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UND officials see progress from meetings with aerospace school

Meetings between leadership at the University of North Dakota's aerospace school and administration have been "productive" and led to two changes for the aviation school, according to UND officials.

The meetings, which include aerospace dean Paul Lindseth, UND Provost Thomas DiLorenzo and Vice President for Finance and Operations Jed Shivers, began a couple of weeks ago amid brewing tension between the aviation department and UND administrators.

In August, the aviation department voted 32-0 in favor of a no-confidence resolution regarding the provost. Since then, Lindseth has also filed a grievance against DiLorenzo, accusing him of being disrespectful and treating him differently than other deans.

Following the no-confidence resolution, UND President Mark Kennedy said weekly meetings would be planned between DiLorenzo, Shivers and Lindseth.

The meetings between the three have been productive so far, Lindseth and DiLorenzo said in a joint email to aerospace faculty, staff and students Monday, Oct. 1.

"We are both committed to moving forward in a productive manner," the email said.

The relationship between the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and the UND administration is improving since the no-confidence vote, Lindseth said Tuesday.

Kennedy has also met with aviation faculty and will continue to do so on a monthly basis. Lindseth will be joining the meetings.

"I'm quite optimistic and hopeful that we're on a path toward resolving issues that were raised, and I know we here at the university are fully committed to doing everything we can to support our strong aviation department," Kennedy said Tuesday.

Kennedy said he believes the relationship between the administration and the department is in a better place than it was at the end of August.

"The channels of communication are open, there's an increased and better understanding of what issues are important to them," he said.

In an emailed statement, Shivers said he believes the meetings "should lead to a fairly transparent bilateral relationship."

"In addition, the weekly meeting creates mutually reinforcing incentives to introduce topics and reach resolution, where possible, with reasonable speed, but in a thoughtful manner, " Shivers said. "Conversations have been frank, but also productive. I believe that the participants are all respectful of one another."

Changes

According to the email, the Odegard School has been approved to change flight training rates. Those changes, which were not detailed in the email, will go into effect in January for the spring 2019 semester.

Lindseth said some of the flight training rates will be increasing "a small percentage" in the spring, while others will be going down slightly. The department is in the process of finalizing the numbers. He said the school wants the rates to continue to be "reasonable" for students.

"It goes by our principle that we've been operating under for 50 years, the highest quality program at a reasonable cost," he said. "We certainly continually want to make sure that we are at a reasonable cost for our students."

The last comprehensive rate increase was about four years ago, he said.

In addition to rate changes, admission for the 2019 spring and summer semesters has also been halted for students seeking various flight licenses. These prospective students are asked to apply for the fall 2019 semester.

The commercial aviation majors have seen a 47 percent increase in the last two years, which has put an "extreme demand" on the organization, Lindseth's email said.

The aviation department is also establishing new entrance requirements for the program, which are supported by the university. Those changes will go into effect for fall 2019.

Kennedy said neither he, nor DiLorenzo, were aware of the challenges the department was facing in recruitment, but added that the administration now recognizes that the aviation department is "fully stretched" with applicants.

Kennedy said he "fully supports" both decisions that have been made so far.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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