GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The University of North Dakota Student Senate has passed a vote of no confidence in state University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, the latest development in a dispute over his leadership.
The resolution that passed 9-5 on Sunday cites several alleged problems with Shirvani’s leadership, including “a trend of fear” in the University System office, the Grand Forks Herald reported.
Other groups, including the North Dakota Student Association, also have passed votes of no confidence in Shirvani. The state Senate has approved about $854,000 to buy out the last two years of his three-year contract, though the move still must pass the House and does not require the Board of Higher Education to oust the chancellor.
Shirvani says he was given a mandate by the board to overhaul the state’s Higher Education system and fix problems including low graduation and student retention rates. The Board of Higher Education says it supports him.
Several members of the UND student government said that while Shirvani is merely enacting policy created by the board, his track record of being a polarizing figure could have a negative effect on North Dakota’s higher education system.
“To put it in aviation terms, the pilot in charge runs the flight,” said Shane Gerbert, the student government’s government affairs commissioner. “And if the pilot in charge makes a mistake, the plane can end up in a river.”
Some students, including Lonnie Jossart, believe ousting Shirvani is not the answer.
“Blaming him is easy because he’s an outsider, but it’s the policies of the state board that people seem to have a problem with,” Jossart said. “He’s just the person that implements them.”
Shirvani is an Iranian by birth and an American citizen whose family left Iran when he was young to escape religious persecution. He holds a master’s degree from Harvard and a doctorate from Princeton and has worked at universities in Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky, Colorado, Massachusetts and California. He began his duties in North Dakota last July.