Recently North Dakota State University raised the ire of legislators when they accepted Obamacare funding to partner with Planned Parenthood for sex education. The legislature had already specifically turned down those funds, and state law prohibits anything but abstinence-based sex education.
NDSU President Dean Bresciani was forced to admit that the acceptance of the funds violated the intent of the legislature. If you think that’s odd given how our university system normally refuses to be governed by the legislature, consider that the legislature is currently in session and that the higher education budget has not yet been finalized. Also consider that Bresciani has not returned the federal money but only frozen its use, no doubt planning on un-freezing it the moment the legislative session is over.
Because exactly the sort of bad-faith, double-dealing we’ve come to expect from the university system.
In the mean time, the faculty at NDSU has decided to throw a collective hissy fit claiming their “rights” have been violated because they’re guaranteed freedom for research. You can read the long, pedantic diatribe here (written by Thomas Stone Carlson, President of the Faculty Senate).
First, it’s worth remembering that the Planned Parenthood partnership wasn’t about research. It was about sex education. I don’t think the NDSU faculty would be making any startling new revelations about how babies are made while guiding high schoolers through the motions of putting condoms on bananas.
Second, whether the faculty or administration at NDSU wants to believe it or not, they are a public institution funded with both state and federal tax dollars and the taxpayers, by and through their legislators, get a say in how those dollars are spent.
Which is why, if the faculty and administration want to truly be free, they should call for their institutions to be privatized. They should run them as businesses, providing education and research services to willing customers, and then set whatever priorities in research they want. I, for one, would be happy to see the burdens these institutions represent to taxpayers expunged from the budget, and the faculty would no doubt enjoy their new freedom for research without being burdened by the foibles of democracy.
Of course, if institutions like NDSU had to operate off the revenues they received from the value of the education and research they provide, the campus would be nearly so opulent. The payroll would be smaller, and salaries/perks would be less lavish. But I’m sure the faculty at NDSU values their academic freedom far more than material things.
But there is a bill, HCR3008, before the legislature to remove the state’s universities from the state constitution. Ending the constitutional mandate for these institutions would be a good first step toward giving these faculty members the freedom and “rights” they want.