Student Senate Unanimously Votes ‘No Confidence’ Against Chancellor Shirvani
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 13:08
The NDSU Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution taking a vote of “no confidence” against University Chancellor Hamid Shirvani on Sunday.
“Serious questions have been raised about Dr. Shirvani’s leadership methods, specifically regarding his interactions with student leaders,” the resolution stated, listing six specific instances of such concern.
One specific instance described NDSU Student Government members’ attempts to meet with Shirvani a couple weeks after he began his term. Shirvani responded to the request saying, “I believe it is more appropriate for your student body to meet with President Bresciani.” Other instances illustrated conversations student leaders had with the chancellor, during which his communication was described as “misleading” or “demeaning.”
The resolution also supports an amendment to N.D. Senate Bill 2003, which would appropriate funds to buy out the chancellor’s contract. North Dakota state senators approved this amendment to include $854,520 in the University System budget by a 28-19 vote Wednesday morning, the Forum reported.
The student senators spent considerable time discussing the resolution at the meeting before making the decision.
“This is your prerogative to make this decision,” Luke Brodeur, student body president, told the student senators. “It’s a very weighty decision.”
Robert Vallie, a senior in political science and former student member of the SBHE, presented a message from members of the legislative assembly telling student senators that no matter what decision they made, they would be “politically protected” from any “retaliation or backlash” from those who may not agree with the decision.
NDSA cites similar concerns
Ian Godfrey, NDSA state legislative affairs committee chair and junior at NDSU, said other universities cited similar examples of Shirvani being unwilling to meet with student representatives.
The North Dakota Student Association, which represents 48,822 students of the N.D. University System, passed two resolutions regarding Shirvani at its Feb. 23 meeting. The first resolution presented a vote of no confidence in Shirvani and the second supported the Senate Bill amendment to allocate money to buy out the remainder of Shirvani’s contract. The resolutions passed with an overwhelming majority— 53 in favor, two opposed, seven abstentions and 50 in favor, five opposed and 11 abstentions, respectively.
Godfrey said Minot State University was one of the most prominent voices expressing concern over relations with the chancellor. MSU and NDSCS passed resolutions for a vote of no confidence last week. Other universities are expected to vote on similar resolutions in the coming weeks, a NDSA press release said.
NDSA delegates found “student interactions and observations with Chancellor Shirvani to have consistently conflicted with core values” required by State Board of Higher Education policies, an NDSA press release stated. These values include integrity, trustworthiness, accountability, cooperativeness, openness, honesty and mutual respect. NDSA delegates also said Shirvani’s hierarchical communication created a “culture of mistrust and disconnect.”
Shirvani fails to serve students
Godfrey said that the student representatives at the NDSA meeting collectively felt that Shirvani was not working in the best interest of students.
“A chancellor’s attitude should be student-focused,” Godfrey said. “Shirvani says he is student-focused but his actions don’t show that.”
Sydney Hull, student member on the State Board of Higher Education and NDSU senior, said the board desires to be a student-driven system.
“The chancellor, the board, they exist to serve students,” Hull said. “Obviously they are not doing that if students across the state, in overwhelming numbers, are saying there is something wrong, this guy needs to leave.”
He said students are the “main constituents” of the university system and they are the reason the chancellor position exists.
“The chancellor will always be a busy man, but he cannot shut out students completely or restrict them to channels of communication that are tedious at best, or only when he thinks he is in trouble,” Hull said.
Godfrey, who sits in on meetings at the state capitol, said he has also witnessed Shirvani “talk down” to legislators. “You have to treat colleagues with respect, and that’s just something we are not seeing with the Chancellor,” he said.
Reactions to ‘no confidence’ resolutions
Godfrey said some legislators don’t believe Shirvani has been given a fair chance because he has had less than a year in office, while others have applauded the NDSA for their vote of no confidence.
Hull said the SBHE will be mostly against the students’ resolutions of no confidence as it stands behind Shirvani. Yet if the board was to disregard both students’ and legislators’ opinions, then it would not be doing its job, he said.
Leaders of the SBHE said the actions of the NDSA in passing the vote of no confidence were “disappointing,” according to an NDSA press release. NDSA officers responded by affirming their decision, saying the responsibilities of the chancellor outlined in SBHE policies were “heavily scrutinized prior to the decision and were met with various examples of violations.”
At first glance, it may seem like the students are over reacting to the chancellor’s behavior because he has only been in office seven months, Hull said. But a year ago, the NDSA passed a near unanimous vote in support for Shirvani, yet now an overwhelming majority of NDSA representatives say he needs to go.