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McFeely: Like a cockroach, Shirvani's career can't be killed

Hamid Shirvani, chancellor of the North Dakota University System. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Mike McFeely, Oct. 17, 2015Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 2

There will be two things remaining on this Earth when it is obliterated by nuclear war or the Kardashians: cockroaches and Hamid Shirvani.

Don't read anything into the juxtaposition of those two words. It's strictly coincidental, maybe. But you need to know that North Dakota's worst-ever higher education leader is popping up in the news again, even though he leaves behind a trail of destruction and golden parachutes everywhere he goes.

Shirvani is one of three finalists for the president's post at the University of Guam, which has the tiny Pacific Island abuzz because its citizens have the ability to Google the words "Hamid Shirvani," apparently better than State Board of Higher Education members in North Dakota. Type in his name and immediately pops up a litany of media articles chronicling Shirvani's disastrous stops in Colorado, California, North Dakota and Iowa. He was forced to resign from a dean's position at the University of Colorado-Denver. He was given a vote of no confidence in California and the state had to pay a female administrative assistant for "events that took place." He was given nearly $1 million to depart North Dakota in 2013 with two years left on his contract as university system chancellor after another vote of no confidence, constant controversy and general sliminess. He left tiny Briar Cliff College in Iowa after being accused of sexual harassment by female employees, even though the school's board of trustees backed him and called the allegations baseless.

But, like the irrepressible cockroach, Shrivani is close to being hired for another leadership position in higher education at another six-figure salary. It leads many right-thinking people to wonder how compromising the photos Shirvani has of University of Guam leaders must be? And, seriously, what would it take to kill this guy's career?

As always, Shirvani and his apologists have excuses. As always, Shirvani is doing a wonderful job of playing the victim. He has again painted himself as a hard-charging "change agent" who makes enemies that conspire against him.

Others who've dealt with him see it differently. Former North Dakota legislator Kathy Hawken referred to Shirvani as a "scumbag" on Facebook this week.

Shirvani has all the answers, though. In a blog post from January, he blamed his problems in North Dakota and Iowa on racism, bigotry, ignorance and fanaticism. Shirvani failed to point out the words of state Sen. Karen Krebsbach upon his departure: "We can't afford to see the system torn down. There is fear, intimidation, things that should not be happening in the state of North Dakota."

Shirvani clearly has an ally in the search firm that recommended him in Guam. Dr. Richard Wueste of AGB Search appeared on a Guam radio show to defend Shirvani, saying that the accusations against him are nothing but trumped-up charges.

Of Shrivani's resignation in Colorado, Wueste said: "They were planted stories, not news stories in legitimate media." The Denver Post, winner of multiple Pulitzer Prizes, was the newspaper that reported Shirvani was forced to resign under duress from UC-Denver.

Of Shirvani's problems in North Dakota: "He ran into a buzzsaw" of presidents who didn't want him to succeed in making changes. Legislators, higher ed system staff, students and media were also among those who thought Shirvani to be a disaster.

Of Shirvani's resignation in Iowa: The allegations of sexual harassment were "a set-up that was part of a group of people that did not like he was an Iranian in a largely white area." There were "concerns for his wife, so an agreement was made to leave the university. All indications were it was a set-up."

The perfect career record remains for Shirvani and his propagandists—nothing is his fault, every allegation made against him is a conspiracy, he is always the victim. Even when there is a record of California paying off a female administrative assistant, there is always an excuse for Shirvani.

Maybe that would be a good place to start for anybody at the University of Guam who has questions about Shirvani. Call a few women who've worked under him, those in Iowa and maybe even some here in North Dakota. There are no guarantees you'll find anything, but then again you never know. Do your due diligence. Sometimes when you turn on a light, the cockroach scatters.

Mike McFeely
Mike McFeely is a WDAY (970 AM) radio host and a columnist for The Forum. You can respond to Mike's columns by listening to AM-970 from 8:30-11 a.m. weekdays.
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