How Tone Deaf is the Interim Chancellor Anyways?

Tone Deaf. Out of Touch. Pick your favorite, or propose your own.

Either way, it will be an accurate description of Interim North Dakota University System (NDUS) Chancellor Dr. Larry Skogen’s proposal to give a $13,000 pay raise to North Dakota State University (NDSU) President Dr. Dean Bresciani; only one week after audio recordings were released (and brought to light by Rob) of a (for all intents and purposes) closed meeting held between the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) and their consultant Tom Meredith. Several embarrassing yet true realities were brought to light by Meredith — notable among them the absolute disregard in which certain university presidents hold towards any type of accountability.

 “From my observation you’ve got…one president in particular who is striking out on his own,” Meredith told the board members. “You’ve got another one or two, but one in particular that seems to be on everyone’s mind. That’ll have to be dealt with at some point in time.”

To think he wasn’t talking about Bresciani (and also likely University of North Dakota President Dr. Robert Kelley) is to not fully understand the state of affairs in the NDUS and at NDSU. The fact that this needs to be pointed out to the SBHE by an outsider (most likely retained at a very high cost to state taxpayers) only seems to demonstrate some or all of the following:

  • The SBHE is completely out of touch with the system they are entrusted to run
  • The SBHE thinks everyone outside the NDUS isn’t grasping how out of control and mismanaged the system — or more accurately 11 higher education institutions who all are publicly funded and happen to reside in the state… but lack any semblance of a system —  really is
  • A part time board is not up to the job of managing a system which they (and our legislature through the appropriations process) have allowed to get out of control in the first place
  • The SBHE is content to let their college presidents run roughshod over them and the Chancellor they have appointed for those presidents to answer to
  • The SBHE is simply not serious about performing their constitutionally-mandated responsibilities

In a review of the audio from that day, it is pretty clear that Meredith came as close to daring the SBHE to fire Bresciani as he could have without actually saying it outright. And based on Bresciani’s track record, it is clear (at least to everyone outside the NDUS and SBHE) that this termination is overdue. If they lack the courage to do this, obvious and sincere efforts must occur to reign in Bresciani and the other college presidents whom appear to see and treat the Chancellor, SBHE, and Legislature as mere speed bumps.

One would also think Interim Chancellor Skogen, who was present at this “closed but sorta open” meeting, would read the tea leaves a little bit and start fulfilling his responsibilities to bring the presidents under control. He was, after all, called out in this meeting for not leading nor possessing the confidence from his board of being able to lead the NDUS:

She (likely SBHE board member Kathleen Neset) also expressed some concern about Skogen. “We have a chancellor who was a president. We’re all in a dicey situation here because he has split allegiance.”

But as revealed here by WDAY-TV news today (hey Fargo Forum, that is called a hat tip. Try it sometime), Skogen not only missed the opportunity to demonstrate he was in charge, but went in a polar opposite direction.

At a meeting tomorrow, the SBHE Budget and Finance Committee will consider giving Bresciani a $13,369 raise for the coming year while UND president Robert Kelley would receive $10,508. Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen also recommended a $12,416 salary increase for the 2016 school year for Bresciani, according to committee documents.

The full memorandum is posted below, but it is clear the justification Skogen is trying to use to justify these pay raises is tied to arbitrary benchmarking vs. actual performance.

Chancellor Pull Quote

What is also clear is Skogen, through proposing this pay raise, simply refuses to acknowledge the findings of this consultant (which are painfully apparent to so many outside the NDUS) regarding Bresciani and other presidents. More importantly, he has has shown he has no intention of being anything other than the rubber stamp for these rogue presidents he has been to date since his appointment. In essence, he is refusing to acknowledge the sad reality of the “system” he is responsible for on a day to day basis.

In short, through this action he has demonstrated how tone deaf and out of touch he is, and how he is not fit to lead the NDUS. Perhaps the first firing the SBHE should make is him, followed by Bresciani and Kelley. Such necessary and decisive actions, now that it is clear that their Emperors have no clothes, may be the only thing which will save the board’s jobs in November; when voters decide whether to retain them via Measure 3’s proposal to scrap the SBHE.

 

Presidential Salaries Chancellor Memo by LegitSlater

 

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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