Tag Archives: what is Dickinson State University like

Are DSU President Stephen Easton And Representative Mike Lefor Trying To Retaliate And Silence Professors?

Near the beginning of year 2023, North Dakota State Representative Mike Lefor introduced two ND House Bills, that to myself and many other people, appeared to be aimed at preventing ND University Professors from making alleged acts of wrongdoing public:

HB 1198  Requiring an individual who requests an open record to provide the individual’s name and contact information. https://ndlegis.gov/assembly/68-2023/regular/bill-overview/bo1198.html?#1446

HB 1446  Pilot program for tenured faculty review at institutions of higher education.  https://ndlegis.gov/assembly/68-2023/regular/bill-overview/bo1446.html?#1446

In the past seven years, there have been three separate, important, significant, headline-grabbing audits at Dickinson State University: A determination that DSU awarded nearly 400 Diplomas to foreign students who did not complete their curriculum; The DSU Foundation being placed into Receivership by order of the ND Attorney General; A determination that DSU violated several policies and procedures in awarding a service contract.

To understand the extent of the findings in these three separate audits, please read the first of these https://www.foxnews.com/us/audit-north-dakota-university-awarded-unearned-degrees

An excerpt from this article reads:

“But as an audit made public Friday revealed, lax record keeping and oversight resulted in hundreds of degrees being awarded to students who didn’t finish their course work. Others enrolled who couldn’t speak English or hadn’t achieved the “C” average normally required for admission.

The report depicts Dickinson State as a diploma mill for foreign students, most of whom were Chinese. Of 410 foreign students who have received four-year degrees since 2003 — most of them in the past four years — 400 did not fulfill all the graduation requirements, it said.”

Regarding this particular audit, which delved into other areas such as foreign students not meeting the English proficiency requirements, it’s about 95% certain that the whistle-blower who kicked this off, was a faculty member at DSU, because who else would have had access to these student records?

Moving on to the next audit, this one is a little harder to understand.  The DSU Foundation was a non-profit organization consisting of alumni and supporters of DSU, whose goal was to raise money for DSU.  However, in addition to receiving donations and fundraising activities, it decided to become involved in real estate development.

The DSU Foundation initiated the construction of an on-campus sports stadium called the Biesiot Activities Center, as well as an on-campus assisted living facility called Hawk’s Point, and a student housing building Blue Hawk Square.  After construction of these facilities was completed, there were parties involved in construction that were not paid, including several banks who had loaned money for these projects.

In the following referenced article, which is a good summary of the DSU Foundation audit, the former Dickinson Press Newspaper editor wrote that he was pressured by DSU supporters to shut-up about this https://dustinmonke.com/2015/09/06/editorial-dsu-foundation-paying-for-mess-it-created/

Here is an excerpt from this article:

“When rumors began to circulate about financial problems at the Dickinson State University Foundation, our reporting on the subject was unpopular with many university and foundation supporters. We were asked by readers why we didn’t support the university and were told to stop picking on the foundation.”

The last DSU audit that I will mention, the most recent one, supposedly resulted from a disgruntled student at DSU, who not only became a whistle-blower, but started a petition seeking signatures to support the removal of DSU President Stephen Easton, and Vice President Debora Dragseth.

What this student was angry about, was the recent departure of several key faculty members, whose absence would make many students pursuing certain degrees unable to graduate, as there was no one remaining who was qualified to teach their classes.  But the allegations brought forth by this student who sought the removal of the DSU President and Vice-President, were that they were both involved in an improper DSU business arrangement that profited and favored an associate of DSU President Stephen Easton.

Here is an article that describes the findings of this audit https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/ndus-investigation-finds-improper-procurement-in-dsu-contract

An excerpt from this article reads:

“A series of open record requests provided documents that were detailed in a series of complaints forwarded to the Eide Bailly Fraud Hotline, between Feb. 26 and May 4, 2021, prompting an investigation into the allegations of improper procurement. Their conclusions found that DSU’s procurement “was in violation of at least seven laws or procedures and did not use any common procurement templates” available NDUS-wide for shared bidding and award processes and that allegations of conflict of interest were unsupported by the investigation.”

