Hamid Shirvani is at it again. And that’s not a good thing, for Shirvani or his employer. Or those who have to work with him.
You remember ol’ Ham. He made his mark on the North Dakota University System by being almost universally disliked. His brief tenure as chancellor from 2012-2013 angered university presidents, faculty, legislators, students, media — pretty much everybody but the State Board of Higher Education, then led by Grand Forks lawyer Grant Shaft, which believed Shirvani was going to be the hammer that came in and beat the university system into shape.
Shirvani was a bad hombre, in current popular lexicon, and there were those who believed he was exactly what the “dysfunctional” higher ed system needed.
He wasn’t. Shirvani’s disastrous tenure ended after only 11 months with a nearly $1 million buyout. The higher ed board praised his accomplishments; everybody else praised his exit. Some questioned why the state spent all that money to buy out the chancellor, believing he could have been fired for cause. Shirvani was accused behind the scenes of, shall we say, ethical lapses. Some legislators called for his resignation, citing “questionable leadership and mistrust.”
North Dakota was not the first controversial stop for Shirvani, a reason why some questioned why the state board hired him in the first place. Shirvani was run out of the University of Colorado at Denver in 1990. As dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, his management style led to almost half of the program’s faculty leaving in three years. The Denver Post reported Shirvani’s resignation came “under duress,” according to a national architecture accrediting board. The newspaper reported he had an “adversarial relationship” with faculty.
Shirvani followed that gem with a controversial stint as president of Cal State Stanislaus. The faculty hated him there, too, and a 2009 vote found 90 percent had no confidence in him. Reasons cited were hostile working relationships and a lack of shared governance. During his time at Stanislaus, a former female administrative assistant was given a $10,000 settlement and six months paid leave for “events that took place” between certain dates. No other details were made public. He left Stanislaus in 2012 for the job in North Dakota.
After leaving North Dakota with his hefty buyout, Shirvani spent a few years in the higher education wilderness as a consultant. That ended in April 2016 when he was named president of Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, Iowa. Briar Cliff is a private Catholic school, with an enrollment of about 1,100.
Troubles have followed him. A Sioux City TV station reported there have been multiple claims of sexual harassment made against Shirvani. Three women accused Shirvani of inappropriate behavior in separate incidents, KCAU9 reported this week.
“Among the complaints: accusations that Shirvani singled out a small group of women for raises above what other department employees were given, secret dinners with the same women at off-campus locations, and conversations the complaintants felt were inappropriate for the president to have with a subordinate,” the station reported.
The school’s board of trustees did an internal investigation and concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude any policies were violated, the station reported.
What comes of the complaints against Shirvani remains to be seen. The Briar Cliff board did say it will address the issues that have been brought to its attention. But keep in mind, Briar Cliff is a faith-based institution. It would not be likely to put up with Shirvani’s shenanigans for long, especially if other accusations of harassment by female employees persist.
Sometimes, bad hombres just can’t help themselves.