Will The Senate Approve SBHE President's Re-Appointment?


According to a press release just sent out by Governor Jack Dalrymple’s office, he’s re-appointing State Board of Higher Education President Kirsten Diederich to a second four-year term and also appointing Kevin Melicher to his first term.

The Diederich choice is interesting as some legislators have made noises about not approving Diederich if she is re-appointed.

One of the critics seems to be Senator Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) who, when I asked him about whether he would support re-appointment, said “no comment.

There is no question that tensions between the university system and the Legislature are running high. Legislators I’ve spoken to say they’re tired of getting the blame for issues like tuition hikes despite lavish appropriations, which was certainly the case with the most recent tuition increases. They’re also tired of what they see as wasteful, irresponsible spending by the universities not to mention a disregard for legislative intent in instances like the REAC building debacle and now the Sanford Nursing College controversy.

This was also an opportunity for Governor Dalrymple to send a message to the board on their performance. Refusing to re-appoint Diederich would have been a clear demonstration that Dalrymple is unhappy with their performance. Instead, Dalrymple chose to maintain the status quo.

The State Board of Higher Education may not exist as we know it today after the November election when voters will cast their ballots on Measure 3 which represents major reforms for the governance of the university system. But until then, it’s clear at least some in this Legislature aren’t going to just rubber-stamp Governor Jack Dalrymple’s picks for the board.

SBHE appointees must be confirmed by the state Senate during the next legislative session, which will commence in January.

Update: A member of the state Senate emails:

I’m sure you note that with these two appointments, and the continuation of Don Morton on the board and the fact that all three students from which the governor must appoint (all NDSU STUDENTS) you know who is holding the reins. 4 out of 8 from Fargo.

Interesting isn’t it.

Indeed it is.

Here’s the press release:


BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Jack Dalrymple today reappointed Kirsten Diederich, Ph.D., to a second four-year term on the state Board of Higher Education. Dalrymple also appointed Fargo optometrist and former Fargo School Board president Dr. Kevin Melicher to serve a four-year term on the board. Both appointments are effective July 1.

Dalrymple appointed Melicher to replace Duane Espegard whose term expires June 30. Espegard has served on the state Board of Higher Education since March 2007.

“Kirsten Diederich and Kevin Melicher are proven leaders who have a long history of community service and an unwavering commitment to educational excellence in North Dakota,” Dalrymple said. “Serving on the Board of Higher Education carries a tremendous amount of responsibility and both Kirsten and Kevin bring to this important position a great deal of experience in education and the strong leadership skills that are required for the continued advancement of North Dakota’s system of higher education.”

Melicher served on the Fargo School Board for eight years. He served as board president in 1994 and as treasurer and negotiations leader in 1996. He is past president of the North Dakota Optometric Association and has held many leadership roles in civic organizations including United Way, the Dakota Medical Foundation, the Fargo Public Schools Foundation and the North Dakota State Board of Optometry. Melicher earned his undergraduate degree at North Dakota State University and his Doctor of Optometry from Illinois College of Optometry. He has practiced optometry for 38 years.

Diederich chairs the state Board of Higher Education. A retired biology professor, Diederich was appointed to the board in July 2010. She attended the University of North Dakota for three years before earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s in entomology and a doctorate in zoology from North Dakota State University.

While a member of the state Board of Higher Education, Diederich has also served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Community College Trustees. She has also served in several leadership roles in civic organizations including the YWCA Board of Trustees and the Fargo-based Rape and Abuse Crisis Center Board of Directors.

In making the appointments, Dalrymple also commended Duane Espegard, a former state senator and retired Grand Forks bank executive, for six years of dedicated service to North Dakota’s university system.

The State Board of Higher Education consists of seven citizen members who are appointed by the governor to serve four-year terms and one student appointed to serve a one-year term. The Council of College Faculties selects the board’s non-voting faculty advisor, and the NDUS Staff Senate selects the board’s non-voting staff advisor. The board sets policy for the North Dakota University System and is the governing body for North Dakota’s 11 publicly supported colleges and universities.

As per the North Dakota State Constitution, the governor makes four-year appointments to the Board of Higher Education from a list of nominees selected by a committee composed of the president of the North Dakota Education Association, Chief Justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the North Dakota House of Representatives. The student member is appointed from a list advanced to the governor by the North Dakota Student Association.