NDSU president resigns, saying ‘It just isn’t fun’North Dakota State University President Joseph Chapman, stung by criticism of the ballooning cost of his new home and a $22,000 trip to President Barack Obama’s inauguration for himself and his family, announced Wednesday that he is resigning.
By: By Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — North Dakota State University President Joseph Chapman, stung by criticism of the ballooning cost of his new home and a $22,000 trip to President Barack Obama’s inauguration for himself and his family, announced Wednesday that he is resigning.
Chapman, who has been president of the Fargo university for more than a decade, said his resignation would take effect Jan 2. He said he was not pressured to step down.
“I have been thinking about this for a while,” Chapman told The Associated Press. “Given all the stuff that is going on, for the institution and especially for the students, the people who really matter in all this, it’s just time to do something else.”
“It just isn’t fun,” he added.
His announcement follows criticism of sharp cost overruns on a new home for the university president and the trip to Washington, D.C., paid for by the donation-funded NDSU Development Foundation, that cost more than $22,000.
William Goetz, chancellor of North Dakota’s university system, said Chapman raised the bar for university programs and research, but understood that some donors will think their money was being wasted.
“Under the circumstances, I think ... (Chapman) has made the right decision,” Goetz said. “I think there was some discretion here that may have been lacking in terms of priorities, and that has led to these issues.”
The state Board of Higher Education, which oversees North Dakota colleges, is scheduled to meet by conference call Thursday. Goetz expects it to accept Chapman’s resignation and discuss choosing an interim leader and a permanent successor. He said he hopes a president will be hired by July 1.
Richie Smith, president of the state Board of Higher Education, said Chapman led NDSU in its transition to NCAA Division I athletics and the development of two downtown campus buildings and a technology park. He said enrollment has gone from 9,500 students to nearly 15,000 over the past decade.
“When you sit back and look at everything, you can’t argue that he didn’t take the school to another level,” Smith said.
Gov. John Hoeven called Chapman’s resignation disappointing and unfortunate.
“It’s clear that the cost overruns to the home and some of the other expenditures were mistakes and needed to be addressed,” Hoeven said. “My understanding is that the foundation was working through those, as well as the Board of Higher Education, which they needed to do.”
Gene Taylor, NDSU’s athletic director, said it was sad that Chapman’s accomplishments have been overshadowed.
“I’m disappointed, angry,” Taylor said Wednesday, his voice cracking. “We’re a strong institution and we’re strong because of his leadership. I’m sure we’ll get through this but it has been a tough day.”
The 67-year-old Chapman, president of NDSU since January 1999, is paid $413,000 a year, with the Development Foundation contributing $75,000 of that. He previously was a senior vice president and provost at Montana State University in Bozeman, dean of the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University and worked at the University of Maryland. He has degrees from Oregon State University.
The Board of Higher Education says it will likely ask for an audit on spending for the president’s house, which originally was estimated to cost $900,000 and be paid for with private money. The price ballooned to over $2 million, forcing foundation members to agree to cover most of the extra costs.
Chapman and his family took a charter flight to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration using money from the foundation’s discretionary fund because the university plane was being repaired, an NDSU spokeswoman said Wednesday. In comparison, the University of North Dakota said it spent $2,176 to send its President Robert Kelley to the inauguration.
“Many of the events that have come to light in recent weeks are difficult, if not impossible, to explain,” said John Q. Paulsen, a foundation trustee and former president of the state Board of Higher Education. “But at the same time I hope that President Chapman’s tenure here will be remembered for the fact that over that period of time the university made enormous strides.”
Amber Alstadt, the student body president from Perham, Minn., said students are sad and shocked.
“He was a very unique leader in that he connected with so, so many people, she said. “It’s a hard thing, but he has built such an amazing foundation at NDSU.”
Students are asking for a “Don’t Go Joe” rally similar to one they held several years ago when Chapman was being courted by the University of Wyoming, Alstadt said, “but we want to do what’s best for him and his family.”
Chapman said he may do consulting or write a book.
“I’ve been here for 11 years,” Chapman said. “You can look at my tenure here — this is hardly the first set of controversies we’ve had to deal with. For me, it’s about what we’ve accomplished since we’ve been here.”
Associated Press Writer Dale Wetzel in Bismarck, N.D., contributed to this report.