FARGO, N.D. — The state Board of Higher Education on Thursday rejected repeated requests by one of its members for a special meeting to discuss the contract of North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.
Hagerott has been involved in a couple of events this month that have received public scrutiny. This past week he asked for an investigation into what he said was pressure from people who wanted him to punish the University of North Dakota’s interim president, Ed Schafer, for endorsing a candidate for governor in last year’s primary. That request to the board came on the heels of Hagerott’s decision to fire vice chancellor Lisa Feldner without cause.
Board member Mike Ness, of Hazen, opened Thursday’s meeting in Devils Lake asking the board to discuss scheduling a session to talk about Hagerott and possible legal action that “could be related to the events of the last couple of weeks.” He was not specific. The motion failed because of a 4-4 vote.
Ness brought it up again at the close of the meeting.
“It was a 4-to-4 vote which was very frustrating. I’ve never been on a board that doesn’t have odd numbers,” said Ness, the superintendent of the Hazen School District. “We had four members who wanted to proceed with this because of their concerns. I think all of us have been bombarded with media and calls and emails concerning the issue.”
Board Chairman Don Morton, of Fargo, said he doesn’t consider it an urgent matter and said the board should take up the issue behind closed doors, if possible, during its Nov. 30 meeting in Bismarck.
Replied Ness, “My thoughts are this should be done as soon as possible.”
Morton was supported by comments from board members Greg Stemen and Kevin Melicher. There was not a motion to reconsider.
“I don’t believe there’s a single member that thinks that we shouldn’t deal with this issue,” Stemen said. “I think we have to be very careful and respectful in the manner in which we do so. We’re not obligated to do it on somebody else’s time schedule.”