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Mike McFeely: Close to review time, Bresciani free from drama

Mike McFeely, Oct. 17, 2015Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Can it be that time already? Didn't we just go through this?

It wasn't much more than a few months ago when the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education finally extended the contract of North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani for a year, following a summer of drama after the board failed to renew him in June 2016. It was almost a year ago that the board, citing a number of areas in which it felt Bresciani needed improvement, put Bresciani on double-secret probation and threatened to ship him out if he didn't shape up.

The validity of the board's concerns will forever be a point for debate, since some of us believe the board and North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott were given bad intelligence on several fronts from those who have an ax to grind with Bresciani and NDSU. You want to see dysfunction in higher ed? Look to Sioux City, Iowa, where a trail of slime follows former North Dakota chancellor Hamid Shirvani, recently accused of several instances of sexual harassment as president of tiny Briar Cliff College.

Even after a kerfuffle over media accessibility brought on by his athletic department, Bresciani showed appropriate humility—and his supporters spoke loud and clear—and the board renewed his contract in November. He's under contract until June 30, 2018.

All that means is that it's time again to talk about Bresciani's contract status. That's because the board works a year ahead on university president contracts and so, at the higher ed board's meeting in late June, the job performance and contract status of most university presidents will be reviewed.

You'll notice the obvious lack of drama over Bresciani's status so far. Maybe there just hasn't been sufficient time to get out the pitchforks and torches after the legislative session, but the silence from the usual suspects is deafening.

Through a spokesperson, Bresciani declined comment. But Hagerott agreed.

"We haven't seen him much in the news," said the chancellor, who is responsible for the presidents' job reviews. It was Hagerott's review last year that called for Bresciani to improve in a number of areas, including communication with the chancellor's office and the board, setting into motion a summer and fall of discontent.

Hagerott declined to say much else about Bresciani's job performance since November, deferring instead to the board.

"Speaking for myself, I'm pleased with the progress we've seen," said board member Greg Stemen. "It doesn't mean we still don't have expectations for Dean and every other president ... but unless there is something out there that I'm not aware of and hasn't come to light, I'm pleased with the progress."

Well, that's kind of boring. And while neither Hagerott nor Stemen would venture a prediction on Bresciani's future at NDSU, this run-up to the review process is distinctly lacking the dumpster-fire feel of last year. That lack of drama can only bode well for the NDSU president.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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