(AP) The state Board of Higher Education voted Monday to buy out the contract of University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.
Shirvani told The Associated Press that he had asked the board last week to either give him a strong show of support and a three-year contract extension or "please just buy out my contract and thank you very much."
"I respect their decision," Shirvani said Monday. "They picked No. 2, and at least I know where I stand."
The board made the move after meeting in executive session in Medora, where the group is holding its annual retreat. The decision releases Shirvani from his three-year deal, which he signed more than a year ago. He was to make $349,000 annually through June 2015.
Shirvani said the buyout is for the full contract amount. He said he'll leave his office on July 15 but will be available to the board and staff as a consultant until January.
Shirvani has faced criticism from students, faculty and state lawmakers for his management style. Some lawmakers have said his leadership style is overly aggressive. Groups, including the North Dakota Student Association, have passed votes of no confidence in Shirvani.
Shirvani said he was given a mandate to completely overhaul the higher education system and fix problems, including low graduation rates. He said controversy is bound to happen when something is overhauled but that he and his wife have dealt with "a very unfortunate character assassination and smear attacks" during the past four months.
"I don't mind criticism or pushbacks, but what I've gone through, it is really unacceptable," he said.
Board president Duaine Espegard said Shirvani felt he had accomplished as much as he could and asked the board to release Shirvani so he "could move on."
Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, a Shirvani supporter, said he's disappointed but not surprised by the board's decision.
"I think the chancellor is the only one who provided North Dakota the opportunity to take pride in its higher education system," Skarphol told The Associated Press. "And I think from this point moving forward, we can look forward to the same mediocrity we've had in the past."
Shirvani said he's proud of his accomplishments during his short tenure, including a comprehensive plan for student success and a 37 percent budget increase, 12 percent of which is continuing money.
"I convinced some of the harshest critics of higher education in the Legislature about my vision," he said. "I sold them on my vision and the direction of the university system."