Lawmaker Says University Officials Mislead Committee About Opposition To Bill

Yesterday the State Board of Higher Education discussed SB2150 for the first time. That legislation would allow students to involve their legal counsel in campus proceedings against them, something they are currently prohibited from doing.

So far North Dakota University System officials have testified in opposition for the bill, saying that banning  student representation from hearings was “common practice” and that including them would make hearings too “complicated.”

Ironically that comes as NDUS officials object to legislation imposing penalties for open records violations, arguing that their due process rights might not be protected, but I digress.

What’s interesting is that at the SBHE meeting officials seemed to walk back their opposition to SB2150:

Senate Bill 2150, which the board decided to oppose as it was first introduced, is the result of a UND student who was accused of sexual assault in 2010 and later found to be innocent.

Chief of Staff Murray Sagsveen said he and his staff are working on amendments to the bill to present at its next hearing.

“We don’t oppose the concept, we oppose the bill as written,” he said.

Senator Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) told me via email this morning that he feels Sagsveen and other university officials misled lawmakers with their testimony against the bill.

“Their site states that the BOHE had taken an official position opposed to SB 2150, yet the board didn’t even discuss the issue till the 29th,” Holmberg told me referring to an online bill tracking system the university system uses where Sagsveen noted that the NDUS was “opposed” to the bill.

“Impression of committee was that Murray was speaking for the board,” Holmberg continued. “That was not accurate, continuing  a long history of obfuscation.”

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s so little trust between lawmakers and the university system, this might be part of the reason why. Even the SBHE seems paralyzed, with little control over the actions of their own personnel.

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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