UND President Apologizes After Attacking Students At Meeting

When University of North Dakota Student Body President Tanner Franklin announced a meeting of the student government last week to consider a resolution calling for the resignation of institution President Robert Kelley the reaction from the administration was swift and immediate.

Kelley and his supporters showed up at the Thursday meeting in force to attack Franklin and other members of the student government while refusing to admit to having done anything wrong.

“What I’m working to understand how the leadership of our students, with whom we work daily … can make the allegations contained in this resolution,” Kelley said.

“My administration has neither misrepresented nor hid info from you,” Kelley continued. “Quite the opposite. By the direction of SBHE and chancellor, the university has gone the second mile … to be open, transparent and honest.”

Kelley even went so far as to claim that the student government was not properly representing students, and his ally State Board of Higher Education member Janice Hoffarth accused Franklin and other student members of not attending SBHE meetings.

“I will be honest with you–it was a difficult meeting,” Kelley said in an April 17 email. “I listened carefully to the remarks and comments, and it’s clear that there are some communication problems, given that we got to this point in the first place. As was noted, communication is two-way street, and my administration team and I are sorry for our part in this communication breakdown.”

Franklin told me in an interview on Friday that Hoffarth’s comments weren’t accurate and that he has attended SBHE meetings and has sent representatives to others.

Anyway, in the days following that extremely contentious meeting Kelley has suddenly begun singing a different tune. In emails sent out to the UND campus, forwarded to me by a student who wishes to remain anonymous (see below), Kelley has apologized and admitted to some fault in communications issues.

“I will be honest with you–it was a difficult meeting,” Kelley said in an April 17 email. “I listened carefully to the remarks and comments, and it’s clear that there are some communication problems, given that we got to this point in the first place. As was noted, communication is two-way street, and my administration team and I are sorry for our part in this communication breakdown.”

“Marcia and I love this University, believe that it is an Exceptional place, and work every day to promote our students, staff and faculty,” Kelley wrote in an email sent out this afternoon. “At the same time, some points were made that were important for me and my staff to hear, and I want to thank everyone who offered thoughtful and constructive opinions in the meeting and afterwards.”

That’s sure a change in tone for Kelley and his supporters in the span of just a few days. Score one for Franklin and his fellow members of the student government, because they started this fracas being accused by Kelley and others of making much ado over nothing.

Now Kelley is admitting to some problems (albeit in a pretty self-serving way). That’s remarkable in a state where the university presidents have gotten used to getting their way on everything, up to and including tuition hikes, and pushing around dissenters.

I suspect Kelley and his cronies realized that mud slinging at the students wasn’t a practical strategy. So now he wants to make nice.

Here are the emails. The students were supposed to meet again to vote on the resolution calling for Kelley’s resignation but that has now been postponed until Wednesday evening. The question then will be whether or not the students are buying what Kelley is selling.

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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