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Bresciani's fate is up to higher education board, chancellor says

FARGO--Chancellor Mark Hagerott said he's "hoping it all works out" and Dean Bresciani remains president of North Dakota State University, but said the decision will be up to the State Board of Higher Education.

"Mark Hagerott, new chancellor of the North Dakota University System, seen April 30, 2015. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune"
"Mark Hagerott, new chancellor of the North Dakota University System, seen April 30, 2015. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune"

FARGO-Chancellor Mark Hagerott said he's "hoping it all works out" and Dean Bresciani remains president of North Dakota State University, but said the decision will be up to the State Board of Higher Education.

"It's all definitely doable, at least that's what I've seen," he said, referring to areas of improvement higher education board members identified when moving to postpone Bresciani's contract renewal decision until November. "It's the state board's decision."

Bresciani has been in limbo since the board decided in late June to delay action on whether to extend his contract in light of concerns, including what members regarded as poor communications and signs NDSU's standing as a research university is slipping.

Hagerott met Wednesday, July 20, with The Forum Editorial Board to outline his initiatives, including some guidelines for how the state university system will handle impending budget cuts.

When Bresciani's status came up, Hagerott said he plans to meet with the NDSU president later this week to discuss "meaningful metrics" to measure progress toward improvement goals outlined by the board.

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"I have great admiration for all the work he has done," Hagerott said of Bresciani, who took the helm at NDSU in 2010. "The school has done incredible things."

Hagerott, a Navy veteran, later said he comes from a background in which the position, not the person, is what's important. He said NDSU will continue to succeed, no matter who serves as president.

Bresciani appears to have significant backing, the chancellor said, noting that he will meet with local business leaders. "Obviously, people feel very supportive," Hagerott said.

Budget cuts, including a 4 percent cut that already has been imposed and future cuts, are serving as a catalyst to improve efficiency and collaboration throughout the university system, Hagerott said.

"It's going to get hard," he said, referring to cuts that will follow a special legislative session in August, which could force personnel cuts.

Some campus presidents have already trimmed administration positions. The chancellor has asked presidents to head a variety of studies to guide improvements and to better unify the system. One avenue is to increase shared services. Another is to increase online course opportunities, so expertise at one campus can be widely available.

The university system must ensure that it's top programs remain strong despite the leaner budget climate, Hagerott said.

"I really do believe higher education is going to diversify the economy more than anything else, unless we find a diamond mine someplace," he said.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address: pspringer@forumcomm.com
Phone: 701-367-5294
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