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Brock: Envy and anger at Shirvani's small fortune buyout

I confess that I commit more than my share of the seven deadly sins on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Tuesday morning, topping the list was No. 4, Envy (definition: jealousy; wanting to have what someone has) after reading the story about the State Board of Higher Education voting to remove Chancellor Hamid Shirvani and buying him out of his three-year contract.

On Monday, the board took up a proposal Shirvani submitted more than a week earlier to either allow him to continue his three-year contract with "complete autonomy and full support of the board" or buy out his contract. The board unanimously chose the latter, which Shirvani said he was fine with.

It's not hard to understand why.

Shirvani will receive his salary, benefits and retirement over the next two years. Roughly $925,000 based on his annual salary of $349,000 a year, plus scheduled pay raises, and planned retirement contributions, and health benefits. However, for the next six months, the poor man will have to serve as chancellor with no responsibilities, be the appointed commissioner to three higher education organizations, and serve as a consultant to the North Dakota University System and "reasonably" cooperate when requested to provide information.

Based on his past performance, I can't imagine that will be worth more than $925,000 to North Dakota.

I'm envious because my current contact, like everyone else who works in the in the private sector, is basically produce or be fired. My only buyout would be the vacation I have accrued and can't seem to find time to take. Which is all that I would have if I called the kind folks who pay me every two weeks and propose doing my job with complete autonomy and full support, or else.

But hey, a contract is contract. And to Shirvani's credit, he did negotiate it and stands to reap the benefits. No wonder he was commissioner of higher education, because you must be extremely educated and smart to work out a contact that entitles you to the same compensation at your vocation, no matter if the results of your actions are good or bad. I don't know what it says about the other side of contract negotiations.

Oh yeah, did I mention after it is all said and done he will still be able to receive his salary and benefits if he takes another job.

I have to confess, I'm writing with what some consider the eighth deadly sin, anger, at the North Dakota Higher Board of Education who hired Shirvani and agreed to pay him more than $1 million for a job left undone.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at