A North Dakota University System employee has accused Chancellor Hamid Shirvani of giving state lawmakers misleading information to make two college presidents look bad. Shirvani denies the allegation and says he is fed up with relentless attacks on his character.
Linda Porter, whose title is interim system office liaison officer for reporting and information, told lawmakers Wednesday that Shirvani purposely compared the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University to larger schools when providing data such as graduation rates to a House appropriations subcommittee earlier this month.
"When I was asked to provide the information, this was to make (UND and NDSU) look bad," Porter told the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. "I have witnessed and heard (Shirvani's) mission is to get rid of the presidents."
Porter wants the House Appropriations Committee to investigate whether Shirvani violated any state policies or laws.
Shirvani said the information was not misleading.
"We just put the data into a different context — instead of peer schools, compared (UND and NDSU) to aspiring schools," he said. "Nothing else was changed.
"It was not to put down an institution or to say we are bad," Shirvani said. "It was saying, this is where we are, and what I like to do as a chancellor is take us to those higher horizons."
Shirvani said the allegations "are another part of relentless tactics of assassination over fear of governance."
The chancellor has come under repeated fire for what his critics describe as a heavy-handed leadership style. Shirvani says he was given a mandate by the state Board of Higher Education to overhaul North Dakota's education system and fix its problems, including low graduation rates.
Some lawmakers have sought to oust Shirvani, and several groups including the North Dakota Student Association, have approved votes of no confidence in the chancellor. The Board of Higher Education, which oversees the state's 11 public colleges and universities, recently passed a resolution of support for Shirvani, who has been on the job for less than a year.
Porter said university system employees fear for their jobs. Shirvani said "there is no retaliation or intimidation whatsoever."