These three audits, the improper awarding of DSU Diplomas, the insolvency of the DSU Foundation, the improper procurement of a DSU business contract, were the result of people in a position to know about these things making a whistle-blower complaint alleging wrongdoing.  From reading the details contained in the news articles that I have referenced in this blog post, and from other articles elsewhere, it is easy to see that the faculty at DSU were the “watchdogs” observing what was happening and making the decision to report it.

North Dakota State Representative Mike Lefor, who graduated from DSU in 1980, is a member of DSU’s strategic planning committee, and was probably a member of the former DSU Foundation, and its successor the DSU Heritage Foundation.

Dickinson State University President Stephen Easton, like Mike Lefor, also graduated from DSU in 1980.  Both Stephen Easton and Mike Lefor probably did not like the bad publicity, shame, and ramifications of the Diploma scandal at DSU, nor the nearly concurrent dissolution of the DSU Foundation in 2015.  However, the 2021 allegations of conflict-of-interest/favoritism in awarding a DSU business contract to a colleague of DSU President Stephen Easton was personally unpleasant to him in addition to being another embarrassment to DSU.

Here is a short excerpt from the previously referenced article:

“At some point, I reached out to … my former colleague at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Maggi Murdock, to see if she could identify someone who might provide this training or if she might be interested in doing so,” Easton said. “After Dr. Murdock’s indication that she planned to form a company to submit a proposal, I advised Dr. Debora Dragseth, our new Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost, that I would have nothing further to do with the procurement process, as I did not want to suggest a preference for Dr. Murdock’s new firm.”

As a result of these three audits in the past seven years, the bad publicity for DSU, the tarnishing of DSU’s reputation, increased difficulty in attracting students and faculty to DSU while DSU is in the news in a negative way, I believe that ND State Representative Mike Lefor and DSU President Stephen Easton wanted to find a way to keep this from happening in the future.

The two ND House Bills put forward by ND Representative Mike Lefor, HB1198 and HB1446, would require people pursuing Open Record Requests to be identified, and give DSU President Stephen Easton the ability to terminate DSU faculty at his discretion, even tenured Professors.

The wording of HB1446 is vague and broad enough, that a DSU Professor could do something that DSU President Stephen Easton did not like, and immediately be subject to assessment by the DSU President, and found to be deficient or non-compliant in a number of different ways, including the following, WITHOUT ABILITY TO APPEAL OR REVIEW BY FACULTY:

    • Further the best interests of the institution including providing advice and shared governance to campus leaders, and exercising mature judgment to avoid inadvertently harming the institution, especially in avoiding the use of social media or third-party internet platforms to disparage campus personnel or the
    • “Comply with the policies, procedures, and directives of the institution, the institution’s
      president and other administrators…”
    • “Help recruit and retain students for the institution.”
    • “When conducting a review under this section, the president of an institution may
      assess and review other factors relevant to the faculty member’s employment and the
      interests of the institution and the institution’s students.”
    • A review under this section is not appealable or reviewable by a faculty member or faculty committee….”
    • The president and any administrators delegated to assist the president shall fulfill these duties without fear of reprisal or retaliation. No complaint, lawsuit, or other
      allegation is allowed against a president or other administrator for actions taken
      pursuant to these provisions.

Everybody pay attention, “…No complaint, lawsuit, or other allegation is allowed against a president or other administrator for actions taken pursuant to these provisions. ”  Has anyone, ever heard or read a piece of City, County, State, or Federal Legislation where it says that “no complaint, lawsuit, or allegation is allowed” ?  Can everyone understand that under the U.S. Constitution, every complaint and every allegation is always allowed?  Specifically, for instance, a complaint against Discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, veterans status, etc. would have to be heard.

Getting back to the point of this blog post, my opinion is that ND State Representative Mike Lefor and DSU President Stephen Easton are seeking to stifle DSU faculty members’ ability to report alleged wrongdoing that they observe, by way of HB1198 which has already been voted down, and HB1446 which has not been voted on yet.

I think that Mike Lefor’s and Stephen Easton’s focus should be on not doing illegal things in the first place, rather than trying to keep illegal things hidden.

I Am Not Surprised That DSU Students Are Requesting The Resignation Of President Stephen Easton

This evening I read a Dickinson Press newspaper article titled, “DSU students demand resignation of university president, VPAA and dean”. The first paragraph of this newspaper article reads:

“Nearly 300 people are demanding the immediate termination or resignation of the university president, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Dickinson State University for what they say is a broad spectrum of concerns with administration. They highlight allegations of code of conduct abuses, including overreach of administrative authority, incompetence and allegations of illegal conduct and fraud.”

