OUR OPINION: Chancellor's goal: 'The buck should stop here'
As captain of the USS Kauffman, a guided missile frigate, then-Cdr. Mark Hagerott would have been familiar with President Harry Truman's famous slogan: "The buck stops here."...
As captain of the USS Kauffman, a guided missile frigate, then-Cdr. Mark Hagerott would have been familiar with President Harry Truman's famous slogan: "The buck stops here."
For as every Navy commanding officer knows, there are few harder walls for the buck to slap into than the one surrounding a warship captain at sea.
Ship captains are inescapably responsible for everything that happens on board-period, end of sentence. And everyone who sets foot on board-including admirals, when they embark as passengers-is subject to the captain's authority.
Now, Hagerott is chancellor of the North Dakota University System. And it's our hope-and the hope of many others-that he brings to his position that Navy respect for "The buck stops here."
It'll be a tall order. For as columnist Lloyd Omdahl has pointed out, North Dakotans are of two minds about chancellors. On the one hand, they want the 11-campus university system to be run as a system, not a collection of 11 independent fiefs.
But on the other hand, they're suspicious of vesting too much power in one person-namely, the chancellor.
That conflict has been at the heart of many of the state's higher-ed controversies over the past 20 years. And unfortunately, it's still there, as one of the Board of Higher Education's most recent policy statements makes clear.
On Page 2 of the Roles and Responsibilities Task Force Report, which the board approved in January, the report asks this question:
"For whom do the college and university presidents work?"
The report answers the question this way:
"The presidents work for the Board (emphasis added). However, through various policies the Board delegates authority to the chancellor for Board and system office operations and to ensure compliance with Board policies and procedures."
But then on Page 3, the report asks this question: "Is the chancellor the CEO of the University System?"
And the answer:
"The chancellor is the CEO of the University System."
In our view, those two answers are incompatible. The second is the system we'd like to see. It puts the chancellor in charge, subject to the authority of the board.
But the first is the system we have. It puts the presidents in charge, because it lets them jump the chain of command.
Let's just say that would not have been possible aboard the USS Kauffman.
Hagerott's Navy background and the deep respect it generates is his best hope. He has tremendous credibility. He should use it-to win the board's trust and the presidents and campuses' respect, and ultimately to be given the clear authority he needs.
That's the way to run the North Dakota University System as a system, as the constitution intends. And that's the way to secure the best future for higher education in the state.