- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The North Dakota Board of Higher Education met Tuesday to discuss ways to add stability to the job of university system chancellor, a position marked by turmoil in the last decade.

The board plans to start its search next month to replace interim chancellor Larry Skogen, the Bismarck State College president who took over when the board replaced Hamid Shirvani in 2013 after complaints about his leadership style.

Shirvani isn’t the only recent chancellor whose term was marked by controversy. Robert Potts resigned in August 2006 after his authority was questioned by at least one president. Potts was eventually replaced by William Goetz, who was viewed by some lawmakers as being too soft with campus leaders.

During Tuesday’s discussion on roles and responsibilities of the next chancellor, board member Grant Shaft, of Grand Forks, said there needs to be a balance between the styles of a coordinator and of a CEO.

“We’ve had this great group of presidents who are all fired up about their campuses and they’ve got initiatives that they want,” Shaft said. “But every now and then the chancellor has to say, no matter how great it is, that doesn’t work with the other institutions or that doesn’t quite line up with the way we want it.”

Consultant James McCormick told the board that, based upon his research, the next leader needs to have a “great relationship” with the presidents in order to be successful.

“You have had a history of a little bit of lacking stability. I mean let’s just face it, you look back over the years, you’ve had a lot of changes,” McCormick said. “You can’t lead a new vision for the state and be done in two or three years. It needs to be longer term. There needs to be continuity.”

State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, a member of an advisory committee to help with the search, said she’s worried about placing the chancellor and presidents on a level playing field. She believes there needs to be “a clear line of authority” to attract good candidates.

“To water that down, in my opinion, would be a dangerous road,” she said.


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