• September 2, 2014

North Dakota Board to Review Chancellor's Performance

The board that oversees the North Dakota University system unanimously approved a motion on Thursday to review the job performance of Chancellor Hamid A. Shirvani, and raised questions about the chancellor's ability to lead the system or even to keep senior staff positions filled.

The measure represents growing discontent by the 10-member State Board of Higher Education over Mr. Shirvani's management. In February board leaders issued a statement supporting the chancellor's leadership, despite votes of no confidence from the faculty at Minot State University and the assembly that represents students on the system's 11 campuses.

Since that time, however, the chancellor and the board itself have come under stark criticism from lawmakers, the state's attorney general, and the system's own internal auditor. The attorney general has issued two opinions citing the board for violations of the state's open-records laws. The chancellor had been alerted to the potential violations by the system's former general counsel, who said he had been forced to resign shortly after warning Mr. Shirvani.

An investigation by the system's current general counsel concluded that there had been no violations of open-meetings laws.

The system's auditor concluded in April that the chancellor had violated board policy by misusing data on the academic performance of the public colleges that he presented to a state legislative committee. Shortly after issuing that finding, the auditor also resigned.

On top of those issues, the legislature has passed a measure giving voters the option of abolishing the state board in elections next year. And a former university president has filed a lengthy complaint with the regional accreditor of the system's campuses.

Board members' concerns also include the number of vacant positions in the system's office. About a third of the employees at the system's main office have left or been dismissed since Mr. Shirvani took over, in July. Those include key leadership roles, such as a permanent chief academic officer, a position that has been vacant since the chancellor dismissed the person in that job.

The interim chief academic officer, a longtime friend and former colleague of Mr. Shirvani's, remains in his job but has stopped commuting from his home in Illinois because of health concerns.

More recently, the associate chief information officer resigned. He was widely expected to take over for the chief information officer this year.

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