Former UND interim president and North Dakota Gov. Ed Schafer said the UND aerospace school needs to align with the goals of the university after faculty called for the dismissal of Provost Thomas DiLorenzo.
"They're still complaining about the same stuff, and I was disappointed that the aviation (department) doesn't get on board with the university," he said Monday.
In August, the aviation department, one of the largest programs on campus, voted 32-0 in favor of a resolution of no-confidence for DiLorenzo and called for his dismissal, saying he has "little if any concern" about the best interests of the department.
UND President Mark Kennedy has said he plans to keep DiLorenzo in place.
When Schafer, who was interim president from January to July, 2016, originally heard about the no confidence resolution, he wasn't too surprised, as he had heard many of the same concerns when he was with UND.
While the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences has had autonomy over the years, Schafer said it's important for the school to be a part of the university, not separate from it.
"Be there and let the process work. Why do you resist everything and have to be this separate, stand-alone, 'We do it our own way' thing? You're at the University of North Dakota, you're an official part of the university, become part of the one university," Schafer said.
In an op-ed to the Herald last week, former dean Bruce Smith wrote that to be successful, the aviation department and flight operations need to "have a reasonable amount of trust and autonomy" because the school has a reputation of being the preeminent aviation college in the country.
"If the administration and the provost can step back and give the Odegard School the trust and autonomy that it needs to be successful and without trying to control it and without trying to centralize it ... that would be the resolution for this," Smith said.
While weekly meetings with DiLorenzo, aerospace dean Paul Lindseth and UND Vice President for Finance and Operations Jed Shivers are now in place, along with Kennedy meeting monthly with aviation faculty, Schafer is not confident the meetings will be successful.
Schafer said he went through a similar situation when he was president, and the meetings weren't successful.
Schafer said the aerospace program is truly successful and a tremendously supported program at the university and is a "great image" for UND and North Dakota. He said he understands that the school has been successful working autonomously for a long time, but education is constantly changing.
When Schafer was tapped by the State Board of Higher Education to become the interim president at UND, he said he received a lot of "unsolicited advice," including from many who said removing DiLorenzo would fix many of UND's problems.
"By the time Nancy and I moved up to Grand Forks and got into the office, I was (thinking) 'Hey, this is great, all I have to do is fire Tom DiLorenzo and it's going to be great and I'll be a hero," Schafer said.
But Schafer said what became clear was that the university was going through a lot of change. There were ongoing budgeting concerns at the Legislature and the university was in the process of changing its nickname and logo, among other concerns.
"Everything was changing at UND and what became apparent to me was the provost was the one who was tasked with trying to manage all of that change," he said. "As I became more engaged at the university I realized that change agents are not always liked."
Some people are for change while others are against it, but watching DiLorenzo try to work through those changes helped change Schafer's mind about the situation, he said.
"As I worked with him and the team and watched him try to maneuver those minefields of change, I became a champion of Tom DiLorenzo," he said.
Schafer said he believes that when he was president, he could have been a "stronger voice" in the community to talk about the changes the university is going through, which could have helped people understand why the changes were being made.
Not many have stepped forward to publicly defend DiLorenzo, but Schafer said those who have been the most vocal are those who want to see DiLorenzo dismissed or disagree with him.
Schafer said it's not unusual for supporters to be less vocal.
"The people who complain or dislike, are always the ones who write letters to the editor or call in to call-in shows. Supporters generally don't so much," he said.