Rep. Bob Skarphol, Tioga
The absurdity of the students of the various universities within the system having a "no confidence" vote of the chancellor in reference to the newly implemented policies and practices of the State Board of Higher Education is beyond ridiculous at best, and totally inappropriate.
These few students have been manipulated and cajoled by individuals within the Legislature, and some university administrations themselves, to express a misguided opinion about something that only stands to benefit their very status in the job market in the future. The changes being recommended and implemented are at the direction of the State Board of Higher Education, and only after considerable consultation with individuals and legislators across the state. These are not the musings of an "inexperienced pseudo academic" but the result of the recognition of what needs to happen to have an efficient and effective "university system," by an active State Board and a "highly qualified" chancellor who brings to the table a great deal more experience in large system operation than anyone within our current university system.
The intentional misinformation and distortion utilized to perpetrate the "fraud" is an aspect that also needs to be dispelled. The office and conference room discussion regarding the IT building at UND was fully disclosed during the 2011 session in the House Education and Environment section of Appropriations. It was always anticipated that there would be both office space for visiting staff, including system office staff and a more formal conference room in that facility. It would be absolutely ludicrous to build a facility that housed potentially 142 employees, hosting system staff and staff from other institutions and not have space of that nature. If the Senators do not remember that aspect of the discussion, maybe they were not as thorough as the House.
Our "system," when Chancellor Hamid Shirvani arrived, was nothing more than a very loosely organized hodgepodge of federated schools that had diverse policies which lent themselves to inconsistent and often incompetent operations. The proof of that statement lies in the many embarrassing events that have taken place over the last few years at numerous institutions. These embarrassments occurred because they were not properly supervised, or brought under control, because of the lack of willingness and knowledge of how to organize the appropriate mechanism to throttle these types of activities without inhibiting the academic freedom and innovative capacity of the institutions.
Chancellor Shirvani brings that ability to the table and it terrifies some people within the institutions, and the Legislature, that a "real expert" may finally be at the helm of the ship and the playground atmosphere at some of these campuses may have to become accountable. I submit that there has been an organized, behind the scenes, effort to discredit and destroy the very individual that can give the North Dakota taxpayer exactly what they want from our "University System." I find the actions of those individuals perpetrating this fraud absolutely reprehensible. Shirvani is a highly qualified and honorable man who deserves the opportunity to implement and administer the policies and practices that his experience has taught him will achieve what it is we want for our "University System."
Every person in this state should be thankful that the State Board of Higher Education recognized the problems that existed, and chose a path that will result in the accountability we all desire without infringing on the innovative nature of the faculty and the research aspects of the institutions. I strongly believe that the path we have been on recently is totally embarrassing and reprehensible. It must stop or our higher education institutions will stagnate and continue to function at the substandard level of the past five to 10 years. They will languish in disrespect, rather than gain the support of the Legislature and the citizenry that is critical to their elevation and success. They will be subject to continued suspicion and self-degradation. It is time to stop the cheap theatrics and start to treat people with the respect they deserve based on the "factual" information with regard to "change" in higher education.
My most recent conversations with the public members of the State Board of Higher Education indicate to me that they are 100 percent in support of Shirvani and the new policies and procedures they have implemented. It takes great courage and conviction to weather the type of storm that has been surrounding higher education. If allowed to move forward, I believe the future will be bright for higher education students in North Dakota.