Chancellor scraps extensive reviews of presidents

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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The interim chancellor of the North Dakota University System said Thursday he's scrapping plans for extensive outside evaluations of college presidents, all of whom received glowing reviews from him.

Larry Skogen, the former Bismarck State College president, will wrap up his temporary term in a year and said the decision on whether to engage in the so-called 360 reviews is better left to his successor and the state Board of Higher Education.

"I think this needs to be thought through very, very carefully and has to be part of a very long, strategic view of presidential evaluations," Skogen told board members at their meeting in Grand Forks.

The previous chancellor, Hamid Shirvani, had called for independent reviews after he gave some unfavorable evaluations. Skogen said he discussed the idea with numerous consultants before deciding against it, partly because of the cost and the fact that only two out of 10 presidents a year would be reviewed.

In addition, Skogen said consultants told him the best in-depth reviews are confidential and include surveys, interviews, reports and one-on-one interviews with presidents. Because of North Dakota's open records laws, the evaluations would have to be adjusted and perhaps not as effective, he said.

"To tell you the truth, because we're a very open state, and I certainly appreciate that, to have a 360 evaluation would have to be a very modified 360 evaluation," he said. "To start the rotation for presidents at a considerable cost for a modified 360 review just didn't make a lot of sense to me."

This year's unveiling of the chancellor's reviews came with less drama than in 2013, when four presidents contested Shirvani's evaluations and met with Skogen to suggest and justify changes. The board bought out the contract of Shirvani, who came under fire for his management style, but his reviews were made public before he was asked to leave.

Republican Rep. Mike Nathe of Bismarck, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he would like to see 360 reviews on a rotating basis. He also said it's a difficult task for Skogen to review his peers.

"You have to kind of feel for Larry a little bit. He's going to be working alongside these presidents when he leaves the chancellor's position," Nathe said. "It's a little bit of a dicey situation. He's not going to come down on people who are going to be his colleagues in about a year or two, and I understand that."


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