Higher Ed Going All-Out To Save Appointment Of SBHE President

Last year Governor Jack Dalrymple appointed State Board of Higher Education President Kirsten Diederich to another term on the board. Since then, some lawmakers have been making noises about rejecting the appointment which must be confirmed by a vote of the state Senate.

I’ve written previously about the behind-the-scenes wrangling. “If we condone, we own” the persistent problems plaguing the university system, anti-Diederich rabble rousers are saying.

Lawmakers are apparently getting calls from Governor Jack Dalrymple’s office looking to save the nomination (and save the chief executive from having the nomination killed by a legislature controlled by his own party). That’s not very surprising.

But what was surprising to multiple lawmakers who contacted me is that interim Chancellor Larry Skogen (a university president filling that post after former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani was pushed out) has been making calls to Senators asking them to keep Diederich.

I’m told Skogen has contacted Senators Judy Lee, Karen Krebsbach and Nicole Poolman, and probably more.

Krebsbach and Lee in particular are hard-core higher ed apologists. If Skogen feels their support needs to be shorn up, Diederich’s nomination may indeed be in trouble.

What was so surprising about Skogen making the calls is that it represented the Chancellor (who will be returning to his position as president of Bismarck State soon) basically lobbying to keep his boss’ job.

Critics of higher education in North Dakota such as myself have long identified one of the major problems in the university system as headstrong university presidents who feel they should be running things. Not the State Board of Higher Education and certainly not the legislature.

Skogen out campaigning for Diederich’s job smacks of a university president asking lawmakers to keep in place their personal puppet.

Many observers express doubt that the Senate will ultimately do anything with Diederich’s nomination. Pushing back against the Governor, in particular, seems an unlikely outcome for many of the milquetoasts we have holding down seats in that chamber. But this fight over Diederich may turn out to be more interesting than expected.

Killing Diederich’s nomination might finally convince Dalrymple and others that there are major, systemic problems in the university system which can’t simply be glossed over any more with a lot of bluster about how great the institutions are.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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