David Fuller, President, Minot State University
I am writing in response to the Nov. 4 letter to the editor about the "troubling news" at Minot State University.
We are taking steps to reduce our budget, as we have made abundantly clear to the campus and to the community. Most people realize that the 350-student enrollment decline is directly attributable to the Souris River flood, severe housing pressures and the increasing impact of the oil industry in our community. It appears that the writer of this letter is not aware of the impact of the flood on our university, as he doesn't mention it, but chooses instead to refer to our geothermal project and hiring of staff. I'll address both points.
We have secured state and federal funds to complete the installation of the geothermal well field and to connect this highly efficient and cost-saving heating and cooling system to six large buildings on our campus, including the Dome, Gordon B. Olson Library, Memorial Hall, Swain Hall, our new Student Wellness Center and Moore Hall. Engineers and other geothermal experts speak highly of our system and the prospect of its 80-year cost-effective operation.
Referred to as a misguided project by the writer, MSU geothermal has further been inaccurately described as going "egregiously over budget." This project has stayed within the State Board of Higher Education and Legislative budget authority and well below what it would have cost us to install the estimated $10 million coal boiler to replace our inoperable system. Perhaps the confusion lies in comparing contractor bids for further expansion with actual expenditures and the legislative budget authority. Whatever the case, we have not gone over budget.
A second point refers to a special legislative staffing report for all institutions. Close inspection shows that this report combines all full-time and part-time employees (faculty, administration, academic staff, classified staff and temporary employees) into two general categories-instructional and non-instructional. The non-instructional group includes more than 100 staff from our federally supported centers of excellence, the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities and the Rural Crime and Justice Center, both of which support our community and state in cutting edge research and service. The relatively new Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning, our new Great Plains Community Research and Service Center and our Title IV Student Support Services project are also funded from federal grants, and are focused on our students, their educational success and our service to the community. Using these examples to prove that our priorities are misguided reveals not only confusion, but also a basic misunderstanding of our educational role and functions.
One other point on the staffing should be made. The writer refers to the number of staff in the 2011 report as people who are "not engaged in teaching students," which is not accurate. Further, of that number there are approximately 156 non-instructional temporary employees, hired on temporary and hourly bases, such as bus drivers, special cleaning support, ticket takers, additional security personnel for community events and summer theatre events, among other things. This number also includes most members of the Minot Symphony Orchestra, which is not an MSU organization, but which we support by offering payroll services and the venue in Ann Nicole Nelson Hall. Employees included in this category, work only on an as-needed basis. We exercise extreme care and oversight over personnel decisions and expenditures, and do so with full attention to our mission and responsibility to serve our students and our community.
I hope these brief explanations will help clarify the confusion and concern caused by the letter. Frankly, I was surprised by it and its obvious intent to defame us as an institution. We don't deserve that. Concluding that Minot State University is more interested in building a "bureaucratic empire" than serving students is uncalled for and unjustified. I personally invite anyone who thinks otherwise to visit us to learn more about our mission, services, staff, and general operations. Minot State University is a-nearly 100-year old institution, with a strong and positive reputation and history for serving our students and community proudly and well.