Open meetings law make some N.D. board members leery about communication

2014-01-31T02:40:00Z Open meetings law make some N.D. board members leery about communicationThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 31, 2014 2:40 am  • 

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. _ North Dakota Board of Higher Education leaders say they have become gun-shy about sharing information among board members because of recent violations of the state's open meetings law.

The discussion came up at Thursday's monthly board meeting in Devils Lake when board member Grant Shaft complained that he should have received information on a University of North Dakota building and a high-level personnel change.

Board member Kathleen Neset said she doesn't feel she's "informed adequately" on some issues.

Board President Kirsten Diederich said she has been hesitant to contact board members because of the open meetings scrutiny.

Diederich and Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen agreed to have Skogen keep the board apprised of major developments. Skogen told board members to accept the emails as information only and "please do not respond."

The board decided to scrap a plan to end Dakota College at Bottineau's affiliation with Minot State University after a report by two leaders from the colleges showed little interest in making the change. The idea came from Hamid Shirvani, the former chancellor whose contract was bought out last year after a dispute over his management style.

The board approved a resolution that allows college presidents and the university system chancellor to review a second proposal promoted by Shirvani, one meant to improve graduation and student retention rates, and offer suggestions.

Skogen and several presidents argued the plan was rolled out in 2012 without any say from campus leaders. The idea was "rushed to implementation without input from those people who understand education best," Skogen said.

"Even he told me he thought he had moved too quickly on the plan," Skogen said, referring to Shirvani.

Minot State President David Fuller said the Pathways plan "riled our campus for a whole year" and he's unhappy with the perception that campus leaders don't care about college success.

Shaft, who offered the resolution, agreed the chancellor and presidents should dig into the proposal and said Skogen should be allowed to set a deadline on revisions. But he said he didn't want the board to be "bogged down with volumes and volumes" of amendments and was tired of others talking about Shirvani.

"I'm not really interested in the history of Chancellor Shirvani," Shaft said.

A report on the idea of dividing Minot State and Dakota College at Bottineau was completed without any questions from the board. Fuller, who is retiring, said most stakeholders associated with Minot State have no opinion about the proposal, but there are few people in Bottineau who favor the separation.

"It was a pretty strong voice," Fuller said.

The two-year college at Bottineau was founded in 1907 as the North Dakota School of Forestry has been associated with four-year colleges since 1969, when it joined with North Dakota State University. The school came part of Minot State in 1996.

Several meetings were held in Bottineau with faculty, staff, students, community members and lawmakers. Bottineau Dean Ken Grosz said those gatherings showed there's "no enthusiasm whatsoever" for making the change.

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