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Ruben Lackman, Published June 18 2013

Letter: Behavior of ND higher ed board and some legislators despicable

Where were the journalistic truth-seekers when the North Dakota Board of Higher Education offered a $1 million three-year contract to a Californian with an already 90 percent disapproval rating on his previous attempt to implement his “vision”?

Board President Grant Shaft, of Grand Forks, was infatuated with Hamid Shirvani’s “vision,” as was board member Duaine Espegard, of Grand Forks. But as early as March 12, board attorney Pat Seaworth criticized the board for “delegating too much authority to and concentrating too much power in the hands of an egomaniacal chancellor.” For this, he was ridiculed and asked to “retire.”

As of May 24, Kirsten Diedrich, of Fargo, is board president. She did not seem to be star-struck by Shirvani’s “overly aggressive management style” – bullying. At the cost of only $20 per North Dakota student in higher education, the board finally faced the truth and voted to ship Shirvani back to California, not with a spanking but with $1 million, which will be included in the student tuition raise.

While the integrity, judgment and behavior of the board was despicable, it took second seat to some remarks and accusations made by Rep. Mark Dosch,

R-Bismarck, who in February chided the North Dakota Student Association for “condemning someone you’ve met only once or twice” and said, “You’ve been poisoned.” Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, a Shirvani supporter, had the audacity to state June 4, “the taxpayers and the communities that are home to the state’s 11 colleges and universities will suffer as a result.”

Shirvani’s always repeated “mandate” was to “fix low graduation rates.” Never did anyone imply what Skarphol inferred, that Shirvani’s vision and mandate included lowering North Dakota taxes and keeping Gross Community Product level in the hometowns of the colleges and universities. Skarphol’s conclusion is, to quote Shirvani, “so preposterous, so exaggerated, so sensational.”

But for $1,000 per day, what difference does it make?

To sum up this travesty, let’s be honest. It took Chancellor Bill Goetz five years to get remedial classes for the state Board of Higher Education. So we are making progress – let’s keep it up.

Lackman, a retired teacher, lives in the Muddy Bottoms neighborhood

of Mandan, N.D.