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NDSU President Bresciani receives favorable review, renewed contract

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani delivers the State of the University address Friday, Sept. 30, 2016, in Festival Hall on the NDSU campus. Dave Wallis / The Forum

MANDAN, N.D.—North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani has a renewed contract that runs to 2020 following action by the State Board of Higher Education.

The state board, meeting on Thursday, June 28, gave contract extensions to six of the North Dakota University System's 11 campus presidents through June 30, 2020, following routine evaluations of their performance.

The contract renewals did not come with salary increases, given the slumping revenues that have plagued state government for the past two years. Bresciani's annual salary remains $354,568.

In other action, board members voted unanimously to allow NDSU to enter into mediation with a contractor that has a $1.3 million lawsuit against the university for costs the firm, Roers Construction, said it incurred from delays stemming from design flaws for a building that houses classrooms and laboratories.

Bresciani's NDSU presidency, which began in 2010, has been mostly quiet for the past two years, following turmoil that erupted over new media guidelines—quickly set aside—for covering Bison football and basketball games, which are subject to broadcasting rights.

The controversy prompted the higher education board to have an independent investigation, which concluded that Bresciani had not lied when he said he had not known about the new guidelines before they were announced. But the review also concluded that Bresciani's decision-making and communication could have been better.

In Bresciani's current evaluation, Chancellor Mark Hagerott, who oversees the North Dakota University System, acknowledged that "this has been an extremely challenging year," and noted campuses confronted "historic reductions in state general fund support" and "increased competition from the online universities moving into our state" among other challenges.

"My compliments for leading your university to adapt to multiple of these vectors ...," Hagerott wrote, and also complimented Bresciani on "the new levels of collaboration and teamwork you have achieved with my office" as well as the state board and other universities.

One of Bresciani's goals involved research excellence and innovation, including maintaining the "best possible" national ranking. "In reality, maintaining current levels is impractical at best, so the real goal will be to minimize the seemingly inevitable downward trend," Hagerott wrote in his evaluation memo.

Hagerott did not mention the turmoil among research faculty and staff at NDSU or the resignation of its vice president for research, Kelly Rusch, after a highly critical evaluation of her management style and performance by a review committee.

The chancellor did, however, compliment NDSU on the excellence of its computer information technology programs. Hagerott also commended Bresciani for expanding the focus of a fundraising drive, now in its quiet phase, to raise $300 million to $400 million. The drive originally targeted money for scholarships and faculty endowments but now will include "a limited number of physical infrastructure projects."

Separately, Hagerott has notified John Richman, president of the North Dakota State College of Science, which is based in Wahpeton and has a campus in Fargo, that he wants him to continue in his role.

NDSCS is the subject of an independent audit to review complaints concerning finances, space utilization and a workforce training program. Richman's full evaluation is scheduled for this fall.

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com

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