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NDSU president says his email account was 'compromised' several times by University System staff

North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani gives the State of the University address Oct. 4, 2012, on campus. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO – North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani said a preliminary investigation into allegations that more than 45,000 emails were deleted from his inbox has found “troubling” news: North Dakota University System computer accounts “compromised” his email account several times this year without his knowledge.

He sent an email to NDSU students Tuesday morning staing he initially chose “not to dignify the assertion hoping that my reputation for integrity or at least a recognition of some intelligence would render the assertion ridiculous.”

He said he also figured the “gross impracticality” of deleting 45,000 emails “would speak for itself.”

Bresciani wrote that NDSU has not yet been able to verify that the emails were deleted on or before April 29, following an open records request from the Legislative Council on behalf of an unnamed legislator. The Legislative Council sought emails from several higher education officials and campus presidents believed to be tied to the effort to undermine former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.

Bresciani wrote that if the emails were in fact deleted, it remains unclear exactly when that happened.

Still, he said there are two factors that could explain the alleged deletion.

He said NDUS information technology staff in April enabled a new feature that periodically and automatically “purges” emails from the trash folder. It’s possible, he wrote, that his email account purged his trash folder. He said NDSU continues to work with Microsoft to look into that possibility.

Bresciani wrote the investigation also found that his account had been “compromised” on several days during this timeframe now in question by computer accounts controlled by the NDUS office without notifying him or anyone at NDSU.

“It is my understanding that these staff have full access and control of my email account,” he wrote. “You can imagine my cha-grin at the discovery.”

Bresciani’s email questions the allegation at the heart of the matter – that more than 45,000 emails were deleted from his inbox on or before April 29.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

Article written by Ryan Johnson of the Forum News Service

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