Breaking news this afternoon is that the student member of the State Board of Higher Education, Sydney Hull, referred to “disturbing” allegations about embattled Chancellor Hamid Shirvani. What’s even more disturbing than what may or may not be in the allegations themselves (including alleged open meetings law violations, among other things) is the fact that the SBHE won’t be discussing the allegations further until May.
Which leaves a big, fat cloud over Chancellor Shirvani’s head as the House takes up legislation authorizing the buyout of his contract in the second half. No doubt, that’s exactly what his political enemies intended.
The documents Sydney Hull, who is the student representative on the SHBE, introduced are embedded below. They contain allegations from former NDUS legal council Pat Seaworth (who was fired by Chancellor Shirvani last year) about Shirvani taking credit for the building of a building at his previous employer in California as well as claims of open meeting law violations.
Frankly, having taken a gander at the accusations, I’m more than a little underwhelmed. This smacks of revenge and political opportunism.
We should remember that Mr. Hull, who claims publicly to be agnostic on the issue of the chancellor’s buyout (see the Forum link above), was named in the minutes of the North Dakota Student Association as someone urging the students to cast their “no confidence” vote. He’s not an objective bystander on this issue.
I’ve been a frequent critic of Chancellor Shirvani in the past, but I’ve got to say that the war path those opposed to him are on has repulsed me.
Last week I was approached by legislators backing Shirvani’s departure with a story about some allegedly inappropriate conduct with a subordinate. NDUS spokeswoman Linda Donlin denied the rumors, but I called around and got members of the SBHE to confirm, but only off the record, that there’s some sort of an inquiry going on. Further, I was told by legislators that university students have been following Chancellor Shirvani around and documenting his activities.
Apparently Shirvani has been seen out to dinner with a female colleague. And that’s pretty much it, at least as I’ve been told.
I began to feel like some were trying to use me in a campaign of character assassination, and I backed off the story. Nor am I the only one feeling that way, it seems. High Plains Reader publisher John Strand published a rather ambiguous editorial today about “some egregious, obviously-intended-to-do-damage information about a very public official in North Dakota” which he refused to print.
Whatever Chancellor Shirvani’s flaws are, and to be sure he’s got some, I feel like the campaign to get rid of him is quickly becoming the greater evil. Our university system is deeply troubled, despite attempts by some to gloss over issues like abysmal graduation rates and run-away spending, but there are a lot of people for whom the status quo is quite profitable in terms of bigger budgets, larger payrolls, etc.
Shirvani is trying to change the status quo. Maybe his methods are suspect. Maybe he’s too abrasive. Maybe his ideas aren’t good ones. We can debate those points, but this campaign of personal destruction needs to stop.