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N.D. higher ed board accepts resignation of NDSU's Chapman

FARGO - The state Board of Higher Education voted unanimously today to accept North Dakota State University President Joseph Chapman's resignation.

President Richie Smith said they accepted it "with regret" and emphasized that Chapman 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.

"This has certainly become nothing but an emotional issue around the state and community, and I'm not sure we make very fact-based decisions when we are dealing with emotions," Haugen said. "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."

Haugen cited the numbers of students brought into the state, the economic impact, the growth in graduate programs, the move to Division I athletics and the rate of students graduating and staying in the state.

"I don't believe that anything will change, but I think the thousands of things he has done don't deserve the one 'Aw shucks,'" Haugen said.

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

Haugen said if the WDAY-owned plane broke down prior to an athletic event, the company would also charter a plane to get to the event.

"In 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.

Rachelle Hadland, the student member of the board who attends NDSU, thanked Chapman and his wife, Gale, for their service and called the resignation "an unfortunate end."

Chancellor Bill Goetz will bring to the board recommendations about an interim president in a week.