Top ND university system official reappointed

Associated Press

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — The new chancellor of the North Dakota University System has replaced the system's chief academic officer and says other top-level personnel changes might follow.

Chancellor Hamid Shirvani told state lawmakers during a meeting at Williston State College this week that Michel Hillman, the university system's vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, will assist Bismarck State College President Larry Skogen with special projects for one year at a system-paid salary of $180,734.

Hillman's reappointment was effective July 6. He was on vacation Tuesday and unavailable for comment, The Forum newspaper ( ) reported. He did not immediately respond to a telephone message The Associated Press left at his home on Wednesday.

Shirvani said the decision was not related to Hillman's job performance.

"It's just a matter of I thought there is a need for a change," he said.

Hillman is being replaced temporarily by John Haller, who retired in 2008 as vice president for academic affairs for the Southern Illinois University system. A national search will be conducted for a permanent successor.

Shirvani, who took office about a month ago, said he is examining all senior leadership positions.

"When you come in you look at everyone, but some of them you want to have more observation," he told the newspaper. "And that doesn't mean that other people are going to go; it's nothing dramatic, but I'm certainly looking at all of the senior leadership and some of the other staff."

Shirvani has already said he wants to double the size of his staff by adding 30 workers to strengthen oversight of North Dakota's 11 public campuses.

Higher Education Committee Chairman Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, has asked for a performance audit to examine the roles of the North Dakota University System office. It is due in January.

The university system and the Board of Higher Education have been under fire over several matters, including the handling of the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname, projects involving president's houses at the state's two largest universities, the awarding of dubious degrees at Dickinson State University and the questionable spending of some student fee money.