In November, North Dakota voters will cast their ballots on a constitutional amendment – Measure 3 – that would replace the existing part-time State Board of Higher Education with a new, full-time, three-member higher education commission. The amendment was put on the ballot by a Legislature frustrated by an endless stream of incompetence and fraud from the state’s universities.
Not surprisingly, the status quo currently in charge of the university system hates the idea of reform. And their tactic in combatting the the measure is to suggest that the change in governance may impact the accreditation of the universities, a claim made at last week’s meeting of the SBHE:
University System Ethics Officer Murray Sagsveen says the accrediting Higher Learning Commission has concerns about the proposal, and might not have ample time to review the new structure should it be approved. He says the state’s 11 public colleges and universities would risk losing accreditation.
When higher ed bureaucrats make this argument, the response from the public and the media needs to be “prove it.”
Setting aside the debate over the efficacy of the measure itself, the suggestion that the Higher Learning Commission might not have time to review the changes is patently ridiculous.
The Legislature approved HCR3047 more than a year ago. The final text of the law is available right now on the Secretary of State’s website and has been for months. There is nothing stopping the Higher Learning Commission from reviewing that language and deciding whether or not the measure would violate their policies regarding the governance of higher education.
You’d think they would do that, in order to give North Dakota voters an honest assessment of the impact of their votes.
That they’re not doing any such thing speaks volumes. North Dakota’s higher ed leaders, and their allies at the Higher Learning Commission, don’t intend to be honest. They hope to use ambiguity and scare tactics to shoo voters away from reform that might make the universities more accountable to the people and less in the thrall of entrenched, pampered, arrogant bureaucrats.
Higher education needs to put up or shut up when it comes to this ballot measure. Either make a firm statement about the impact of this measure on the accreditation of the state’s institutions, or stop making that argument.