The reason why I am not surprised that there are accusations like this against DSU president Stephen Easton, is because I looked into his background shortly after he became president of DSU back in March of 2020.  I found that in Stephen Easton’s previous position as Dean of the College of Law at the University of Wyoming, he resigned when a task force was formed to evaluate his department.

Though there are many news articles regarding the resignation of Stephen Easton from the University of Wyoming, the most detailed article appears to be from the Casper Star Tribune newspaper:  https://trib.com/news/local/education/university-of-wyoming-law-school-dean-resigns-as-task-force-preps-review/article_cca10ec1-a62c-5dbf-b949-2c431a209e58.html

Here are some quotations from this Casper Star Tribune newspaper article:

“The dean of the University of Wyoming’s College of Law resigned his post Thursday, citing communication difficulties with university leadership planning to evaluate his department…

…He cited a new law school task force being assembled by UW President Bob Sternberg and the university’s Board of Trustees as a reason why he resigned…

…Sternberg said Thursday the task force will evaluate how UW serves the state in areas including energy, natural resources, water and environmental law. It will be strictly advisory, he said, and he is accepting nominations for private- and public-sector stakeholders to fill it…

…The task force will include people from Wyoming and regional legal communities, the UW Faculty Senate, representatives from the College of Law and other stakeholders, Sternberg said in a news release. Its chairman will be Cheyenne attorney Larry Wolfe, Sternberg said…

…’ “I asked him to reconsider several times,” Sternberg said. “I really do think it’s important for all units to get feedback on how they can do better.” ‘

From other news articles that I read concerning Stephen Easton’s resignation from the University of Wyoming, the president of UW Robert Sternberg had been advised that at one time UW’s College of Law had been very highly ranked in the area of Oil and Natural Resource law, but during Stephen Easton’s time as Dean of the College of Law, it had lost its prominence in this area.  This concern, was mentioned in a quotation from the Casper Star Tribune newspaper article in a more delicate way:

“When I traveled around the state, some people have felt that we once were pretty much at the top of the heap in energy, natural resource, water and environment law,” Sternberg said. “And that maybe we’re not where we once were.”

The reason why I personally began looking into DSU president Stephen Easton’s background, was because six months after Stephen Easton became president of DSU, I received a very unfriendly letter from DSU at my home that was addressed to me personally, and I could not believe how immature, petty, and hostile this letter was.  I showed or read this letter to several people, and these people advised me that I should take this up with either the Dickinson Police or an attorney.

After receiving this letter, I called DSU president Stephen Easton’s office phone number, I asked to speak to him regarding this letter, and I explained this to his administrative assistant, requesting that he call me.  I never received a call back or a response from Stephen Easton.

Since creating my internet blog in 2016, I have written approximately a dozen articles about DSU.  I have written about misbehaving student athletes; DSU awarding college diplomas to students who did not complete their degree curriculum; DSU not repaying bank loans for construction of the Biesiot Activities Center; Strom Business Center spending its entire endowment; proposed Theodore Roosevelt Museum on DSU campus; DSU becoming a polytechnic college; the DSU dining hall running out of plates, glassware, and utensils; former DSU president Thomas Mitzel’s accomplishments.

The letter that I received from DSU was an attempt to stop me from writing about DSU, and a retaliation from DSU.  I could not believe the irony of a “University” attempting to prevent a person from writing and publishing their opinions on anything.  And, I also felt that this was both petty and bullying from an attorney who was now president of DSU, not just the letter, but the fact that he would not even show me the respect or courtesy to respond to me when I called his office.

When I looked into DSU president Stephen Easton’s background, there was more that I found out about his character, that I will not go into at this time.  Stephen Easton’s resignation from the University of Wyoming when the president wanted to evaluate his department, the letter that I received from DSU, and president Stephen Easton refusing to speak to me or call me back, make me believe that he is arrogant, a hot-head, petty, and thinks that he is always right and doesn’t need to answer to anyone.

Here is the link to the petition to remove DSU president Stephen Easton, where you can read the allegations against him, and sign this online petition  https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/protect-the-flock?fbclid=IwAR28cmjZNBjLUhzbtYD-D78SFwHJzSbZE1gdFVs5AHWrMZGIR5dhRcLuIfw