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Published February 06 2013

Forum editorial: Grindberg proposes safety net

Defenders of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education are whining that an amendment to fund a possible buyout of the university system chancellor’s contract is another attempt by the Legislature to usurp the board’s authority. It’s nothing of the sort.

Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, who introduced the amendment to a higher education funding bill, is trying to give the board the money it would need if it was determined – by the board – that Chancellor Hamid Shirvani is not the right fit for the job.

Rather than characterize Grindberg’s amendment as the generous initiative it is, board President Duaine Espegard accused the senator of wanting to block progress in the higher ed system and return to what Shirvani calls the “old model.” Given Grindberg’s exemplary record of reliable support for higher education, which goes back more than a decade, Espegard and Shirvani are just plain wrong. The senator is one of a few legislators who have worked tirelessly for change, accountability and excellence on the campuses.

That being said, there is no doubt Grindberg’s amendment reflects wide sentiment – among lawmakers, members of the governor’s staff (the governor himself?) and more than a couple of campus presidents – that the chancellor has unnecessarily offended, angered and otherwise turned off so many allies of higher education that his effectiveness has been compromised. Shirvani said he is “shocked and amazed” by the “preposterous” development, which is amazing in itself, since nearly everyone in higher education, the Legislature and the media saw it coming.

Higher ed board members should welcome the amendment. The Legislature should adopt it. Maybe a contract buyout won’t be the ultimate outcome. That would be ideal. But given the damage already done – the bridges burned, the allies lost – the amendment is the safety net the board will need if the situation further deteriorates.


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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.