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State board enters closed meeting to discuss NDSU president’s contract

BISMARCK -- The state Board of Higher Education approved a one-year contract extension for North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani after meeting in closed session for more than two hours Wednesday, Nov. 16.

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani delivers the State of the University address Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, in Festival Hall on the NDSU campus.Dave Wallis / The Forum
North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani delivers the State of the University address Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, in Festival Hall on the NDSU campus. Dave Wallis / The Forum

BISMARCK - The state Board of Higher Education approved a one-year contract extension for North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani after meeting in closed session for more than two hours Wednesday, Nov. 16.

The contract had been set to expire June 30, 2017 and now will expire June 30, 2018.

Board member Don Morton was the lone dissenting vote.

The board met at 8:30 a.m. and voted unanimously to go into executive session at 8:38 a.m. Members reconvened just before noon to cast their votes on a motion to extend the contract.

The closed session was limited to voting board members, nonvoting advisors, Chancellor Mark Hagerott, the chancellor’s senior staff and board counsel.

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Under state law, the board can enter executive session to discuss the appointment and removal of university presidents. Executive sessions can also be used to discuss salaries, terms of office and determine duties.

Bresciani had the option of requesting the meeting be open to other individuals or the public.

Board members delayed Bresciani’s contract extension on June 29, asking that by November he improve his performance in certain areas, including communication and teamwork. But Bresciani soon found himself embroiled in controversy when his handling of media rules for athletics coverage was called into question.

The board’s Audit Committee voted in mid-August to hire an independent investigator from Kansas to determine whether Bresciani had violated any board policies. The investigator, Kathy Perkins, found in her report released Oct. 3 that Bresciani didn’t lie when he said he didn’t know about NDSU’s media rules before they were issued. But she also criticized Bresciani, saying his communication and decision-making could have been better.

Bresciani has received resolutions of support from students, faculty and staff, but not the NDSU foundation board. Regardless, foundation members and alumni are strongly in support of Bresciani, said Steve Swiontek, chairman of the executive governing board.

Before the vote, board member Kevin Melicher of Fargo, who had previously indicated he may seek to have the discussion about Bresciani’s contract in public, read a statement.

“This process has been very difficult for all concerned  … with the angst of potentially not renewing a presidential contract for one of our nationally recognized research universities,” he said, adding, “I have come to realize that working through our executive session together on this will establish better understanding and dialogue as we move forward.”

Bresciani officially became NDSU’s 14th president on June 15, 2010, with a starting salary of $300,000 annually. He signed a two-year contract extension in June 2015 for $354,568 annually plus benefits including annual and sick leave, retirement and state employee health plan coverage.

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