Scott Hennen: North Dakota's Universities Are At A Dangerous Crossroads

North Dakota is on an incredible run. Even when our boom times take a breather, we’re still crushing it compared to most places We’re the envy of America. With one exception: Higher-Education. It’s in dire need of reform.

Political correctness and an academic tyranny could soon destroy the North Dakota University system. The examples are too numerous to mention, but have been well chronicled here at SAB.

One recent example was the idiotic decision to allow cross-dressers promoting a drag show to be part of the UND Homecoming Parade this weekend. My great-niece was handed an invite to a Halloween Drag Show along with some candy by one of the parade-walkers in “costume”. Given recent reports of President Robert Kelley’s rush to celebrate LGBT pride by wrongly accusing the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, it’s obvious that UND has a one-sided diversity agenda. NDSU has had it’s share of blunders too. Not to mention a dangerous game of Russian roulette with the legislature.

There is a cure for this disease of political correctness and academic tyranny: North Dakota leadership.

While the war with the NCAA and UND academics over the Fighting Sioux saga has long since been lost, it’s impossible not to view the carnage as a waste of time over an honor that was never hostile, abusive or offensive in any way. The damage is not done yet, thanks to a childish move by the outgoing Kelley to eliminate the student, fan and alumni favorite selection to remain “North Dakota”. Even the chairman of the Nickname committee, All-American Karl Goehring, has said the committee process was tainted.

Kelley wouldn’t even meet with his own appointees to answer questions related to including “North Dakota” as a name option. He asked for all questions to be submitted in writing and his responses came in the same form. How is that for “North Dakota” nice?

Barring a victory in court, this mess will be left for the next President to clean up. The disastrous way the academics have handled stripping UND of it’s honor from Sioux tribal leaders is best left to the history books to sort out. It’s time to turn the page. But this decades long battle over the name is a symptom of a much larger problem that we see on every campus.

This story could still have a happy ending There is a cure for this disease of political correctness and academic tyranny: North Dakota leadership.

There are countless examples of great programs and good people on the campus of every school in the system. Everyone wants to focus on students and academic achievement. It will not happen until we have a North Dakota solution to a North Dakota problem. Let’s put a 10 year moratorium on hiring anyone from outside North Dakota for any leadership post in Higher Ed.

We have some reformers on the team already who could lead this effort. Kathy Neset, the chair of the State Board of Higher Education is the perfect leader to pilot this turnaround. I have met Dr. Mark R. Hagerott, the new Chancellor. I like him. The political and business leaders I talk to have high hopes that he’ll use his military background and North Dakota roots to champion reform.

Congressman Kevin Cramer boasts with pride about his all North Dakota staff in almost every talk he gives here and in DC. He says: “I’ve met good people from other places too, but I don’t want to take any chances.” North Dakota higher education should do the same. Or risk doing a disservice to the students and taxpayers they are paid to serve.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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