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Libby and Dave Bakken, Bismarck, Published November 17 2013

Letter: Priority must be students

The Forum ran the story “Emails shed light on NDSU dance team drama.” As North Dakota tax and tuition payers and parents of three dancers on the Bison Dance Team we would like to add additional perspective.

This situation is a clear example of the North Dakota University System losing sight of the real priority, the students.

Our girls are proud to be part of the two-time national Division I pom championship team. (The team consists of 18 girls; 10 of whom are freshmen.) They tried out on campus last April, practiced all summer in Fargo and at North Dakota State University and paid more than $2,000 (above tuition) to be part of what they thought was the “Bison Spirit Team.” Student government assured them that athletics would meet with them to iron things out. Now, we see in Athletic Director Gene Taylor’s behind-the-scenes emails he was “not interested in meeting with the dance team members …”

As far as the team’s unauthorized use of campus space for practice last year, we agree that there need to be reprimands for infractions. We’d like to suggest the same punishment that was given the football players when they were charged with petition fraud (not one player missed a game).

It is ridiculous that President Dean Bresciani refers to his “customers” (students/parents) as “being on the warpath ... again” (our daughters are freshmen and have no prior history of warpaths) and that dealing with them is like “playing Russian Roulette.” Wow, that is politically correct.

Bresciani has apparently forgotten who is paying his bills. In his October State of the University address, he confessed that the financial situation of NDSU was “so dire it risked losing its accreditation” and that they’re only “out of the woods after three lean years and significant re-investment from the state.” (Our tax dollars!) In his arrogance, he also blanked on the fact that North Dakota student enrollment is on a decline and without the significant amount of money (tax dollars) used to attract out-of-state students, enrollment would not be a pretty sight.

The mission statement for NDSU, Vice President of Student Affairs Prakash Mathew states, is “… A great university experience is our goal for each student. We encourage each and every student to become immersed in our campus community …”

Here are 18 students that would love to be “immersed” but are sidelined because NDSU “brass” can’t play nice due to grudges and petty power struggles. Not such a great example of the university system, remembering their priority: the students.


The Bakkens live in Bismarck. This commentary also was signed by dance team parents Deb and Rick Vacura and Sheryl and Barry Kindsvogel.