Self-absorbed Shirvani column off the mark

I’m not a native North Dakotan so perhaps it is why I admire the state so much. People in North Dakotas are consistent, hardy, hardworking, creative, honest and so much in making the state such a great place to live.

I always thought the quality of North Dakota schools played a huge part in their citizenship. I think those who have graduated from the university system feel their experience prepared them for a changing world.

So I was surprised of the assertion in yesterday’s editorial colum by Hamid Shirvani, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, that the system he inherited was in such disrepair in preparing students for that changing future.

Shirvani criticized our state’s higher education as one that avoids using national averages, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System peers and aspirational peers, ignores “best practices” unless they are homegrown.

Shirvani was hired to improve an educational system that was considered by most far from broken. Education, like anything important in life, is constantly changing and so should the university system. There will always be those who are resistant to change but moving slow and asking questions is not a bad thing.

Shirvani admitted that these past several months have been challenging for him and the members of the State Board of Higher Education. Their ideas were scrutinized by those he works for, which comes with the job. You would have thought he would have been aware of politics in our state and the State Board of Higher Education would have done a better job of preparing him for the fray. The board’s violation of the state’s open meeting laws did not help build trust with the Legislature and the public.

Citing the need for change, he referred in his editorial to the April 12, 1963, letter from eight Alabama clergymen who wrote Martin Luther King Jr. that his civil rights efforts in the city of Birmingham, Ala., were not only too much, too soon, but that as an “outsider,” his views and methods were deemed out of touch with the city’s historical values.

Shirvani wrote: “Believing as King did that ‘waiting’ means ‘never,’ permit me to suggest that educational transformation too long delayed is education denied.”

Comparing the need to the change North Dakota’s higher education system and his role of “outsider” to the need for basic civil rights in Alabama in 1963 and even the loosest comparison to Martin Luther King Jr. is shameful.

Dr. King pushed for basic human rights and there is nothing remotely similar to changing the state’s university system. He heroically fought to change a system he suffered in every day and his determination to do so ultimately cost him his life.

The chancellor’s editorial reads largely like someone so self-absorbed he can’t believe that his ideas and leadership style could be questioned and any problems are the result of those who would dare to do so.

I don’t know what he hoped to accomplish with his column, but I doubt it will do little help him accomplish his objectives or endear himself to those who pay his salary.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press.

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