FARGO — A majority of North Dakota State University professors who took a survey on the provost search process said they were uncomfortable President Dean Bresciani chose a candidate who did not apply for the position.
Almost two-thirds of 213 participants who took the Faculty Senate survey said they were somewhat or very uncomfortable with the process Bresciani used to pick Margaret Fitzgerald, who previously served as the interim provost before taking the long-term job. Nearly half said they were very uncomfortable.
Fitzgerald, who did not apply for the position and signaled she didn't want it on a more permanent basis, was chosen over five finalists. That included one who was chosen as the top pick but wasn't available until the summer.
Fitzgerald was not required to participate in open forums, which would have allowed faculty to question her. Bresciani has defended his decision, saying it would be inappropriate to put her through the process after working as an NDSU employee for decades.
He also noted her performance in the interim.
However, some disagreed with his reasoning or called it a clear violation of policy.
“This is wrong, and I fear it is only the beginning,” one person on the anonymous survey commented. “I know that sounds dramatic, but it is really how I feel right now. I am embarrassed to work here.”
The survey asked participants to rank their feelings about the search on a scale and allowed for comments. About 32% of the full-time faculty body, or 213 professors, responded.
The Forum was asked to leave a virtual meeting of the senate held Monday, Nov. 9, after it voted to go into executive session to discuss a “sensitive” matter regarding the results. When asked for a legal reason to close the meeting based on North Dakota open meeting laws, leaders cited the senate’s bylaws.
There didn’t appear to be strong support for a particular senate action, according to the survey. In comments, several surveyed suggested a vote of no confidence in Bresciani or removal of Fitzgerald.
Some thought a reprimand or discussion about the search should be considered.
“Now is not a good time for our campus to be dismissing our current president and especially not to be beginning a search for a new president,” one person who took the survey wrote. “However, this is not the first incident when the president has not been fully forthcoming with his motives or actions.”
Others said the senate should accept Bresciani's decision.
“I think Faculty Senate should consider this a closed case, and get on with the business of providing quality education to our students,” one comment suggested.
Former Senate President Carlos Hawley previously told The Forum an executive committee was investigating whether they should push for the provost decision to be reversed.
“Again, we are in process, but I think that the term we are using with the most frequency right now is a vote of no confidence,” the Spanish professor had previously said.
Suggestions of such a vote played a role in the senate voting Hawley out of office last month.
Teacher Education professor Florin Salajan replaced Hawley.
“I believe he acted in the interest of faculty,” Salajan said of Hawley.
English professor Anastassiya Andrianova was appointed acting president-elect.
Nursing professor Molly Secor-Turner withdrew the announcement of her resignation as past president.