MSU writes letter in support of Fuller

Minot State University vice presidents have written a letter in support of MSU President David Fuller, who was given a negative annual evaluation by embattled outgoing University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.

In the evaluation, Shirvani recommended no salary increase next year for Fuller, who has been the most outspoken in his criticism of Shirvani among the college and university presidents.

“My overall sense is that you have exercised a form of myopic leadership that has probably served you well among certain elements in Minot but reinforced among your peers a growing exasperation due to your sense of exceptionalism for (Minot State University) and your clear lack of respect for your sister institutions,” wrote Shirvani, who also accuses Fuller of providing “poor leadership.”

Fuller said Wednesday that he is requesting that the board expunge the review from his record and also that the board authorize an independent review of his performance. The board is set to consider the annual evaluations of the college and university presidents and salary recommendations when it meets today at Dakota College of Bottineau.

“(The evaluation) has no merit whatsoever,” said Fuller. “It’s full of errors and it’s exaggerated. It’s only fair to say that that should not be kept in my record.”

Fuller said he is “very proud of what we’ve done at Minot State” and would welcome an outside review of his performance.

Fuller said he was not necessarily surprised by Shirvani’s review, but disappointed that “this type of thing” would come from someone in Shirvani’s position.

Shirvani also gave critical evaluations of University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley and North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani. He recommended against a salary increase for Kelley and recommended full evaluations be done by outside groups of both the NDSU and UND presidents this fall.

Shirvani is leaving the chancellor’s office at the end of July. The state board of higher education voted last month to buy out his contract, after months of criticism from various quarters regarding Shirvani’s management style. Shirvani took the position in July 2012.

The letter of support from MSU administrators, which was addressed to the board of higher education, was signed by Dick Jenkins, vice president of student affairs; Lenore Koczon, vice president for academic affairs; Rick Hedberg, director of athletics; Marv Semrau, vice president of advancement; Brian Foisy, vice president of administration and finance; and Kevin Harmon, assistant vice president of enrollment management.

“We, the members of the President’s staff at Minot State University, are expressing support of Dr. David Fuller as our president. Our letter is in response to his evaluation posted on a blog earlier this week. This in itself is as well as in violation of North Dakota Century Code since it had not been shared with him. We believe the chancellor’s evaluation is simply wrong,” wrote the administrators.

In the letter, the president’s staff cite Fuller’s various accomplishments over his tenure as president, such as stabilizing enrollment, improving support services for students and strengthening programs that encourage student engagement on campus, as well as increasing the number of faculty members with post-graduate degrees and increasing salaries for faculty and staff. Many physical improvements have been made on campus, including the remodel of Crane Hall, renovation of Swain Hall, remodel of the Student Center and new construction projects including the new Student Wellness Center and Herb Parker Stadium. The administrators also wrote that Fuller responded well to the needs of the campus community during the flood of 2011. In their letter, the administrators also note the success of the Minot State University Development Foundation.

“Dr. Fuller’s accomplishments are too numerous to mention in this letter; his record stands on its own,” wrote the administrators. “Based on his demonstrated strong leadership, we support Dr. David Fuller as our president and support his request for an independent evaluation of his performance. Furthermore, we support Dr. David Fuller’s request to expunge this evaluation from the record. We also believe he merits a raise in pay comparable to the other NDUS presidents.”

Jenkins said Wednesday that the vice presidents felt the need to set the record straight, because they don’t believe the chancellor’s review was fair. They also believe it was illegally released before Fuller had the opportunity to see it or respond to it. Fuller is due to retire in July 2014 and the vice presidents believe it would be inappropriate for him to finish his career with the negative review on his record. They also believe he deserves the salary increase that other presidents are getting.

Fuller said he is heartened by the vice presidents’ support.