Embattled Dickinson State president fired
FARGO -- The Dickinson State University president was fired Thursday after a review found he inflated enrollment figures. But the dismissal of Richard McCallum will not be the end of the enrollment controversy as attention now turns to other pers...
FARGO -- The Dickinson State University president was fired Thursday after a review found he inflated enrollment figures.
But the dismissal of Richard McCallum will not be the end of the enrollment controversy as attention now turns to other personnel who may have played a role.
The state Board of Higher Education decided unanimously to fire McCallum after meeting for about 45 minutes in an executive session.
McCallum, who was suspended with pay in August, was accused of inflating enrollment by counting people who attended workshops as enrolled students.
The board affirmed a decision in August by Chancellor Bill Goetz to fire McCallum. An administrative law judge heard testimony for four days and concluded McCallum should be fired.
McCallum was named president in 2008. He did not attend Thursday's meeting at North Dakota State University in Fargo.
His attorney, Benjamin Thomas, did not return calls seeking comment.
The firing is effective immediately, and McCallum will no longer collect a salary. The board gave McCallum until Dec. 31 to remove belongings from the president's house.
An audit found that McCallum "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."
D.C. Coston, former NDSU vice president for agriculture, has been acting Dickinson State president since August. The board unanimously extended Coston's appointment.
"We've been working diligently to assure that things that perhaps happened in the past would not happen again," Coston said in an interview Thursday.
Board President Grant Shaft said it will now be Coston's responsibility to handle any other personnel who were involved. The office of the state auditor is also looking into the matter and the report is expected early next year.
"He'll have to deal with his campus personnel issues, and I suspect that there will be some," Shaft said after the decision.
Shaft said there will be discussions between now and the board's January meeting about Coston's interest in the presidency and whether there should be a president search.
"I think he's been embraced by that community," Shaft said. "I think he's done an exceptional job on the campus, and certainly his actions have really helped considerably in this transition."
Coston did not answer whether he's interested in the presidency long term.
"At this point my concentration is being sure that students are well-served, that the institution is running appropriately and properly," he said.
Richard Brauhn, who recently retired from Dickinson State, said in an interview Thursday he thinks the board made the right decision.
Brauhn, who spent 13 years as vice president for academic affairs, said McCallum asked him in fall 2009 to inflate enrollment numbers and he refused. Brauhn was no longer the vice president in fall 2010.
McCallum told employees he did not want to be president of a university with a declining enrollment, Brauhn said.
"He was just totally obsessed with enrollment, and it led him to make some bad decisions," Brauhn said.
Bonny Fetch, the administrative law judge who reviewed the case, said she did not find that McCallum was pressured to increase enrollment.
Funding for campuses is not tied to enrollment.
"Any claim that pressures to increase enrollment were placed on Dickinson State University in this regard are simply unfounded," Shaft said.
One good thing about the situation is that no one has questioned the academic integrity of Dickinson State, Brauhn said.
"It'll take a couple years, but the core of the university is still very good," Brauhn said. "I think we'll survive this and move forward."