As UND President Mark Kennedy prepares to become the next president of the University of Colorado system, officials in North Dakota now begin the process to replace him.
The Colorado University Board of Regents on Thursday voted 5-4 to name Kennedy the next system president. He was the sole finalist for the job and will oversee a four-campus system. His last day at UND is June 15. Kennedy's departure comes just three years into his tenure at UND.
North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott said the first order of business will be to create a list of potential candidates for interim president before the May 30 State Board of Higher Education meeting. Hagerott said the interim president could be in place for at least a year as the board and eventual search committee work to find the right person for the job.
After appointing an interim president, the chancellor and the board will form a search committee that includes members of the UND and Grand Forks community, as well as other higher education leaders. Students are often part of the process.
Courton Loreno, a third-year law student at UND, said he hopes the next president will be able to find a balance between improving education and the campus while also dealing with budget constraints.
"I think the new president is going to have a fair bit of difficulties," he said. "UND is kind of on a budget crunch right now. They'll have to look for ways to improve education and improve the campus by working with more constrained budgets. That's probably the biggest thing."
Loreno added that the job of a president is never simple.
"It's not an easy job," he said. "As a president you kind of take a lot of blame, whether it's fair or not, for your institution's actions. It's something where my biggest concern is that they can do what's best for UND. I think whoever they get will be someone who's experienced enough to know how to work with that, and can do so relatively well."
Hagerott noted that since the 2015-16 UND search, laws surrounding the release of candidates' names has changed.
In 2017, the North Dakota Legislature passed a bill limiting the release of applicants' names to those who are considered finalists for the job. The law states that the public entity "shall designate three or more of the qualified applicants as finalists" to be considered before the public.
Hagerott said this will be a positive for the university and the system because it will give candidates a chance to apply for the position without having their name publicized until they become one of the finalists. In the past, a chief concern was that the best candidates would not apply, since their name would have been public from the beginning of the process. That publicity could have created trouble at their current workplace.
Since Kennedy was appointed president at UND in 2016, the state board has had to fill positions at Dickinson State University, Mayville State University and, most recently, Valley City State.
Kennedy's NDUS contract does not officially expire until June 2020, but SBHE chair Don Morton said Kennedy's contract will be considered "done" after Kennedy officially resigns.
Questions about the contract became more prevalent after Kennedy was announced as the finalist in Colorado. Upon the announcement, Kennedy said he was disappointed to be leaving UND-even though he hadn't yet officially been offered the Colorado job. It was Kennedy's second time being a finalist for a presidential search in the past 15 months.
Hagerott then sent Kennedy a letter, accepting Kennedy's "de facto notice of resignation."
What would have happened if Kennedy wouldn't have gotten the Colorado job?
Friday, Hagerott said he did not want to get into "what if" scenarios, but said his top priority is the people of North Dakota and UND.
"(UND) is the state of North Dakota's institution. It serves the people of North Dakota," he said. "We need leaders who are there to take care of North Dakota. I don't want to get into 'what ifs' but he was in two searches in the stretch of 15 months, so clearly he was ready to move on and now that's happened."
Hagerott wishes Kennedy well in Colorado and hopes they'll maintain a good relationship going forward.
While Kennedy's contract in North Dakota was just one page, the contract requires the president to follow SBHE policies, which can be updated by the board. A section referring to presidential authority, responsibilities and contracts contains language about what happens if a president is terminated without cause.
However, the contract does not lay out conditions if a president chooses to leave early, thus breaking the contract.
By comparison, Kennedy's new contract in Colorado is 14 pages long and includes a "recruitment fee" for any institution that attempts to lure Kennedy away before his contract is up. Should he move on to another school before June 30, 2020, the new university would have to pay the University of Colorado $750,000. The numbers drop to $500,000 before June 30, 2021, and $250,000 before June 30, 2022.
Hagerott said he would be interested in potentially adding a similar section of policy to presidents' contracts in North Dakota to help limit "job hopping."
"That just confirms in my mind that we're not the only ones who want stability," Hagerott said. "I did not support when presidents apply early in their tenure for new jobs. I do like stability."