Published December 20 2009
Forum editorial: New man in charge at NDSUAs if to signal a different way of doing business, North Dakota State University President Richard Hanson said last week that the school will impose a temporary hiring freeze because tuition collections have lagged. The gap between collections and what is owed the university is about
$1.8 million, not a large amount as the university budget goes.
So what’s the big deal?
First, Hanson indeed did signal a different style of leadership from his predecessor’s. Hanson said almost from his first day on the job that transparency would be one of the hallmarks of his management style. His first public act, therefore, was a very transparent announcement of the hiring freeze and the tuition collections shortfall.
Secondly, by talking candidly about the tuition shortfall, which, by his own admission, is not a major problem for the university, he demonstrated there’s a new man in charge. He confirmed what most people who know him already know: He will be forthcoming and honest. He will make decisions carefully, analytically and with appropriate participation from staff, faculty and students. He will inform the university’s many and diverse stakeholders about what’s happening on campus.
Again, Hanson stressed the tuition situation does not rise to anywhere near crisis status. But, he said, it is an indication, however small, that a university that has been in an unprecedented growth trend sometimes needs to stop, take a deep breath and reassess. On the job for slightly more than two weeks, the president is into that assessment of all aspects of the university.
In a meeting with The Forum’s Editorial Board last week, Hanson’s deep affection for his alma mater and the community came through. He’s frankly amazed by the changes at the school since his days as a student in the 1960s and as a faculty member until his departure in 1995. He said NDSU was a good school then, but today is moving toward world-class status. Without hesitation he credited the visionary work of the previous administration under President Joseph Chapman for progress in nearly every area of the university.
Hanson is off to a good start. He’s anything but the stuffy academic. He’s approachable, candid and smart, but readily acknowledges he has a lot to learn about the university he left 14 years ago. He’s a quick study. NDSU is in good hands until the time the state Board of Higher Education names a permanent president.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.