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Published August 01, 2013, 08:55 AM

College accreditation group plans ND visit

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A group that handles accreditation for North Dakota colleges and universities plans a visit to the state university system office this fall to follow up on a complaint about alleged poor leadership and communication between institution presidents and the state Board of Higher Education.

By: Associated Press, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A group that handles accreditation for North Dakota colleges and universities plans a visit to the state university system office this fall to follow up on a complaint about alleged poor leadership and communication between institution presidents and the state Board of Higher Education.

Board President Kirsten Diederich during the board's meeting on Wednesday announced the visit by members of the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission, The Forum reported (http://bit.ly/13oz146 ).

"We have to take this very seriously and as a board we will be able to get through this, but we have some work to do," Diederich said. "It is a governing issue, so it is our issue to work with."

The board oversees the state's 11 public colleges and universities.

Former Valley City State University President Ellen Chaffee filed the complaint in April amid a controversy surrounding what some called an overbearing leadership style by then-University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani. The board later bought out Shirvani's contract. North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem also has said the higher education board has violated open meeting laws.

North Dakota residents next year will vote on a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the board and the chancellor's office and replace it with a three-member commission of higher education appointed by the governor.

Diederich and acting Chancellor Larry Skogen said the Higher Learning Commission visit will be good for the state board and University System.

"It'll give the board an opportunity to say we will make some changes," Diederich said.

The board received a letter from Higher Learning Commission President Sylvia Manning in May, and replied back with details on how the board was working to deal with the allegations in the complaint. Manning, in a phone conversation with Skogen earlier this week and in a letter the board received Monday, said the response from the board and the university system office was not adequate and a visit was planned.

The board will be working with the commission to determine the dates of the visit.

The commission accredits more than 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states. Institutions must meet criteria such as upholding integrity and recognizing diversity to merit accreditation.

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