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Higher ed board accepts Chapman's resignation, looks ahead

The state Board of Higher Education will hold a special meeting in about a week to discuss naming an interim North Dakota State University president, following the group's unanimous acceptance Thursday of Joseph Chapman's resignation.

The board also will begin forming a search committee at that time for a permanent NDSU president.

President Richie Smith said board members accepted Chapman's resignation Thursday "with regret" and emphasized that he made the decision without pressure from the board or chancellor. The board met over conference call.

Board member Michael Haugen of Fargo expressed disappointment with the resignation.

"The facts are that under Dr. Chapman's leadership, this university has absolutely grown in phenomenal ways that I don't think many in this state thought possible," he said.

Haugen cited record enrollment growth, NDSU's economic impact, the growth in graduate programs, the move to Division I athletics and the rate of students graduating and staying in the state.

Haugen acknowledged the controversy about the cost overruns on the president's house, but said the board is investigating that matter.

Chapman's resignation does not include a severance package, Chancellor Bill Goetz said. His resignation is effective Jan. 2.

Goetz said his goal is to bring one or more names of possible interim candidates to recommend to the board at the upcoming meeting. An interim could be either someone internal or external, he said.

Goetz would like to have a permanent president in place by July 1, which he said is aggressive but doable.

A search committee, with representation from NDSU as well as alumni and the community, will conduct a national search and bring recommendations to the full board.

Given the economic situation that has affected higher education nationally, the NDSU presidency will be particularly attractive, Goetz said.

"I do think there are going to be people who are looking to North Dakota as an opportunity simply because we do have a system that has been very vibrant and there's a lot of opportunity here," he said.

During the meeting, Haugen said it's unfortunate that the spending from the president's discretionary fund through the NDSU Development Foundation has elicited such an emotional response.

Chapman spent more than $22,000 on a trip to President Obama's inauguration, including more than $17,000 on a charter flight because the university plane was undergoing maintenance.

"Some of the spending that has been deemed excessive in the media and the entertainment world, I believe that was legal, that was authorized, although it may have been poor judgment, I think the foundation certainly needs to bear the brunt of this responsibility," Haugen said.