Dickinson State University's Interim President Stephen Easton is now the university's permanent president.
Easton was named to the position by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education, Thursday, after the board voted 6-1 to waive the requirements of sections 2-4 and section 6 of policy 601.1 and procedure 601.1.
The waiving of that policy and procedure allows the board to avoid advertising the position and establishing a search committee, which would forward three or more names to the board for consideration.
Chair of the board, Nick Hacker, explained the decision.
"We don't take, as a board, suspending or waiving requirements of different rules lightly. A lot of discussion happens before we propose those types of things. Mr. Easton has been through two searches - one for a permanent position and then one as an interim position. I can speak to the interim position because it was just last December that we ran that position. Mr. Easton was by far the top applicant. Mr. Easton served and did go through a full guided search by a search firm."
After the board's February 25 meeting, it asked for feedback on such an appointment from DSU students, faculty and staff and the community of Dickinson.
Of the 30 comments the board shared, only two were not in favor of his immediate appointment. Their concerns were not about Easton, but rather the process.
One respondent wrote: "The applicant pool for an interim position and permanent position are very different. Many highly qualified contenders for a permanent presidency would not apply for an interim position due to the short and tenuous nature of the job. An interim position by its very nature requires someone who can quickly leave their current job, and is also able to return to other employment at fairly short (few months) notice when the hiring process for a permanent replacement is completed. Yes, Easton has been vetted as qualified, but we have no idea if he would actually be the best candidate in a full pool of applicants for a permanent position."
The same respondent was concerned about the appearance of such a decision.
"Given DSU's current and recent financial and personnel difficulties that have marred DSU's image in the press and public's view, it would be a VERY POOR move to quietly upgrade the interim president. We need an open and fair hiring process to avoid any hint of scandal, and to get the very best leader we possibly can."
All comments shared by the board about Easton specifically were positive. Most of those comments included support for naming him to the position.
One person wrote: "He would be a wonderful addition to the DSU campus and family. Just the short time he has been here, I can tell morale has increased. He is a hands-on president and after just having gone through the cuts of programs and personnel, he held his own and was honest and forthcoming with his responses to all questions. We want someone like him at the helm. He won’t sugarcoat or make things sound rosy when they’re not."
Following the decision to waive the requirements, the board interviewed Easton via video conference.
He talked about the challenges the university has faced, interactions with students, participation in campus activities, his open door policy and his belief in group decision-making.
After the board's executive session, during which they discussed the matter, Easton was unanimously voted for appointment to the position of permanent president of DSU and given tenure.