A Reminder That Dean Bresciani’s Problems Go Beyond Some Ill-Advised Text Messages


NDSU President Dean Bresciani has come under an unprecedented level of fire after I broke a story last week using text messages which showed that he lied about his position on controversial media restrictions for covering university athletics events.

That story prompted the Fargo Forum editorial board to call for Bresciani’s resignation. Which was a big deal, as columnist Mike Jacobs notes in his column today, given that in the past the Forum has been one of Bresciani’s biggest defenders.

But Jacobs makes a larger point that’s important to remember: Bresciani’s problems don’t begin and end with text messages:

We know this because of North Dakota’s open records law and blogger Rob Port, who asked for text messages on the subject that might have passed between officials at the university.

Sure enough, Bresciani had blessed the policy, promising to stand behind his athletic director when it was announced, even giving advice about how his subordinates should respond to media criticism.

Port has been the most consistent critic of Bresciani for the longest time. He regards Bresciani as “a bad leader for NDSU.”

Bresciani has been criticized in this column, as well, though the charge here is a different one.

Bresciani may have been good for NDSU, but he has been bad for higher education in North Dakota. That is because he has not been a team player. Instead, he has sought to aggrandize NDSU rather than integrating it into a more streamlined, more responsive and more responsible state university system.

That’s been the system goal for 25 years.

To clarify my point in calling Bresciani a bad leader for NDSU, I think he’s bad for the school because he cultivates a truly acrimonious relationship with the rest of the university system, with the State Board of Higher Education, and state lawmakers.

NDSU loyalists – particuarly rabid football fans who don’t seem to care much at all about the school’s function as, you know, a school – may hate to hear this, but their favorite institution belongs to the state. As such it is to their detriment to have a president who can’t get along with state lawmakers who set appropriations, or higher education board members who want NDSU to work within the system.

They don’t seem to realize that Bresciani’s arrogance, as Jacobs describes it, is hurting their school. It’s an issue which goes far beyond text messages to a multitude of other issues.

Like Bresciani using a private airplane to fly to Bismarck so that he could testify to lawmakers about how broke his university is.

Like using a member of the campus police to serve as a private body guard and chauffeur.

Like NDSU’s truly horrendous track record when it comes to complying with open records laws.

Like pushing for rapid enrollment growth even as lawmakers and university system officials say they’d rather see focus on improving retention rates for existing students.

Bresciani has been a toothache for lawmakers and university system officials for far, far too long. It’s not that he’s necessarily an incompetent administrator. It’s that he’s got the wrong priorities for NDSU and refuses to take direction from the people elected or appointed to give him direction.