Today comes news that another North Dakota University System Chancellor is about to be pushed out of office after a revolt by university presidents. Leading the charge in this push is North Dakota State University loyalist (and former double-dipping employee) Senator Tony Grindberg, who today announced an amendment authorizing funds to buyout Shirvani, and the impetus for the move is a dispute between UND President Robert Kelley and Chancellor Shirvani over a lavish office which was to have been included in the new IT building on the UND campus.
So, much like the show down from years ago between former Chancellor Robert Potts and former NDSU President Joe Chapman, we once again have university presidents against the university system. And the presidents, once again, are winning.
That shouldn’t surprise us. The university presidents have spheres of influence much larger than the chancellor’s or the board’s. The presidents of the universities have legislators loyal to them, not the university system. So when it gets down to brass tacks, the presidents have more power than the chancellor.
In short, the lunatics are running the asylum.
I am probably one of the most outspoken critics of higher education in North Dakota, and I have said from the beginning that the problem with higher education in this state is the way it’s governed. Which is to say, it isn’t governed very well at all. There are no elected leaders directly accountable for governing the university system, and we can see that the SBHE and the university system chancellor only provide the appearance of governance as long as the university presidents don’t revolt.
I won’t be sorry to see Shirvani go (and I do think he’s going), but his departure doesn’t fix what ails the university system. It highlights the problems inherent to the system. The university system can no longer be trusted to govern itself.
The independence of the university system must be ended. Someone directly accountable to the taxpayers, someone who the university presidents cannot push out, must be in charge.