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Less-open hiring process, performance evaluations suggested in new bill

BISMARCK -- A bill proposing a less-open hiring process and performance evaluations for the higher education chancellor and university presidents was debated Wednesday. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 2134, which rel...

 

 

BISMARCK -- A bill proposing a less-open hiring process and performance evaluations for the higher education chancellor and university presidents was debated Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 2134, which relates to the chancellor and presidential evaluations.

Proponents said SB2134 would allow for better evaluations of university presidents. Opponents disputed this and said the processes for presidents and the chancellor should remain public.

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SB2134 would allow the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education to consider the hiring or firing of the chancellor in executive session unless the chancellor or candidate being considered asks for the discussion to be public.

It would also make the records and interviews conducted for evaluations of college and university presidents private with only the final performance reviews being public record.

“There has been a misunderstanding on this proposal that somehow this is designed to protect the presidents. This is simply not true,” North Dakota University System interim chancellor Larry Skogen said. “The proposal is designed to ensure we get honest, forthright data from which to develop thorough evaluations of the presidents.”

Presidential evaluations first became an issue in June 2013. Outgoing Chancellor Hamid Shirvani’s evaluations containing criticisms of the heads of Minot State University, North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota were rejected by the board. They were later rewritten by Skogen, stripped of the language criticizing the presidents.

Skogen said, if SB2134 is shot down, evaluations will still be done “but they won’t be as good as they could be.”

Jack McDonald, an attorney with the North Dakota Newspaper Association who spoke in opposition to SB2134, said the bill closes hearing processes for public officials that are currently open.

“The process has worked,” McDonald said. “I think it should stay that way.”

Committee chair David Hogue, R-Minot, challenged that idea, saying that, if proceedings of the evaluations are public and end up in media reports, people interviewed during the evaluation process may be less likely to speak candidly.

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