The State Board of Higher Education took time this week to hold detailed discussion revolving around evaluations of its leaders and executive salaries throughout the North Dakota University System. The agenda items had been tabled from a previous meeting to allow for Board members to digest the wealth of information on each topic before making any final decisions.
“We are working together as a unified system,” Board Chair Kathleen Neset said to open the meeting. “Each of the colleges and universities is equally important as we discuss the agenda.”
The Board immediately began discussion on the tiered evaluation process. The topic had been broached by the Chancellor’s Cabinet’s study on governance. Chancellor Mark Hagerott said there had been solid feedback that lent itself to a two-tiered review method where the five community colleges would have their presidential evaluations done in the fall, while the four-year universities and research institutions would have their evaluations done in the late spring or early summer.
Board member questions prompted clarification of the plan, which would only be implemented after further review, and would allow for more time for individual reviews and greater Board involvement. After discussion concluded, the Board moved to enter executive session to consider the reappointment of and any new contract terms for presidents at Bismarck State College, Lake Region State College, Mayville State University, Minot State University, North Dakota State College of Science, North Dakota State University, and Valley City State University.
“I think collectively we can say that we are professional, thoughtful and deliberate Board,” Neset said. “I’m very pleased and proud to be part of it.”
After reconvening, the Board moved into contracts for the two-year schools. Vice Chair Don Morton motioned to extend contracts by 12 months for BSC President Larry Skogen, LRSC President Doug Darling and NDSCS President John Richman. Board Member Greg Stemen seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.
Next were contract renewals for the four-year universities. Morton motioned to extend contracts for MaSU President Gary Hagen, MiSU President Steve Shirley, and VCSU President Tisa Mason. Stemen seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.
Last was the contract for President Dean Bresciani at NDSU, the only research institution with a presidential contract eligible for renewal. Board Member Mike Ness motioned to table extension of the contract until the November meeting, at which time it would discuss progress made on issues of communication, teamwork/collaboration, IT consolidation and research. The motion included the Board delegating to Chancellor Hagerott the responsibility for developing measurable goals for President Bresciani on those topics. Stemen seconded. Brief discussion followed, as well as a 7-1 vote to approve the motion.
Neset thanked the Board for continuing to focus on student success and a unified system. Several Board members expressed their support of NDSU and the wonderful things that are happening there, reiterating their deep commitment to ensure its continued success while still addressing areas of concern that could impact the long-term best interest of the university.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott opened discussion on the agenda item of salary ranges for presidents and vice chancellors. He noted that many of the presidents had taken the lead in refusing pay increases to show solidarity for the budget conditions. Stemen commended the presidents for the hard work they continued to do without a pay increase, noting that it was “symbolic, but not unnoticed.” Ness agreed, noting that the effort was appreciated by all.
Hagerott said that while he was also not taking a pay increase, his recommendation was to provide raises for his office staff, who in many cases were doing two or three jobs. The Board expressed concern about some positions being compensated much below market value. Chief of Staff Lisa Feldner commented that this is a problem not only in the system office but also across the entire university system – although there is not consistency. An administrative cost study, headed by Feldner and CFO Tammy Dolan, will likely result in recommendations to create more consistency. A motion to approve modest salary increases for the vice chancellors passed unanimously.
Neset then broached discussion revolving around the chancellor’s evaluation. She said at this time there was not a contract extension for the chancellor, but an evaluation would likely be addressed within 15 days of the meeting’s conclusion. Neset said she had received the Chancellor’s self-assessment and would be seeking Board input for the evaluation. Once finalized, it would be sent to the full Board and placed in the chancellor’s record.
The next Board meeting will be held September 29.