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Linda Baeza Porter, Emerado, N.D., Published April 16 2013

Letter: Professional ethics get short shrift from NDUS

It has been a tough sell for top officials in the North Dakota University System. So tough that NDUS’ compliance officer, Kirsten Franzen, just couldn’t wait for the results of the audit required by NDUS and board policy when allegations, such as mine, are made to the System and Abuse Hotline. Instead, Franzen publicly accused me of not telling the truth (Forum column, April 15).

Despite the fact that system internal auditor Bill Eggert was assigned to investigate my allegations (and the results of his investigation have not yet been reported), Franzen, a lawyer, took it upon herself to be the judge and jury of the testimony I presented to the House Appropriations Committee.

For the record, my professional responsibilities are about increasing enrollments in graduate schools, helping to build strong central processes with all institutions and developing reporting mechanisms used to provide information for things like the annual National Science Foundation Surveys, and other similar duties. Randall Thursby hired me as the liaison officer for system reporting and asked me to help out over this legislative session. In so doing, I built reports, validated data and created a structure with my colleagues to make our reports exemplary.

We created a process that provided Chancellor Hamid Shirvani with the best data available, up to date and to the highest standards. That is why, when I saw the data produced by our system office discarded and other questionable data used instead, I came forward. That is why, when numbers were changed and contexts were changed and presidents were misled and the team went from providing good data to being told to justify whatever data was thrown our way, I came forward. When I came forward, I asked for an independent investigation and not the self-serving, in-house whitewash that has been offered up so far. I attempted, in good faith, to have my concerns about the manipulation and misuse of the data addressed within the system, but to no avail.

The response was for me “not to worry about it,” rather, ordering me to grant access to the raw data for the obvious purpose of manipulation of that data. When I refused, on grounds of academic honesty and professional ethics, the data our system had prepared was altered anyway. NDUS is historically grounded in notions of shared governance, with the goal of providing excellence in North Dakota higher education, along with political accountability. Sadly, the office has degenerated into one of top-down repression, intimidation and humiliation – an office where employees are retaliated against for honest questions raised. Eggert, the system internal auditor and lead investigator on my hotline report, has asked me questions. He is the only one who has. Franzen never contacted me or, as far as I know, anyone else on the data validation team regarding this matter.

Eggert is a person I trust to investigate my allegations fairly, asking questions of both sides before arriving at judgment. What I asked for, and continue to ask for, is an investigation, and the on-going privilege of serving the students and residents of this state, honestly and honorably. There are no payoffs for me, only bills for an attorney so I can keep my job. No buyouts, no special favors, no system attorneys, only the knowledge that I stood up even when things got ugly. As a private citizen, I am glad I did.