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Dickinson State head mum on resignation demand

DICKINSON, N.D. -- The chancellor of North Dakota's university system said Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum had not responded to a demand that he resign for allegedly inflating the university's enrollment numbers last fall.

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DICKINSON, N.D. -- The chancellor of North Dakota's university system said Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum had not responded to a demand that he resign for allegedly inflating the university's enrollment numbers last fall.

William Goetz said late Friday he expected the matter would be resolved soon. "Expediency is where we're at with this," he said. "This is not something that is going to drag on."

Grant Shaft of Grand Forks, president of the state Board of Higher Education, said if McCallum declines to resign, he expects the president to receive a written notice that he is to be fired. Goetz declined comment late Friday about whether a notice had been sent.

Only the Board of Higher Education, which has eight voting members, can fire the president of one of the 11 North Dakota colleges and universities it oversees.

"I would be surprised if we didn't get (McCallum's) letter of resignation at some point," Shaft said. He said the board had not scheduled a meeting to discuss the problem.

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McCallum did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment. Goetz said he had not heard from McCallum since he met with him Wednesday to go over an auditor's report that concluded Dickinson State's enrollment figures during the fall 2010 semester were deliberately inflated at the behest of McCallum's office.

At the meeting, Goetz said he wanted McCallum to tell him by Thursday morning whether he would resign. McCallum did not call, and has not responded to subsequent calls and emails, Goetz said late Friday.

McCallum has the right to a hearing on any termination proceedings.

Enrollment review

During the fall 2010 semester, Dickinson State reported 2,668 students took at least one class at the university, and that 1,684 students were enrolled full-time, a Board of Higher Education report says.

Bill Eggert, the university system's internal audit director, said in a report that about 180 people who were included in the enrollment count had attended conferences or training seminars, including sessions about how to use financial computer software and a conference about former President Theodore Roosevelt.

The attendees "were registered as DSU non-degree students, enrolled in a degree-credit class, and given a grade without their knowledge or consent," Eggert said. "The typical conference participant received an 'A' grade just for attending the sessions."

University officials learned of the problem when the conference attendees received surveys afterward that are normally sent to students. The attendees then contacted Dickinson State to say they were not enrolled at the college, the report says.

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Eggert's report says McCallum pushed other university administrators to use conference participants to inflate the university's enrollment numbers.

"Campus leadership was focused on continuing the multiyear trend of reporting enrollment growth, but had not developed an effective plan to actually support and grow enrollment," the report says. "This situation resulted in pressure to report higher enrollment."

Those efforts, the report says, have "created a campus culture that is divided, one of distrust, disrespect and staff being pressured to engage in unethical, suspect or wasteful activities to meet demands."

It is unclear why McCallum would want to overstate enrollment, Dickinson State administrators said Friday.

"That doesn't make sense if those students weren't part of the system... one of the revenue streams that the university has is student tuition, so for our programs to continue to be vibrant and continue to grow they have to increase student enrollment, but that has to relate to tuition being paid," said Chip Poland, DSU Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies chairman. "So it doesn't quite make sense that you would enroll 180 students and not have them come through and pay tuition."

DSU Coordinator of Institutional Research and Planning Scott Staudinger agrees.

"Dickinson State is a program-based institution, which means that the state finances us by the amount of programs that we have and not by the individual students," he said. "So I'm not sure what the ultimate gain would be."

NDUS is working to correct the enrollment information, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Mike Hillman said.

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Although several DSU officials are involved in enrollment, McCallum is the only person facing disciplinary action, Goetz said.

"The focus here in terms of responsibility rests with the president and no one else at this point," Goetz said.

Poland and former Student Senate President Jermaine Christie were surprised to hear McCallum had been asked to resign.

"I'm sure the chancellor has good reason to do so, but coming from a student standpoint and an individual that was in student leadership last year, Dr. McCallum was someone who was easy to work with," Christie said. "He sought opportunities that would enhance and develop our students and within that aspect of working with him, he seemed very genuine in his approach to working with students and student development."

Poland also had positive experiences with McCallum.

"I would not think that Dr. McCallum would do something like that purposely -- at least that's not my impression of Dr. McCallum," he said. "I have not been disappointed at all with Dr. McCallum's leadership. I believe he's tried to do what the university asked him to do when he was hired."

The report says the same practices were not detected at the system's other 10 colleges.

McCallum has been Dickinson State's president since April 2008, when he succeeded Lee Vickers in the job. He was previously the vice president for academic affairs at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.

McCallum is paid $176,782 annually. The university provides his housing and Dickinson State's alumni foundation provides a leased vehicle for him to use. His contract ends June 30, 2013.

Goetz said McCallum will not receive a severance package, nor will he be paid through the end of his contract.

This report contains information from The Associated Press and from Ashley Martin of the Dickinson Press.

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