In last weeks inaugural question of the week, we asked if the Legislature will consider allowing the electorate to decide if it is time for a change to governance for the North Dakota University System (NDUS). As if on que, yet another piece of concerning news broke this past week involving the “re-purposing” of office space in a new $11 million Information Technology building on the campus of the University of North Dakota (UND).
This floor plan change would allow for a 2,300 square foot office suite for Chancellor Dr. Hamid Shirvani, seemingly so he will be able to spend more time on the east side of the state near the NDUS’s two research colleges; UND and North Dakota State University (NDSU). UND President Robert O. Kelley did not sign off on the change order, but he was overruled by the State Board of Higher Education (SBHE).
This change was in defiance to the legislative intent for this building. Even those legislators who traditionally have stood by the NDUS are having difficulty defending this latest move. This issue was one of many Rob has covered at length on SAB, and has renewed the call for an end to the independence of the NDUS in the State Constitution.
As was discussed in last week’s column, such a change would require the voters decide to amend the State Constitution to remove this independence. February 26th is the deadline for constitutional amendments to be introduced, and while that may seem like it is a ways off, that really is not a lot of time to draft such a resolution into a form that depicts the governance method the NDUS should go to. This would, after all, be a significant change to the State Constitution. Such a change would also need ensure accountability is returned to the NDUS while balancing concerns (real or perceived) for not politicizing an already political university system. Last, the change needs to be one the electorate can understand when casting their vote.
That theme brings us to our SAB Question of the Week:
With conditions now more than ripe to justify change to Higher Education governance in North Dakota, if you were drafting such an amendment to the State Constitution; what would your new NDUS governance system look like, and why?