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Bryan Horwath, Forum Communications, Published December 24 2012

Survey: Rising employee concerns at Dickinson State University

DICKINSON, N.D. – Dickinson State University has room for improvement, according to the results of an internal campus survey – portions of which DSU officials have declined to release to the public.

The anonymous employee survey and subsequent report by Performance Horizons was completed and sent to DSU last month, according to the Wisconsin consulting firm. An edited version of the full report was released Thursday by DSU, though requests for the full report were denied.

Out of 254 DSU employees – all of which were eligible to participate in the survey conducted in October – 96 completed the questionnaire. From the previous survey in 2010, the percentage of individuals who reported they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their employment at DSU dropped from 70 percent to 56 percent, the lowest combined percentage since the bi-annual surveys began in 2002.

When asked their “overall impression of quality” at DSU, 24 percent of survey-takers indicated the university was “below average” or “inadequate,” also the highest percentage for both categories in the survey’s existence.

It’s the first survey since an audit released in February revealed the university awarded degrees to hundreds of students who had not completed their course work. The audit came after DSU President Richard McCallum was fired in 2011 for falsely boosting enrollment numbers.

Asked about the survey late last week, DSU President D.C. Coston said he had not seen it.

“It’s been floating around several places. We’ve been advised by our legal counsel to wait until they have time to review it and to see what’s appropriate to release under the open records law,” he said.

Previous versions of the survey, including the 2010 report, were released in full by DSU. The 2012 version was released with faculty, administration and department names left blank in the comments section.

DSU spokeswoman Marie Moe said the university is withholding certain aspects of the “non-aggregate” data in the report due to legal concerns. Moe also indicated there is more than one version of the report.

North Dakota Newspaper Association legal counsel Jack McDonald said state law makes records held by public entities public unless there is a legal exemption that provides otherwise.

“No provision is listed under the open records law to protect what DSU officials indicated were ‘non-aggregate’ data,” McDonald said. “Under state law, a request for records denial must provide legal authority for the denial.”

The Dickinson Press has requested a full copy of the survey.

Both Moe and Coston indicated Thursday that the first time they were made aware of the report was “last week,” though Performance Horizons Vice President Jo Hillman said survey results were sent out to DSU from her company’s office on Nov. 23.

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Bryan Horwath writes for The Dickinson Press