Published June 17 2013
In evaluations, Shirvani criticizes presidents of NDSU, UND, Minot State
Shirvani heaped criticism on three campus presidents in their annual performance evaluations in recent days, calling for full reviews of the presidents at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University and recommending no raises for the heads of UND and Minot State University.
The embattled chancellor is proposing a “full 360 review” of UND President Robert Kelley and NDSU President Dean Bresciani by outside groups next fall, noting they’ve both been president long enough to warrant such a review. Kelley started at UND in July 2008, Bresciani at NDSU in June 2010.
Shirvani said the state’s two top universities should focus more tuition waivers on doctoral students who do research and that athletics need more oversight by the state university system.
The State Board of Higher Education will discuss the evaluations and recommendations at a meeting Thursday in Bottineau.
Board President Duaine Espegard said the panel’s recommendations may differ from Shirvani’s.
“I’m sure we’ll be fair,” said Espegard of the eight-member board.
Shirvani declined an interview request Monday, University System spokeswoman Linda Donlin said.
Despite the chancellor’s strained relationships with some campus presidents, which were previously documented in emails obtained by The Forum, Espegard said the board didn’t discuss having someone else conduct the annual evaluations.
Board policy states that university presidents are initially appointed for three years and after that on an annual basis subject to review and recommendation of the chancellor.
“By policy, the chancellor has to do that, and he got it done,” Espegard said.
Espegard said the board has never conducted 360 reviews of presidents in the past. Such a review would involve interviewing everyone in the president’s work circle, which would potentially include faculty, university and system staff, students and board members.
“I don’t think anybody’s real crazy about a 360,” he said. “I think a better way is to probably have an outside evaluation every so often, and we might consider that.”
Board members, under pressure from state lawmakers, student leaders and others who expressed a lack of support for Shirvani’s leadership, voted June 3 to buy out the remaining two years of his contract at an estimated cost of more than $925,000. He’ll go on administrative leave after July 15.
Shirvani emailed his evaluations of the presidents’ goals for the 2012-2013 school year to them on Thursday, except for Minot State University President David Fuller’s, which was sent Monday. Fuller, the most outspoken critic of Shirvani’s leadership among the presidents of the system's 11 campuses, also received arguably the most critical evaluation.
“My overall sense is that you have exercised a form of myopic leadership that has probably served you well among certain elements in Minot but reinforced among your peers a growing exasperation due to your sense of exceptionalism for MiSU and your clear lack of respect for your sister institutions,” Shirvani wrote.
He recommended no pay hike for Fuller because of “what I perceive is poor leadership on your part.”
Fuller, who was returning Monday from vacation, said he hadn’t yet read the entire evaluation and was surprised it had been distributed before he had a chance to discuss it with Shirvani and sign off on it, as has been the practice with previous chancellors.
“Apparently that’s been circumvented this time,” he said.
Fuller said he’s “very proud of what I’ve done this year, contrary to the majority of that evaluation.”
Unlike the other evaluations, Fuller’s did not recommend a continuing appointment as president. He’s scheduled to retire next year.
“I haven’t heard anything different. I assume I’m here through June of 2014,” he said.
‘Surprised by timing’
In Bresciani’s evaluation, Shirvani recognized that the president has positioned NDSU for increased research productivity despite a drop in federal funding. But he also noted Bresciani’s self-evaluation didn’t mention how he plans to target exceptional teachers and researchers to maintain NDSU’s national ranking among research institutions.
Shirvani also suggested NDSU isn’t comparing itself to the right peers.
“Simply comparing your institution to those universities that make you look good is lacking in vision and true entrepreneurial spirit,” he wrote.
Shirvani also questioned the NDSU Development Foundation’s fundraising level – $17.5 million in 2012, according to the evaluation – and how it compares to peer institutions, “especially considering the new-found economic prosperity of the state and many of its citizens. I suspect there is much more than can be accomplished in this area.”
Laura McDaniel, NDSU’s assistant vice president for university relations, said Bresciani was unavailable for comment Monday, but she emailed the following statement on his behalf: “President Bresciani was surprised by the timing and the analysis. He remains committed to sustaining and enhancing the success of NDSU, which has been further catalyzed by the historic support offered through our legislature in the last session.”
‘Leadership lacks vision’
In his evaluation of UND’s Kelley, Shirvani wrote that he was “troubled by the fact that your leadership lacks vision. Where are your plans for new research centers and institutes? These should be critical elements for increasing your research goals and objectives.”
A plan connecting UND’s faculty strengths with opportunities in the business and industry sectors “is also critically lacking,” Shirvani wrote.
Shirvani also wrote that Kelley’s “silence” regarding the chancellor’s Pathways to Student Success plan “is a telltale sign of your lack of support even when your provost and faculty understand well the benefits it will bring to your institution.
“I don’t particularly understand that attitude unless it is simply because the vision and the concept came from the system office and not from the campus,” Shirvani wrote.
Kelley was on vacation Monday and couldn’t be reached for comment, said UND spokesman Peter Johnson, who provided the following statement:
“While the president appreciates the feedback, it is clear that more information is needed to fully and accurately assess his performance against the goals in his performance review,” Johnson said. “President Kelley is planning to provide additional information to the board shortly and looks forward to further discussions.”
Kelley also sent a letter to the board Monday detailing his arguments that he met the goals set for him, writing that he is “perplexed” by the recommendation that he not receive a raise in the coming year.
Call for sports oversight
Shirvani included nearly identical paragraphs in his evaluations of Bresciani and Kelley, calling for the two universities to move away from giving tuition waivers to master’s-level students and professional schools, such as UND’s law school and medical school, and instead focus them on doctoral research students.
He also called for more oversight of athletic programs, noting “with some dismay” that neither the board nor the chancellor’s office have been actively involved in decisions about athletic programs within the university system.
“I would hope that this situation will change in the near future,” he wrote in Kelley’s evaluation, going on to urge the board to consider an “annual reporting mechanism” to require all institutions to report on their plans regarding athletics.
Concerning the additional oversight of athletic programs, Kelley wrote in his letter that he will “engage the Board on our thoughts and plans for the future.”
Shirvani’s evaluations of the other seven campus presidents were mostly positive. He recommended continuing appointments and 4 percent or 5 percent raises for all except North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman, for whom he proposed a 3 percent raise.
Shirvani wrote that he was generally impressed by Richman’s leadership but was taken aback by Richman’s comment at the May 9 board meeting “when, after receiving a record high budget, you postured before the Board that if unable to set your tuition at the level you intended, you would consider layoffs of your staff.
Shirvani called the comment “posturing” and noted NDSCS could tap a “large reserve” in its budget.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528