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NDSU Faculty Senate censures university president

Bresciani’s actions demonstrated a lack of transparency, avoided participation in shared governance and either lacked communication or provided misleading communication via email, the resolution claimed.

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North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani speaks June 25, 2020, outside of the Memorial Union. Forum file photo
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FARGO — North Dakota State University teaching staff have censured President Dean Bresciani for picking an administrator to fill his No. 2 spot even though she didn’t go through the hiring process that attracted more than 100 candidates.

In a 21-13 vote, the Faculty Senate passed the resolution Monday, Feb. 8, that condemned Bresciani’s move to appoint Margaret Fitzgerald as the university’s provost in October. Four members abstained.

Faculty Senate members who voted in favor of censuring the university president say they are criticizing Bresciani because of how he chose the new provost, not because they disapprove of Fitzgerald.

The search cost more than $90,000 and yielded five finalists. Bresciani was slated to name a top choice from the finalists, but he decided to pass on that person after they said they would be unavailable to take the post until June.

A search committee suggested three other finalists were acceptable in filing the position, but Bresciani said in an email none of the candidates “garnered sure, strong and broad-based support from the campus or the committee.”

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Instead, he chose Fitzgerald, who did not apply for the position after saying she didn’t want the job permanently. She took the position after Bresciani convinced her to do so.

Fitzgerald had been in the position as an interim since January 2020 after interim Provost Kenneth Grafton stepped down. She has been with the university more than 30 years and is the first long-term provost since Beth Ingram resigned from the post in summer 2018.

Fitzgerald’s salary is $317,370, NDSU said.

Faculty questioned how Bresciani could circumvent policy that says he should choose his No. 2 from a list of names submitted by the committee. Policy is in place to “ensure that searches be conducted in a fair and equitable way, while limiting the chance of bias,” the senate resolution said.

Two-thirds of faculty who took a survey regarding the provost search said they were uncomfortable with the process. Former Faculty President Carlow Hawley had prepared documents to issue a vote of no confidence against Bresciani, but the senate voted to remove Hawley from office.

Bresciani’s actions demonstrated a lack of transparency, avoided participation in shared governance and either lacked communication or provided misleading communication via email, the resolution claimed.

Policy also states the university president can bypass the process in “unique circumstances.” Bresciani previously said the university faced enormous challenges, including a pandemic and a potential decrease in support from the state government.

That meant NDSU needed a strong provost, and Fitzgerald was a proven leader, Bresciani said in a campuswide email.

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"President Bresciani values shared governance and thanks faculty senate, staff senate and student government for their deliberations and guidance," NDSU spokeswoman Brynn Rawlings said Wednesday in an email responding to this story.

Faculty Senate President Florin Salajan acknowledged the resolution has no legally binding consequences for Bresciani.

"The Faculty Senate remains committed to work on its priorities in collaboration with the university administration in a spirit of shared governance," Salajan said in an email.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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