Closure of a North Dakota State research center is drawing defense from the university to its main critic, a former state politician.
In a university statement addressing Byron Dorgan, a former congressman and senator, NDSU praised Kelly Rusch, vice president for research and creativity, for revenue increasing and research expanding at the university under her leadership.
“When Kelly Rusch arrived as the new research vice president in 2013, she was charged with building bridges between CNSE and the rest of campus to ensure infrastructure would continue to serve the NDSU campus community,” the Dec. 2 statement said. “Under her leadership, NDSU’s total sponsored funding award dollars have increased by 15 percent over the past two years, and the university is expanding its research enterprise. Licensing and patent revenues have increased to record levels in that same period.”
Dorgan, who served North Dakota in Washington, D.C., from 1981 to 2011, wrote that a Forum quote by Rusch showed “a lack of leadership and vision.”
Following the November closure of the CNSE, Rusch told The Forum NDSU “is not losing anything by CNSE not being here.”
“NDSU had an opportunity that is available to very few universities. Make no mistake. The closure of CNSE is a major loss for NDSU and North Dakota,” Dorgan wrote.
Dorgan’s letter ended with questions he would like university officials to answer, including who made the decision to close the CNSE.
Provost Beth Ingram would not answer that question in an interview with The Forum Wednesday.
“I’m not going to agree or disagree with Senator Dorgan. He’s not here, and I prefer not to have a conversation with him in this way,” she said to The Forum. “What I want to focus on is the robustness of the research enterprise at NDSU and the success that we’ve had.”
NDSU said the CNSE closed following a moratorium on earmarks over five years ago. In 2012, the center began laying off workers until the CNSE’s closure was announced internally in April.
The research center was established in 2002, in part from Dorgan’s efforts, his letter read.
“Sen. Dorgan is well respected and an ardent supporter of North Dakota and higher education,” Wednesday’s statement read. “His leadership as a U.S. Senator was critical in providing the basis for NDSU’s continued record success in research.”
The Spectrum contacted Sadie Rudolph, NDSU media relations coordinator, for an interview with Ingram, but that request was denied.
“Unfortunately, the Provost will not be available to answer questions about CNSE,” Rudolph said.