me that they are very concerned about the appearance that the financial burden represented by the REAC building was dumped from what was supposedly a private foundation onto the taxpayers. Student sources at UND tell me that they’re concerned that UND’s losses on the REAC building (Skogen described the REAC building as “never having been a financially successful operation”) is having an upward impact on the tuition they’re asked to pay.
The SBHE was supposed to address tuition increases today, but it was pulled from the agenda after student groups complained that they hadn’t been involved in the process.