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DSU president lauded in former university system chancellor's review

Though Hamid Shirvani's scathing evaluations of a number of North Dakota University System presidents made headlines across the state last week, the former chancellor wasn't hard on every university leader.

One administrator who Shirvani was particularly complimentary of was Dickinson State University President D.C. Coston.

Putting an end to his tumultuous 11-month term as chancellor serving under the State Board of Higher Education, Shirvani was essentially shown the door by the board last week when it decided to place him on administrative leave a month before his tenure was to end. The board had voted previously to buy out Shirvani's contract and he had been slated to stay on as chancellor until July 15.

After the buyout announcement, Shirvani's evaluations of 10 university presidents were made public Thursday and included sharp criticisms of University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley and North Dakota State President Dean Bresciani, among others.

Though the board, behind President Duaine Espegard, voted Thursday to discredit the evaluations -- saying the way they were conducted did not meet board requirements -- Shirvani, who did not attend the meeting in Bottineau, certainly seemed to think Coston was doing a good job at DSU.

"Your efforts, and those of your colleagues, have been nothing short of remarkable," Shirvani stated in his evaluation of Coston's performance from July 1, 2012, to this month. "Over the past year, I have been impressed with your leadership, the connections you have made to the local community, and your attention to the details of the recent (Higher Learning Commission) visit. You and your staff have taken great measures to rebuild (DSU's) reputation."

Following an enrollment scandal in early 2012, DSU was placed "on notice" by the HLC, which is a regional accreditation organization used by the U.S Department of Education for colleges and universities in 19 states.

With Bismarck State College President Larry Skogen now in the role of acting chancellor for the NDUS, Shirvani's evaluations have been basically rendered meaningless.

Regarding Coston, Shirvani went on to state, "you have been successful in building a positive relationship between the campus and the community, much of which had been lost due to the embarrassing revelations regarding (DSU's) international students."

Shirvani also went on to state that Coston -- who began his tenure as DSU president in 2012 -- has shown "strong management of DSU" and has surrounded himself with "good people." Shirvani also lauded DSU Provost Cynthia Pemberton, who was hired by the school in September.

NDUS spokesperson Linda Donlin turned down a request by The Press to interview Shirvani on Saturday, stating in an email that he was not granting interviews.

DSU spokesperson Marie Moe said Tuesday that Coston was out of town and unavailable for comment.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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