Just this morning, as the dust settled around Senator Tony Grindberg’s attempt to fire Chancellor Hamid Shirvani with a budget amendment, an amendment was introduced by Rep. Rick Becker to shut down the Board of Higher Education and put the administration of the North Dakota University System under a statewide elected official. Said official would be advised by a board of nine people appointed by the governor.
The “higher education commissioner,” as the office is called in the amendment, would be empowered to hire and fire university presidents and perform all administrative duties necessary to run the universities. But here’s the thing, the higher education commissioner would be subject to statute.
That means the legislature is the boss. No more independent university system. No more university presidents thumbing their noses at our lawmakers, and the taxpayers, and generally doing what they please. If this amendment were to pass – and it would require votes in both the House and the Senate as well as a vote of the people – the university system would be under the administration of person with an electoral mandate from the people who would be bound by the constitution to follow the laws set by the state’s elected lawmakers.
The food fight over Chancellor Shirvani was a distraction. This is the reform higher education in North Dakota needs.