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Letter: Put trust, integrity into the UND community

An April 12 letter to the Herald from UND professor Dr. Dexter Perkins, followed by a column April 17 by the Herald's Mike Jacobs ("Can this Presidency be saved?") both offered a telling overview of the short tenure of Mark Kennedy as president of UND.

However, the recent interview with Engelstad Family trustee Kris Engelstad McGarry brings first hand, up close and personal, what so many have been saying about Kennedy, and why he shouldn't continue to lead UND.

What shouldn't be overlooked is the role of the State Board of Higher Ed in the turmoil that has hit the UND community. In particular then-Chair Kathleen Neset, who sat quietly while Ed Schafer and later Mark Kennedy came onto campus like bulls in a china shop, making arbitrary, subjective decisions often without oversight or input. Not all of those decisions were tied to the funding crisis that has hit the state and UND. What the board failed to realize but was alluded to by interviewers at the University of Central Florida, is that Mr. Kennedy first and foremost is a politician, and that "Leaders in Action" holds a different meaning for Kennedy than for the rest of us. He is not interested in your opinion.

A larger question asked by so many UND supporters is this: Why haven't we been able to cultivate experienced capable individuals within the institution to advance to the top leadership role? People who have earned the trust and respect of UND staff and employees and who have a deeper understanding of the UND community and its tradition? Was Tom Clifford really an anomaly in the system?

For now, the mindset, missteps, denials and attempted bullying of UND's largest donor is unacceptable and should be the last straw for alumni and North Dakota Higher Ed. It's time for them to put on their big boy pants and act now, not next year or next month. It's time to put trust and integrity back into the UND community.

Glenn Dahlstrom

Hillsboro, N.D.