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Richard McCallum,  file

Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum, shown at an October hearing in which he appealed his dismissal.

An administrative law judge is recommending that Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum be dismissed.

Bonny Fetch presided over McCallum's weeklong hearing in October, after McCallum appealed the North Dakota Board of Higher Education's decision to fire him. Fetch gave her recommendation to the board Friday, writing that the evidence from the hearing established "just cause" for the board's action.

"Was it a tough decision? I think the evidence was pretty clear. So in that respect, it was not a difficult decision to make," Fetch said Friday.

The Board of Higher Education will meet Thursday to determine whether McCallum will be dismissed. Board President Grant Shaft said he was "fairly certain" the board will come to a decision.

"When we recommended the chancellor dismiss McCallum, that was based on what we thought was a thorough review of what transpired at DSU, and, in essence, (the judge)'s decision mirrors what we as a board had found," Shaft said.

McCallum and his attorney, Ben Thomas, could not be reached for comment Friday. The Tribune left two voice mails at McCallum's home. Thomas was out of his office and didn't respond to an email.

McCallum, 62, has been suspended with pay since early August, after an auditor's report said enrollment numbers in September 2010 had been inflated. He earns $176,782 annually.

The report said the inflated numbers came from counting people who attended a Theodore Roosevelt symposium, an energy production symposium and a Walt Disney Co. hospitality skills seminar. It said 213 people who attended the three events were enrolled as freshmen and received "A" grades without their knowledge. The classes had no syllabus, qualified instructor, or measurement of student learning. The students were then counted in the university's Integrated Postsecondary Education System report.

"These ‘students' were merely attendees of a community symposium," Fetch wrote.

In her recommendation, Fetch said that DSU's enrollment data was misrepresented under McCallum's leadership and that, as chief executive officer at the university, he is ultimately responsible for the school's compliance with policies, procedures and laws.

Fetch said McCallum knew those attending the symposium could not be counted in the enrollment report because of a discussion he had with Rich Brauhn, former vice president of academic affairs, the year before. Braun testified that he had specifically informed McCallum that it would be inappropriate and even illegal to count symposium attendees as students.

"Despite this conversation, McCallum allowed the symposium attendees to be counted on the IPEDS enrollment," Fetch wrote.

Fetch wrote that Scott Staudinger, DSU coordinator of Institutional Research and Planning had testified that due to the university's inaccurate enrollment reporting, the process of correcting the data has taken an "exorbitant amount of time and manpower and is still not fully corrected."

With McCallum's past experience and three years as president, it was "inconceivable" that he would have no knowledge of how information is entered into the North Dakota University System or how IPEDS and system enrollment reports are generated, Fetch wrote.

McCallum did not follow up or inquire about how inaccurate information was entered into databases and did nothing to correct false or inaccurate data submitted in the report and to the North Dakota University System, Fetch wrote.

"Rather, he testified that he simply waited for NDUS personnel to contact him if they had concerns or needed any information," she wrote.

"The focus of increasing DSU's enrollment was at the directive of McCallum," Fetch wrote, noting that, according to the testimony of four DSU officials, McCallum held periodic meetings with those who reported to him to discuss the status of enrollment numbers. The meetings occurred weekly both before and during the 2010 fall enrollment census date, she wrote.

The four officials testified that McCallum led them to believe their job was on the line if they did not meet his enrollment goals. Fetch wrote that McCallum's conduct was improper and violated state Board of Higher Education policy.

"Such conduct includes an unreasonable focus or obsession on increasing headcount or enrollments ... and responding to those who raised concerns in an intimidating or threatening manner," she wrote.

Fetch also said that McCallum's unreasonable focus on increasing enrollment was not driven by a funding formula, policies, or directives of the Board of Higher Education or the chancellor. The university system does not have a funding formula based on enrollment or student numbers.

The administrative law judge concluded that the board's allegations of McCallum's insubordination when he was asked to step down were accurate. McCallum testified that he found Chancellor William Goetz's ultimatum that he resign "extremely harsh" and "legally unsound." He testified that he decided he needed to have legal representation and met with an attorney in Fargo when Goetz was trying to reach him.

McCallum testified that the only way he could have avoided Goetz's claim of "insubordination" would have been if he had immediately tendered his resignation.

Fetch said McCallum should have requested additional time rather than ignore repeated calls and messages from Goetz's office. His behavior was "irresponsible" and it was not unreasonable for Goetz to issue a  notice of intent to dismiss McCallum on Aug. 5, she wrote.

Prior to receiving the dismissal notice, McCallum had received only positive performance evaluations.

"McCallum's testimony that he did not direct and had no knowledge of the false or inaccurate reporting and creation of classes not meeting academic standards is not credible, in light of the substantial evidence to the contrary," she wrote.

Her full recommendation is available for viewing on the North Dakota University Systems website under reports and information. The document is entitled "DSU -President McCallum Judgment and Hearing Record."

Reach reporter Mara Van Ells at 250-8251 or