DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education rejected a motion to conduct a special meeting to discuss Chancellor Mark Hagerott’s contract in light of possible litigation.
The discussion, which came after a motion to amend the agenda for the board’s meeting on Thursday, Sept. 28, arose in the midst of turmoil in the chancellor’s office. Hagerott, whose management style came under criticism in a review last year, has asked for an investigation, claiming the criticism was fallout from a political controversy.
Some Republican lawmakers criticized Hagerott for not disciplining Ed Schafer, who last year served as interim president of the University of North Dakota, for endorsing Gov. Doug Burgum in the Republican primary race for governor in 2016. Also, Hagerott recently fired a vice chancellor, and some have argued the move was made so he could increase the salary of a former Navy colleague of Hagerott’s who had recently joined the chancellor’s staff.
The motion to amend the meeting agenda came from member Mike Ness. “I’d like to call for a special meeting in the future,” to discuss Hagerott’s contract and the possibility of litigation in light of recent events.
Chairman Don Morton opposed the motion. “I would be against doing this,” Morton said, noting that the board had decided in June to extend Hagerott’s contract. “There’s no need to go back and revisit it.”
Ness’s motion, which needed a majority to pass, failed on a deadlocked vote of 4-4.
Before the vote, Vice Chairman Greg Stemen read a statement, promising to discuss the controversies in the chancellor’s office in the future, “in a timely and more importantly well-prepared manner.”
Stemen said the board is obligated to address the issues, but said the board’s first obligation is to the North Dakota University System’s 46,000 students.
“The board is not driven by the media cycle,” Stemen said, who added that the board has five task forces and will make “continuous reports” to legislators.