North Dakota Higher Ed Board President Kirsten Diederich Resigns


Yesterday I wrote about rumors circulating among lawmakers which held that State Board of Higher Education President Kirsten Diederich was considering resigning in the face of legislative opposition to her appointment to a second term on the board.

Today comes news that Diederich has, indeed, resigned though she admits to no culpability for the problems which have plagued the university system for years now.

I’ve received a bunch of texts and emails from lawmakers congratulating me for this, but I’m not sure how much credit I’m owed. I think the Senators who made it clear they weren’t going to support her deserve the most credit. Suffice it to say that I’m thankful a poor leader is now out.

The SBHE will get a different leader, and that’s a good thing:

“It was a very difficult decision to make because I believe we have done some great work in the last year and a half,” chairwoman Kirsten Diederich said.

Diederich said she realized after the legislative session began that her re-appointment was a point of controversy. The purpose of her resignation was to put the focus back on students, she said.

“I felt as if we were just getting the momentum going, that we were going to get back on track talking about higher education and not putting out fires all the time, and I think my confirmation brought another fire to put out,” she said.

Diederich, who has been on the board since 2010, acknowledged the board’s history of conflict with the state Legislature.

“I think that there’s been a disconnect for a number of years there, and it just came to a head during my tenure on the board,” she said. “Even though the vote on Measure 3 was favorable for the board, it appears the Legislature is still not favorable toward the board.”

I suspect that Governor Dalrymple likely played a role in this decision. If Dalrymple felt he had the votes to confirm Diederich I think her nomination hearings would have gone forward.

That Diederich resigned instead indicates that she didn’t have the votes. That despite Chancellor Larry Skogen and the Dalrymple administration working the phones with Senators to protect the nomination.

The question is, will this force Governor Dalrymple to finally engage on the higher ed issue? Will his administration finally acknowledge the lack of trust between lawmakers and the university system? Will Dalrymple do something about the repeated and flagrant violations of open records/meetings laws in the university system? Not to mention the arrogant behavior of spendthrift bureaucrats?

Dalrymple doesn’t have direct administrative oversight of the university system – unfortunately, thanks to our state constitution, no elected leader does – but he has one hell of a bully pulpit.

Let’s hope he uses this prompt from the legislature to use it. While Diederich was a part of the problem, her replacement won’t fix it. The problems in the university system are far bigger than any one person.