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North Dakota University Chancellor Denies Harassment Claims

BISMARCK, N.D.— The head of the North Dakota University System on Monday denied a fired vice chancellor’s allegations that he discriminated against her and other women.

Chancellor Mark Hagerott told The Associated Press that he “strongly disagrees” with the complaint filed this month by Lisa Feldner, who was the system’s vice president of information technology and institutional research until she was fired from the $220,000-a-year at-will job in September.

“Despite that, we are moving forward,” Hagerott said of the accusations.

In her complaint filed with the state Labor Department, Feldner accused Hagerott of creating a hostile work environment and discriminating against women. She wrote that several women complained about Hagerott touching them in a non-sexual manner, including patting them like “children or pets” in a “rather denigrating and condescending” way.

State Board of Higher Education Chairman Don Morton said he “strongly disagrees” with Feldner’s accusations. He and Hagerott declined to elaborate on the accusations, under the advice of attorneys.

Kathy Kulesa, the Labor Department’s human rights director, said the agency tries to finish investigations within six months. She said the complaint filed by Feldner is still in draft form.
Hagerott has been in charge of the university system since July 2015. His contract runs through June 2019 and he’s paid $372,000 annually.

North Dakota’s university system includes six four-year universities, five two-year colleges and a two-year budget of $2.8 billion. The system has more than 47,000 enrolled students.
The system’s college presidents report to Hagerott, who answers to the Board of Higher Education.

The position of chancellor has been marked by turmoil for more than a decade.

Hagerott replaced Hamid Shirvani as the full-time chancellor after complaints about his leadership style. Shirvani’s three-year contract was bought out by the board after just one year on the job at an estimated cost of more than $925,000.

Robert Potts resigned in August 2006 after his authority was questioned by at least one president. Potts was eventually replaced by William Goetz, who was viewed by some lawmakers as being too soft with campus leaders.

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