Colleges can get past errorsNorth Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota have strong traditions, wielding a largely positive influence throughout the state’s history. Despite that, they also have baggage.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota have strong traditions, wielding a largely positive influence throughout the state’s history. Despite that, they also have baggage.
Dean Bresciani was named president of NDSU in May. He’s lately of Texas.
And UND President Robert Kelley has been on the job for a little more than a single academic year. He’s an immigrant most recently from Wyoming.
By virtue of their positions and non-native North Dakota origins, Bresciani and Kelley have the opportunity to dispense with the universities’ baggage born out of competition for dollars from the state Legislature, for students and for stature, as well as the natural rivalry of two large, successful universities only about 80 miles apart in the Red River Valley.
That baggage includes cost overruns in the construction of president’s homes on both campuses, with the excess at NDSU being the most egregious to the tune of more than $1.5 million. An often used description of the cause: arrogance.
Putting that baggage aside, as well as the accompanying attitude, would benefit not just the two universities but the state as a whole. It’s a position that Bresciani, in a visit to the Tribune editorial board, made clear that he supports. Kelley proved to be level-headed and thoughtful in dealing with the Fighting Sioux controversy, so one would expect he would support a more constructive strategy when it comes to dealing with UND’s sister schools, the University System and state legislators.
That does not preclude the two men from cheering on their individual sports teams.
Higher education in North Dakota has been in transitions since the 1999 education roundtable, which resulted in the Legislature giving the state’s 11 colleges and universities more flexibility and authority through the establishment and funding of the University System. That change has resulted in stronger institutions. It has also resulted in questions about accountability.
Given legislative annoyance over the cost overruns and a number of other issues, the lawmakers will likely try to rein in the University System.
But lawmakers should be cautious. The education roundtable’s initiatives have turned in mostly positive results for North Dakota. With two new men on the job at key institutions, little or limited action by the Legislature might be the best course ahead.
Much of that will depend upon how individual members of the Legislature react to Kelley and Bresciani, and the evolving tenure of University System Chancellor Bill Goetz.