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Michael Connor, Starkweather, N.D., Published August 04 2012

Had enough higher ed double talk?

I am sick and tired of being talked “down to” by representatives of higher education in North Dakota. When the latest fiasco broke about the misuse of student fees by North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota, I chuckled thinking that higher ed got caught with hands in the cookie jar again. Then “spokesmen” (are the presidents of these two schools too busy to speak on their own?) of NDSU and UND did their best to muddy the waters about what the schools had been caught at this time.

Again, it was almost laughable to watch them stumble over themselves trying to justify what in the private sector would cause someone to lose a job for misuse of funds. But then today Forum Communications (Ryan Johnson) has a story stating “issues raised in the audit were not signs of misspending, even if they may look unusual to people outside the system.” While this comment was not credited to the president of NDSU, we then read a direct quote from NDSU President Dean Bresciani telling us poor simple country folk that “issues raised in the audit were not signs of misspending, even if they may look unusual to people outside the system,” that, of course, referring to the country bumpkins who pay their taxes on time and generally do their best to obey the law of the land. Bresciani then goes on to add fuel to the insult by telling us: “I can’t even imagine coming in and looking at some of the things without understanding the complexity and the depth below. … In an initial observation, you would see something that simply isn’t the case if you understood the complexity behind it.”

Talk about talking down to the folks who elect legislators, the governor (who appoints the higher ed board) and generally the entire population of North Dakota who don’t live in houses that were built with “misspent” funds.

And if our new higher education chancellor wants us to believe what NDSU and UND have done is simply “common practice” in higher education, someone needs to also look at his credentials.

It is time for someone to do a housecleaning with the “we-can-do-whatever-we-want-’cuz-we’re-higher-education” mentality. It is time for the Board of Higher Education to do its job, and if they can’t, then our elected representatives need to step up to the plate. It is time for higher education officials to learn they are accountable to the people they are hired to serve, the residents of North Dakota.