NDSU Faculty Senate Circulating Resolution Claiming “Crisis of Confidence” in State Board and University System Leadership

The faculty at North Dakota State University have approved for circulation to other institutions a draft resolution expressing a “crisis in confidence” in the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education and the North Dakota University System leadership.

A SAB reader forwarded me the email below sent out by Kathryn Gordon, an Associate Professor at the North Dakota State University Department of Psychology and President of the Faculty Senate there.

The intent of Gordon’s email is to circulate the resolution to faculty leaders at other campuses to gauge their interest in signing on to some version of it.

“Our Faculty Senate voted to forward this document on to all of you to see if your institution…would be interested in joining with us in this statement, or one like it,” Gordon writes adding that it’s not the intent of the to release anything until they’ve gauged interest.

I called Gordon about the email but she did not immediately return my message.

“Without immediate, effective collaborative action between the SBHE, NDUS, and the eleven institutions to address this crisis, it is a near certainty that the system and institutions will be unable to continue to fulfill their missions, the NDUS’s mission and vision, and the SBHE’s beliefs and core values,” it continues.

“The crisis is the result of across the board budget cuts, consolidation efforts that appear to lack consideration of differences in mission amongst the eleven institutions, the apparent lack of consideration for long-term effects on higher education, and the lack of support for institutions by the NDUS and the State Board of Higher Education,” the proposed resolution reads. “We, the NDUS faculty, call upon the SBHE and the Chancellor to join us (the eleven institutions) in rebuilding stakeholder confidence by preserving a strong, vibrant, forward-thinking higher education system.”

“Without immediate, effective collaborative action between the SBHE, NDUS, and the eleven institutions to address this crisis, it is a near certainty that the system and institutions will be unable to continue to fulfill their missions, the NDUS’s mission and vision, and the SBHE’s beliefs and core values,” it continues.

One thing not mentioned in the resolution which has riled some faculty was the decision by the SBHE to change university system policy to allow the termination of faculty with three months notice rather than a year. The policy isn’t mandatory, some of the state’s schools have opted to maintain the status quo, but the shift is definitely a factor in this angst.

The NDSU student newspaper reported on a faculty meeting recently at which some sharp criticism of lawmakers, the SBHE, and the NDUS were made.

“We’re seeing, I think, an orchestrated attack on higher education,” Mark Meister, chair of the communication department, said during the meeting which 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.”

During a recent interview I asked SBHE President Kathy Neset about those comments (audio).

“We’re seeing, I think, an orchestrated attack on higher education,” Mark Meister, chair of the communication department, said during the meeting which he organized.

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.”

In related news, I’m hearing rumors about the SBHE not renewing the contracts of Chancellor Mark Hagerott or NDSU President Dean Bresciani.

Both of those contracts expire in June. I have no idea how much credence to give them, but it’s definitely something people in the capitol are buzzing about.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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