FARGO -- More than 81 percent of faculty members at North Dakota State University voted in favor of a resolution supporting President Dean Bresciani, whose future is in limbo as the State Board of Higher Education mulls whether to extend his contract.
The votes favoring the resolution exceeded a 67 percent threshold of support that was in the resolution passed by the NDSU Faculty Senate. The resolution had the support of 457 of 562 voting faculty members, with 105 opposed.
Results of the faculty vote, which took place online, were made public Wednesday, Oct. 19.
The supermajority requirement was intended to convey a clear representation of faculty opinion on the university’s leadership future, said Kathryn Gordon, an associate professor of psychology and president of the NDSU Faculty Senate.
“It seemed like what they wanted to do to make sure this resolution reflected the faculty voice before sending it on,” she said, adding that she has informed state board members of the vote. “The 81 percent is hoping they’ll consider this resolution.”
Tom Isern, a professor of history, said the “overwhelming” faculty vote for Bresciani reflects faith in his management abilities to continue leading the university, especially during times of budget cuts facing state campuses.
“They’ve got confidence in him going into difficult times,” he said, adding that NDSU has avoided cuts that gut or eliminate programs. “We don’t seem to have a great roiling of the waters here.”
Bresciani has cultivated relationships with important campus constituencies, including agriculture, which not all NDSU presidents have done, Isern said. Land grant colleges, because of their diffuse organizational structure, tend to operate with decentralized leadership, he said.
The implications for presidents: “They’ve got to lead by confidence and influence,” Isern said.
The higher education board decided in late June to delay a decision on extending Bresciani’s contract, which expired June 30. Board members said they hoped to see improvement in Bresciani’s performance in several areas, including communication, teamwork and collaboration, boosting research efforts for NDSU and information technology compliance with state law.
Most of those areas were cited in Chancellor Mark Hagerott’s performance review of Bresciani.
Bresciani’s performance also came under scrutiny in his handling of a controversial new media policy for covering Bison athletics. New guidelines, quickly abandoned because of a widespread backlash, would have imposed certain restrictions on media outlets that did not hold broadcasting rights.
After first issuing a statement in support of the new guidelines, Bresciani appeared to contradict himself days later when he asked for the new policy to be rescinded, and said he had concerns about the process that resulted in the restrictions.
A Kansas lawyer who was hired by the higher education board to conduct an independent investigation of the matter concluded that Bresciani could have done a better job of communicating his position, but did not lie or violate university system policy.
Earlier this week, the NDSU Student Senate passed a resolution in support of Bresciani, and in June the NDSU Staff Senate voted to send a letter of support for Bresciani.
The State Board of Higher Education is expected to consider Bresciani’s contract when it meets Nov. 16 at Minot State University.
Through a spokeswoman, Bresciani declined to comment on the votes of support.
Kathleen Neset, chairwoman of the state board of higher education, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the NDSU faculty vote.
Dennis Cooley, a professor of philosophy and ethics, and former president of the Faculty Senate, said the magnitude of the vote of support speaks for itself.
“There isn’t much to say because the numbers are the story,” he said. “What I will point out is that this is faculty governance and democracy at its finest.”