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Dickinson State University president asked to resign; review finds campus enrolled people without consent

Press Photo by Jennifer McBride Dickinson State University student Deryl Matthew, left, joins DSU student and former Student Senate President Jermaine Christie on campus Thursday afternoon to discuss the future of the university after it was announced the North Dakota University System has asked DSU President Dr. Richard McCallum to resign. Matthew will be the Student Senate president as of June 1.1 / 2
Dr. Richard McCallum2 / 2

The North Dakota University System chancellor asked Dickinson State University President Dr. Richard McCallum to resign in light of a review released Thursday showing about 180 people were enrolled at DSU last fall without their consent.

McCallum had not given his resignation as of Thursday afternoon and could be terminated, NDUS Chancellor William Goetz said.

Staff allegedly felt pressure from McCallum to increase enrollment, according to the internal review.

"The current leadership has created a campus culture that is divided, one of distrust, disrespect and staff being pressured to engage in unethical, suspect or wasteful activities to meet demands," according to the report.

The NDUS board could terminate his employment but Goetz would not say when a decision will be made.

"The expectation and agreement was that he would make contact with me -- he did not," Goetz said.

McCallum's office was quiet and he did not appear to be home Thursday afternoon. Numerous attempts by The Dickinson Press to contact him were unsuccessful.

The issue of overstated enrollment arose while the National Survey of Student Engagement, an outside company which conducts surveys of campuses nationwide, was surveying DSU.

Several survey recipients contacted NSSE saying they were not DSU students, according to the report.

However, they had attended local conferences and training symposiums affiliated with DSU. DSU then enrolled them in a degree credit course and assigned them student identification numbers. The enrollees also received a grade without their consent or knowledge of formal enrollment, according to the report.

"The checks and balances are in place and the decision made or the persuasion that took place relative to the practice of enrollment reporting this last time certainly leads to questions about management leadership and the influence that may have been placed upon employees to carry out this practice this past year," Goetz said.

It is unclear why McCallum would want to overstate enrollment.

"That doesn't make sense if those students weren't part of the system... one of the revenue streams that the university has is student tuition, so for our programs to continue to be vibrant and continue to grow they have to increase student enrollment, but that has to relate to tuition being paid," said Chip Poland, DSU Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies chairman. "So it doesn't quite make sense that you would enroll 180 students and not have them come through and pay tuition."

DSU Coordinator of Institutional Research and Planning Scott Staudinger agrees.

"Dickinson State is a program-based institution, which means that the state finances us by the amount of programs that we have and not by the individual students," he said. "So I'm not sure what the ultimate gain would be."

NDUS is working to correct the enrollment information, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Mike Hillman said.

Goetz said he does not know of any state or federal action being pursued at this time.

However, the report states fees, fines, as well as federal and state fiscal repercussions are possible.

Although several DSU officials are involved in enrollment, McCallum is the only person facing disciplinary action, Goetz said.

"The focus here in terms of responsibility rests with the president and no one else at this point," Goetz said.

Other campuses were evaluated because of the DSU audit.

"We did find in our review of this practice that it is unique to Dickinson State," Hillman said. "No other campus considers conference registration only as a degree-credit activity...This practice was not in place at Dickinson State before the fall of 2010."

Poland and former Student Senate President Jermaine Christie were surprised to hear McCallum had been asked to resign.

"I'm sure the chancellor has good reason to do so, but coming from a student standpoint and an individual that was in student leadership last year, Dr. McCallum was someone who was easy to work with," Christie said. "He sought opportunities that would enhance and develop our students and within that aspect of working with him, he seemed very genuine in his approach to working with students and student development."

Poland also had positive experiences with McCallum.

"I would not think that Dr. McCallum would do something like that purposely -- at least that's not my impression of Dr. McCallum," he said. "I have not been disappointed at all with Dr. McCallum's leadership. I believe he's tried to do what the university asked him to do when he was hired."

An interim president will be appointed, Goetz said, but he was unsure when.

"We have the utmost faith in the North Dakota University System and our chancellor that we will be supported in every way shape or form ... and I have no concerns with the safety and future of this campus moving forward," Staudinger said. "We're going to evaluate, adjust and move forward for the benefit of our students and hopefully become a better campus for it."