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Cali Owings, Published October 16 2013

Higher Learning Commission visit delayed

BISMARCK – The Higher Learning Commission, the accreditation agency investigating a complaint filed against the North Dakota University System, delayed its site visit to North Dakota until next spring due to scheduling conflicts.

Representatives from the Chicago-based accrediting agency were initially scheduled to evaluate the University System’s governance and its relationship with the 11 institutions it oversees during a visit this fall.

The system has drawn the scrutiny of the Higher Learning Commission following an April complaint from former Valley City State University President Ellen Chaffee, who alleged the actions of the state board and former University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani did not comply with the commission’s accreditation criteria.

State Board of Higher Education members and system office staff are working to address issues raised in the complaint. Several officials have said they believe governance concerns were at least partially solved by Shirvani’s buyout in June.

“One of their primary concerns was governance of the system. The Board took decisive action when it appointed a new chancellor,” Linda Donlin, University System spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Larry Skogen, who assumed Shirvani’s duties over the summer, was appointed interim chancellor last month.

The forthcoming visit is unusual for the HLC because it generally doesn’t evaluate systems like NDUS, Donlin said. It visits individual universities for accreditation purposes.

During the visit, HLC staff will meet with college presidents, state board members, system office staff and representative faculty and student members, she said.

While a date for the visit has not been confirmed, the system office is aiming for mid-March to align with the March 17 state board meeting.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599