Amid deep budget cuts for higher education being implemented by the Legislature a group of faculty members at North Dakota State University accused university system leadership of not adequately backing the state’s public institutions.
“We’re seeing, I think, an orchestrated attack on higher education,” Mark Meister, chair of the communication department, said during a meeting he organized. “I believe there is a lack of support by the chancellor and the staff of the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education.”
“ … I believe there’s an orchestrated effort to publicly delegitimize higher education and faculty in the state of North Dakota,” he continued. “I believe there’s what I would call strategic ambivalence towards higher education issues to the North Dakota Legislature.”
Today I had Kathy Neset, President of the State Board of Higher Education, on my radio show to talk about it. “I disagree with that wholeheartedly,” she said when I read her Meister’s words.
She said that she has the “utmost respect for the faculty,” but went on to praise the board’s good working relationship with the Legislature this session, saying “everybody” is “on the same page.”
But since Meister accused the Legislature, also, of supposedly not having higher ed’s best interests in mind, I asked Neset if she felt some faculty might thing the SBHE is working together with the Legislature against them.
“If they do I would take the fall” for not communicating with them better, she told me.
“Cutting budgets is tough work,” she added, saying she’s “impressed by the professionalism” of state lawmakers as they do that work. “It doesn’t mean we all agree on every issue.”
I also asked Neset about the controversy over women’s hockey at UND. “I played women’s hockey at Brown University,” she told me adding that she would like to “see the program move forward.”
But she said the board “give the entire authority to the president” to make those decisions.
I asked Neset if she felt the universities spend too much on athletics. “I don’t think so,” she said, though she added that “this board is going to weigh on funding academics” before sports.
Here’s the full audio of the interview: