UND President Gets A Month Off On The Taxpayer's Dime To Think About Doing His Job


Life is pretty easy for North Dakota’s university presidents these days, what with one of their own serving as Chancellor of the university system. Larry Skogen, the president of Bismarck State College who got the Chancellor’s job after Hamid Shirvani was pushed out by a revolt from the university presidents, doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “no.”

The presidents don’t want a review of their job performance? Skogen cancels it.

President of a university with a poor track record in disclosing public records, including emails, wanting an exemption from participation in a new university email system so that his institution can handle their own open records requests? Skogen pulls out his rubber stamp.

How about a university president asking for a month off to think about doing his job? Of course, Skogen is happy to oblige.

University of North Dakota President Robert Kelly has requested, and received, a month-long sabbatical to study tenure and post-tenure review. That sort of thing is President Kelly’s job, of course. You know, the sort of thing he’s expected to do as he shows up to collect his more than $350,000 per year in salary.

But it appears as though this sort of thing is allowed under the State Board of Higher Education’s policies. In the Skogen’s letter (see below) approving the leave, he references section 701.2 of SBHE policy which allows “30 calendar days developmental leave following five years of service as an NDUS president or chancellor and each five years thereafter.”

Just another cushy perk for North Dakota’s generously-compensated higher education leadership.

So what exactly is Kelly studying? Post-tenure review is a standard that allows for performance reviews after tenure is obtained. Which sounds all well and good. More accountability for tenured professors, right?

But as with most things in the higher education world, this is more about appearances than results. A 2002 article about post-tenure review from the Chronicle of Higher Education found that, in the 37 states that have implemented the policy, few of the reviews were resulting in termination or even criticism.

That doesn’t sound very promising. And given that post-tenure review is a policy that is now decades old, it’s hard to imagine what President Kelly is going to add to the discussion with his month off from work.

But maybe this isn’t really about post-tenure review. Maybe this is just an excuse to take a vacation on the taxpayer’s dime.

Here’s Kelly’s request, Skogen’s response and some email exchanges regarding the matter.