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NDSU President Writes A Letter to Students - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

NDSU President Writes A Letter to Students

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A day after North Dakota State University's president is accused of deleting public records, he's speaking out, not to the media but to students.

North Dakota State University senior Erik Diedrich, reads a letter from president Dean Bresciani.

It's letter to let students know that there is no way he would be able to delete 45,000 emails in one day and that he always complies with public records requests.

"Everyone wants to know what is going on and he made a great point," says Diedrich.

Students like Diedrich are happy to see the president speaking out about the allegations.

"It is extremely great seeing him being proactive and keeping us informed," says Diedrich.

And as students wrap their heads around the recent allegations president Bresciani is trying to wrap his head around the fact that his personal email was being viewed by people he didn't know about.

Bresciani states in the letter several times that a forensic study reveals his email has been compromised by a variety of computer accounts controlled by the North Dakota University System.

"The fact the university system was monitoring people is a chilling effect," says State Senator Tim Flakoll.

Flakoll says that's the story that needs to be looked into.

"It raises a red flag," says Flakoll.

But while the investigation continues into whether or not Bresciani committed a crime of public tampering, students at NDSU are sticking behind the man that's been leading the way.

"We're running right through and we're proud to be a bison," says Diedrich.

 

Below is a letter from President Dean Bresciani that was sent out to NDSU Campus Community.

 

Dear Campus Community-

As many of you know, it has recently been suggested that I deleted some 45,000 emails, ostensibly to avoid a public records request regarding former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.  I initially chose to not dignify the assertion hoping that my reputation for integrity or at least a recognition of some intelligence would render the assertion ridiculous.  I also assumed that the gross impracticality of me deleting 45,000 emails, if in fact our email system would even allow doing so, would speak for itself.

More specifically, I assumed that the notion of one person deleting 45,000 emails in a single day (I'll add that it was a day I was in scheduled public meetings from 8am until late evening) would in itself sound suspect.  Even more interestingly, that would be an aside to the 900 pages of emails which I did turn over in response to the public records request; that I had 45,000 more emails on the same topic seemed far-fetched.

As soon as we became aware of the matter, NDSU staff vigorously pursued an explanation.  What they learned was that a North Dakota University System staff member (who has remained nameless), several weeks ago notified an individual state legislator (who has remained nameless), that the emails had been deleted from my account at roughly the same time as the public records request.  The legislator subsequently made an inquiry to legislative council regarding the alleged deletions.     

In fact, NDSU has not yet been able to verify that emails were deleted.  If they were deleted, it also remains unclear when it occurred. An email from system staff indicates that emails were deleted before the public records request was received. On June 17, System IT Vice Chancellor Randall Thursday, in an email to System General Counsel Claire Holloway and legislative council, states that emails were deleted in the two weeks before the public records request.

Why the System staff member reported the situation to an individual legislator rather than through administrative channels remains in question.  Why someone ultimately leaked the alleged findings to media and blog sites also remains in question. 

So far, we have discovered two important factors:

1)     In April, System IT staff enabled a new feature, which on a periodic basis, automatically purges emails from the trash folder.  It is possible, particularly given the quantity of emails I have received since coming to NDSU three years ago, that my email was in fact purged of some segment of my email trash folder.  NDSU is working in collaboration with Microsoft to look in to that possibility.

 

2)     In a troubling turn of events, NDSU's forensic evaluation of my email also revealed that it has been compromised, on a range of dates during the time frame under study, by a variety of computer accounts controlled by the North Dakota University System office without notification to me or anyone at NDSU. It is my understanding that these staff have full access and control of my email account.  You can imagine my chagrin at the discovery.

The short version is simply that I cannot imagine a means much less a motivation for me to selectively delete 45,000 emails, particularly to avoid a public records request to which I provided more than 900 pages of email responses.  Worse yet, I've learned that during the period in question my email was being routinely comprised by staff in the System office.

My sincere hope is that the explanation will rest with the systemic Microsoft purge.  That would only leave me disappointed in the behavior of those involved with the ancillary factors.  If, however, something more personally directed and malicious took place, I'll admit to feeling far more than just disappointed.

If there is an upside to the above, it is worth noting that the above took place during a less than commendable period for the System office.  I say that not to criticize, but to compliment the new period now being ushered in by the State Board of Higher Education in full collaboration with campus presidents.  I believe that we are all committed to a new respect-based approach to advancing our System; a System in which nothing like this will ever be repeated.  In light of that I will chose to dismiss the above, regardless of the details, as an unfortunate artifact of the past.  I'll encourage you to join me in doing so as we move on to the exciting and very promising future ahead for our System and for NDSU.

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