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Friday, February 17, 2012


A firing, resignations and a suicide are part of the turmoil sweeping Dickinson State University. An audit determined DSU was a “diploma factory” issuing degrees willy-nilly to Chinese students. According to the Bismarck Tribune, more than 500 students were given degrees they hadn’t earned. Dickinson State University President Richard McCallum was fired last December for a variety of administrative irregularities, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.


The fallout and human costs are tremendous. In addition to McCallum, three senior administrators have resigned. An academic dean is an apparent suicide. While he is not directly linked to the bogus degrees, an audit report said many of the unqualified students were in his department. Suspicions had been brewing for sometime that problems at DSU went well beyond McCallum. A retired psychology professor sent a letter to the Dickinson Press alleging the campus was administratively dysfunctional for many years. He claimed a former chancellor described the university as “a rat’s nest.” A soon to be released performance audit of the university is expected to reveal serious problems beyond the international student program.


A Bismarck Tribune editorial said, “The issues at DSU raise numerous questions about oversight within that university, by the state Board of Higher Education and from the university chancellor's office. How did this happen? Why did it go on for so long? What will the impact be? And more.”


A young woman from ND dazzled the judges on the national TV show “The Voice.” She is a country western singer -- attractive, gracious and talented. Those of you who stay on top of popular culture will know the show -- me, I don’t have a clue. But her triumph is not the story. At the end of her performance, she told the cheering audience and viewers she was “Gwen Sebastian from Hebron, N.D. Yah, sure, ya betcha.” The exaggerated accent was too much for Forum columnist Robert Morast -- he felt Sebastian demeaned herself and took the state down with her. For him, the bad vibes of the movie “Fargo” were back. I watched her performance video, it wasn’t that way, perhaps she was a little nervous, but overall a credit to her home state.


Say the words “Fighting Sioux” and certain folks at the Forum start foaming at the mouth. After learning the nickname would probably be going on the June ballot, the Forum launched an angry editorial. Here is the warmup: “Supporters of restoring the Fighting Sioux logo and moniker to University of North Dakota athletic teams are putting the school on the road to marginalization. Their myopic pursuit of logo restoration requires the embrace of a perversion of tradition. It is fueled by an unstated selfishness that, if successful, will permanently damage the school they say they love.” You can see the Forum is a little annoyed.


Mark Schuttenheim’s sports column in the Jamestown Sun took an opposite view and characterized the NCAA as an outside bully, a politically correct stormtrooper. He wrote: “Doesn’t the NCAA have bigger problems? Millionaire coaches and university supporters who bend and break rules regularly. So called ‘student’ athletes who spend little time in the classroom. Pitiful graduation rates at some of these big basketball and football ‘mills.’ Nope. Sanctioning the University of North Dakota seems to be their highest priority right now.


What drew the loudest round of cheers and applause when presidential candidate Rick Santorum visited ND? When he held up a Fighting Sioux hockey jersey and said, “I kind of like that logo. What do you think?


Previously, I mentioned Chris Linnares, the Brazilian Bombshell, who is a columnist at the Fargo Forum and a TV personality who uses her celebrity to promote her own products. Nothing wrong with that and she appears quite successful at many endeavors. Did I mention that she is also a psychotherapist? What’s a little weird about all this is she is the wife of the publisher of the Forum and the daughter-in-law of the chairman of Forum Communications. How would you like to be one of the company executives dealing with the diva.


A tall tale? If so, it’s a good one. A man wrote to the Forum about his grandfather who homesteaded near Dickey (about 30 miles south of Jamestown) in the late 1800s. Thomas Waldie said his grandfather traveled to Dickey in the winter on a skid pulled by horses -- other men rode shotgun to protect against wolves. The wolves would invariably attack the men and it was only after they shot a wolf that the attacks ceased. The wolf pack left the men alone while they devoured the fallen member.


The first of two related, racially-tinged Jamestown murder trials has concluded. When the murder was first reported in May 2011, the Jamestown Sun frankly disclosed the story's racial aspects. Leron “Rah Rah” Howard (34), a black Minnesota felon, and Janelle Cave (22), one of his white girl friends, were charged with the murder of Abdi Ali Ahmed (18), a black Somali immigrant who had been in Jamestown about a month. Some key witnesses were also black. Since that time, the Sun appears to have made an editorial decision to drop all reference to race, although pictures of the victim and defendants accompanied articles. Wikipedia indicates 0.36 percent of Jamestown residents are black.


This week, a jury quickly found Cave guilty of manslaughter and criminal conspiracy. Howard will be tried in August. Cave fingered Howard as the one responsible for beating and stabbing Ahmed. Cave acknowledged participation in disposing of evidence and the body, but claimed she did not inform police because of her fear of Howard. The trial was held in a packed courtroom. An upcoming, unrelated murder trial in Jamestown involves a head without a body -- maybe it will top the Cave/Howard trials.


Western ND has changed and become a less safe place. A Bismarck Tribune editorial says the Legislature must look at a range of secondary issues beyond roads and housing. Law and order, emergency medical service and general safety need “to move to the top of the list.”


The complexion of Bismarck is changing and the oil boom is a contributor. A livestock sales business called Farmers Livestock has operated north of the Bismarck airport for 31 years. They have abruptly closed -- a developer purchased the property and will make it part of the Expressway Industrial Park. Ranchers in western ND are scrambling to find new sales outlets.


DAKTOIDS: Don’t look now, someone may try to sell you insurance. The Forum reports ND has 49,000 licensed insurance agents -- that’s one for every 14 residents . . . The population center of ND is creeping west -- Wikipedia says the center has landed near Carrington . . . Bill Guy served as Democratic governor of ND from 1961 to 1973 -- his daughter Nancy Guy is running for the state senate seat held by the late Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem.

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