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Michael Wyum, Rutland, N.D., Published January 26 2013

Letter: Bresciani should admit a mistake

As an alumnus of North Dakota State University, I have several concerns about the recent decision by President Dean Bresciani to “freeze” grant funds to be used to provide sex education to at-risk teenagers in the local area (with the parents’ consent).

What statement does this send to NDSU faculty regarding future efforts to secure grant funds? Does academic freedom reign at NDSU? Will NDSU be able to attract free-thinking, innovative faculty in the future if this action stands? Should NDSU students emulate the action of Bresciani and cave to political or other external pressure even when the cause is laudable?

We send our students to NDSU to be educated and to mature into courageous, independent-thinking adults willing to help solve the difficult challenges in this world. Is this the example we would wish for them to follow? Is Bresciani’s refusal to discuss the perceived problems with the grant writers prior to his “freeze” the kind of collaborative effort that we should expect from a university president?

His public communication of his action on a local conservative talk show would indicate a one-sided collapse to political pressure. Will NDSU supporters continue to financially back a university headed by a president who is so easily cowed? What is the responsibility of the university for the people who have been hired (and have left other jobs) to implement this grant? They had ample reason to believe that employment should be secure in light of the green light from the legislative council regarding this program’s outreach.

I hope that Bresciani reverses his action to freeze the grant funds. It would be the right thing for NDSU, its faculty, its students and the target students in the area whom this grant is designed to reach. It would also be the right thing for Bresciani to admit a mistake – something that only a “big” person can do.