DSU McCallum hearing reveals Williston St. president pushed outBISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — When the former president of Williston State College announced he was resigning from the two-year school, the president of North Dakota's Board of Higher Education praised him as “one of the really nice guys” he'd met in higher education.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — When the former president of Williston State College announced he was resigning from the two-year school, the president of North Dakota's Board of Higher Education praised him as “one of the really nice guys” he'd met in higher education.
Joe McCann said he wanted to seek new challenges. But it turns out McCann was ordered to quit, according to testimony at the hearing of Richard McCallum, the president of Dickinson State University, whom the board has been trying to fire since early August.
William Goetz, chancellor of North Dakota's university system, confirmed that McCann had been told to resign months before he departed in April 2009.
McCann was allowed to remain in his job, which paid him $117,231 annually, for almost a year after he announced he was leaving. He had been criticized for failing to communicate with the school's faculty, which prompted a no-confidence vote, and for spending too much time on off-campus projects.
“We worked that out, and there was certainly consideration given there,” Goetz said.
Goetz and the Board of Higher Education have been trying to get rid of McCallum since an audit, made public in early August, accused him of pushing to inflate Dickinson State's fall 2010 enrollment figures and fostering a campus culture of distrust and disrespect.
Goetz said McCallum's problems were considered much more serious than McCann's.
“There's quite a contrast,” Goetz said. “There were totally different factors involved.”
McCann is now the program teams manager for the Wyoming Community Colleges Commission, a Cheyenne agency that coordinates the work of the state's seven community colleges. He did not respond to telephone or email messages left for comment.
The circumstances of McCann's departure became an issue during McCallum's hearing when his attorney, Ben Thomas, of Fargo, compared the treatment of his client to that afforded McCann.
In early August, McCallum was told to resign or be fired, and he was given a termination notice shortly after he declined to quit. McCann, in contrast, was allowed to finish his employment contract and leave under much better circumstances, Thomas said.
McCann announced in June 2008 that he was resigning, and he remained in his job until his departure the following April. Thomas said McCallum should have been given a similar chance at a graceful exit.
McCallum “was given no opportunity to negotiate any terms of his resignation and, in fact, was offered no meaningful resignation package of any sort,” Thomas said Friday in an emailed response to questions from The Associated Press.
It was different for McCann, who won praise from board members when he disclosed he was leaving after nine years as president of the two-year community college.
“President McCann, in my view, is one of the really nice guys that I've had the opportunity to work with in higher education,” said John Q. Paulsen, the board's president at the time.
When Goetz pushed for McCallum's resignation, he told the Dickinson State president that he “would be paid ‘not one dime’ in severance,” Thomas said.
McCallum “was served with termination papers by a uniformed police officer. He was forbidden from setting foot on campus or speaking with anyone from (Dickinson State). He was given no opportunity to negotiate any terms of his resignation,” Thomas said. “It seems obvious ... that Dr. McCallum was treated much differently.”
Goetz said the false enrollment reports for which McCallum was blamed could violate federal rules, put student financial aid in jeopardy and call into question the accuracy of the university system's enrollment data. His problems were much more serious than McCann's, the chancellor said.
McCallum has conceded that mistakes were made in recording enrollment data, but that he never pressured anyone to falsify information.
He requested the hearing to require Dickinson State to provide justification for his dismissal. Bonny Fetch, a state administrative law judge, will recommend to the state Board of Higher Education whether the evidence supports McCallum's sacking.
Final legal briefs from the two sides are due Nov. 23, and Fetch has promised a decision by mid-December. The Board of Higher Education, which hires and fires the top administrators of North Dakota's public colleges, will make the final decision on McCallum's fate.