Question Of The Week: Will North Dakota Get Higher Ed Reform?


Today we introduce a new feature on SAB… Question of the Week. Weekly we will pose a question on a current event, and allow you readers to take the discussion from there with your posts. We are quite confident you won’t be bashful in offering up your thoughts.

During the interim legislative session, there was a lot of focus on our state’s troubled Higher Education system. The audits of Dickinson State University, the University of North Dakota, and North Dakota State University were highlights (or, more to the point… lowlights). In addition, NDSU attempted to duck scrutiny of their aircraft, which we have taken to call “Air Bison”. These issues ran in parallel with the tumultuous end of past Chancellor William Goetz’s time at the helm of the ND University System (NDUS), and the controversial hiring of Dr. Hamid Shirvani to take over responsibilities as Chancellor.

A key theme during the interim session was the need to consider a new governance system for our University System. House Majority Leader Al Carlson was in the lead on this effort, and had drafted a framework for a constitutional amendment which would, if passed, let the voters decide if the current governance system needed to be changed in the State Constitution away from the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) having governance of the system; to one with a Governor-appointed Director of Higher Education and Higher Education Council.

You can view Carlson’s proposal from March 2012 here:

Higher Ed Constitutional Amendment by LegitSlater

This proposal attracted a lot of attention back in March, partly because it would allow for some remove-ability of the Director of Higher Education by the Governor for cause. A chief concern of the current governance system is the fact that SBHE members are one-way appointments by the Governor, with removal next to impossible. This has created, in the opinions of many, a governance system ripe with accountability concerns which has directly or indirectly led to the problems at several campuses in the NDUS.

While it was unclear if the Higher Education Committee members could be removed for cause, it was apparent their role would be advisory in nature to the Director, versus having true governance responsibilities themselves.

Since March discussion on this or any other proposed changes to Higher Ed governance has fallen deathly, and noticeably, silent. February 26th is the deadline for constitutional amendments to be introduced. So, with the above in mind, we pose our inaugural Question of the Week:

With conditions ripe to justify debate on changes to Higher Education governance in North Dakota, will we see a proposal from Carlson, or any other legislator in the 63rd Legislative Assembly, to put such changes before the electorate to decide on?