The board voted unanimously for the review, which should include surveys of university system employees and others.
Embattled University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani says he has no plans of resigning and welcomes a special assessment of his job performance that was authorized Thursday at a meeting of the North Dakota Board of Higher Education.
The group agreed to conduct the review after board member Kari Reichert opened the meeting with a request to add an agenda item — over the objections of university system lawyer Claire Holloway — to discuss complaints by some lawmakers, students and others who believe Shirvani is not qualified for the job and want the board to do something about it.
Reichert questioned the leadership and communication skills of the chancellor, who has been on the job since July 1, and said the departure of 12 of 32 people on the university system staff does not suggest a favorable working environment.
"This number is fairly alarming to me," Reichert said.
But board member Kathleen Neset said there's nothing unusual about the turnover.
"I do not find this troubling. I find it standard practice," she said.
Shirvani told The Associated Press during a break in the meeting that the latest salvo is "the same old mud that has been thrown at me on and on and on" and the notion about a turnover problem is "absolutely preposterous." Asked if he thought about resigning, Shirvani said, "No, but I'm kind of up to my eyeballs. I'm not very happy about it at all."
The board voted unanimously for the review, which should include surveys of university system employees and others. Reichert said in an interview that it doesn't go far enough.
"I don't know that that's a resolution to the discussion. I think that's just one element of what needs to happen," Reichert said. "It's pretty easy for anyone on the outside to see we're stuck in a pretty tough situation and I don't see us making any progress until we address this issue."
Several groups have passed votes of no confidence in Shirvani, including the North Dakota Student Association and Minot State University faculty. The state's largest newspaper, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, has twice called for the resignations of Shirvani and higher education board President Duaine Espegard.
Shirvani has said he was given a mandate when he was hired last March to overhaul the state's higher education system and fix problems, including low graduation rates. He delivered a handout to board members Thursday that outlined reasons for the university system departures, including the decision by internal auditor Bill Eggert to "pursue opportunities in a warmer climate."
Shirvani said most people left on their own before he had much contact with them.
"I also should be allowed to choose my people. There's nothing wrong with some of those senior people but I have to have my own people," Shirvani said. "It's so preposterous, so exaggerated, so sensational."
The board overruled Holloway's admonition about discussing an item that was not on the original agenda. Reichert told the board they needed to discuss the issue "first and foremost or else it will hang over our heads" and cited several legislative proposals to change the higher education governance.