Our view: With contracts, no issue with using template

Herald pull quote, 9/20/19

After reading through a proposed new contract draft for North Dakota university presidents, two things immediately come to mind:

First, the draft contract looks an awful lot like the real contract signed by former UND President Mark Kennedy at his new job as president of the University of Colorado system.

And second, the similarities do not bother us whatsoever.

The presidential contracts have been in the news lately, and mostly due to extended coverage from the Herald. Several news stories have outlined how North Dakota contracts have been just a single page, while contracts for presidents in other states often are five, 10 or more pages long. Herald editorials have urged Chancellor Mark Hagerott and members of the State Board of Higher Education to revamp the contracts in hopes of avoiding future pitfalls – ones that have legal consequences or simple procedural inconveniences – that could inhibit forward motion at state universities.

“Was Kennedy’s one-page contract – void of any verbiage related to early departure or termination – enough to avoid a buyout? We’ll leave that to the lawyers,” we wrote in May. “In the future, however, it would be wise for the State Board of Education to amplify its contracts and clarify these circumstances.”


More clarity in presidential contracts, we believe, will help alleviate so many issues that could arise with future presidents, including contract buyouts, early departure, job-seeking elsewhere and so forth.

This week, the SBHE’s Governance Committee considered a draft contract, which will likely be worked on in the months ahead. It is thorough, tightens many potential loopholes and runs across a dozen pages.

It also replicates – word for word in many places – the contract Kennedy signed at the University of Colorado. At times, the proposed contract for North Dakota presidents almost entirely copies Kennedy’s CU contract.

At other times, the North Dakota contract veers off into specific bullet points that are unique to the presidencies of this state. Under the section titled “Duties,” there are 19 requirements, some of which have their own subsections.

If adopted, the new contracts will be a drastic change from the traditional deals offered to North Dakota university leaders.

Is it bothersome that so much of the proposed contract is lifted from the University of Colorado’s contract for Kennedy?

Not at all. If another university already has created a contract that works, that gets the best from its university leaders, that reduces the likelihood of litigation, that helps keep those leaders on campus for a reasonable term and that could save thousands of taxpayer dollars in presidential search fees, why not use that contract as a template?

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